How To: Print Flite Test Plans
I began creating the free plans for Flite Test in October 2015. The new format for these plans started well before that with a forum discussion started by Balu way back in August 2014. There was a lot of discussion in the forums over how best to reformat the existing plans to make it easier for the scratch builder. The template that I created to make my own plans evolved over time from feedback from the Flite Test community. Most of the feedback that I have received regarding the new plans has been very positive. My main goal is to continue to improve and add value to the free Flite Test plans. One of the most frequently asked questions I get from people regarding the Flite Test plans, is how to correctly print them. In this article I will share what I find works best, including what software and settings to use to achieve the best results. This will by no means be the best possible solution for everyone. The platforms, operating system, hardware and software that abound make it impossible to provide a single solution that will work for all. I hope that you find this a helpful and vauluable resource for printing your model airplane plans.
We will get into the details of how to print shortly. But first, let me give you some important technical information.
If you are going to be printing the full-size plans, you either have access to your own plotter (lucky you) or you are taking them to a print shop and paying to have them printed. People often ask what size they need to plot when they take the PDF to a print service like Staples or Kinkos.
Print Area: 22 x 34 inched (559 x 864 mm)
ANSI D: 22 x 34 inches (559 X 864 mm)
ISO A1: 594 x 841 mm (23.4 x 33.1 inches)
The plans are formatted so that they can be printed in black-and-white and still provide the builder with the important information they need to cut and fold all the parts for the design. Printing in black-and-white will typically cost significantly less than full-size color prints. Each sheet includes a scale in the upper-right corner of the page in inches and millimeters. Measure your printed plans to make sure that the scale is correct before you pay for your prints and leave the store. The full-size plans also include a title sheet and a drawing key. Most builder will choose to print these two pages out on thier home printers. But, if you are having a print service make them, they can be printed on ANSI A (US Letter) or ISO A4 size paper.
The actual print area of the tiled plans is 7.5 x 10 inches to accommodate printing on both ANSI A (US Letter) and ISO A4 size paper without any scaling or sizing issues. This allows me to make one set of tiled plans that should work with most home and office printers almost anywhere in the world.
Print Area: 7.5 x 10 inches (190.5 x 254 mm)
ANSI A: 8-1/2 x 11 inches (216 x 279 mm)
ISO A4: 210 x 297 mm (8.27 x 11.7 inches)
Now, on to the how-to...
The biggest mistake people make when printing the tled plans is to try printing them directly from a web browser (i.e. chrome, safari, explorer, etc.). For most PDF documents, printing from the web browser is perfectly acceptable. However, for printing technical drawings at a precise scale they simply do not give you enough control to achieve the desired results. NEVER print your plans from your web browser. ALWAYS download the files to your device and print them.
There are several software applications available that will open, view and print PDF documents. I always recommend people to use Adobe Reader for printing plans. There are a couple of reason why. First, Adobe owns the PDF format, and their software just works. It's also free for anyone to download and use the viewer. Finally, I've been using it for years and I'm comfortable with it and the setting required to get the best results. You can feel free to experiment with other software if you choose, but I will be giving you directions on how best to print plans with Adobe Reader. If you find other methods and software that work as well or better, please share it. If you don't already have Adobe Acrobat Reader DC installed, you can get the latest version here: https://get.adobe.com/reader/
I'm going to assume that you have the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader DC installed, you have downloaded the plans that you want to print, and have opened the plans in Adobe Reader.
With the file open select print from the toolbar or the File menu. Adobe will display the following Print dialog box.
Properties - use to change setting specific to your printer such as paper type and print quality. I often print my plans to card stock to make templates. Look for a future article on making card stock templates.
Save ink/toner - this setting can cause unexpected results such as missing lines or text. make sure this is unchecked.
Custom Scale - I have found this setting to give the best, most accurate results for scale. After printing, measure the included scale on one or more of the printed pages to check for accuracy. If you need to make a fine adjustment to get your prints to the correct scale, this is where you will do it.
Choose paper source by PDF page size - Make sure this is unchecked and you have manually selected the correct paper size for your printer. Leaving this checked can cause some minor scaling issues.
Orientation - make sure this is set to Auto portrait/landscape. This setting also centers the print area on the paper. Not using the Auto setting can cause one or more edges of your print to get cropped.
Print the file and measure the scale to be sure that the print scale is accurate. If it's off a little, first double check all the above settings. If they are all set correctly, you can try tweaking the custom scale factor to dial in your printer. A slight variation in scale won't have much of an impact on your builds. However, if the scale is off by 1/8 to 1/4 inch or more, you will not have a very enjoyable build process.
That's it folks. That is the magic formula for printing Flite Test tiled plans. I've had a lot of people ask me to help them with printing issues and 99% of the time these settings resovled them. As I said earlier, with all the different printers, drivers, and operating systems, there is no combination that will work for everyone. That said, these should work for most of you. If not, post in the comments below or ask over on the Flite Test forums. It's a great resource to get answers to your questions.
As always, if you found this article to be helpful/informative, please take a minute to rate it and/or leave me a comment.
Enjoy the free plans and make some memories!