How To Print PDF Sewing Patterns: Quick and Easy Guide

We live in the era now where almost everything is accessed immediately and sewing patterns are no exception to this.

In a few swift clicks from your computer you can have a new plus size sewing pattern PDF in your inbox ready to be printed and sewn. But, how do you print PDF sewing patterns?

They confused me a lot when I started using them (keep reading for my disaster story..), but now I love PDF patterns, and there is knowledge that can help your experience be totally painless. Although in the beginning it can take some time to put everything together, you’ll be printing them out more quickly than you can sew!

I’ll cover all the steps for you to learn how to print PDF sewing patterns – let’s go!

What is a PDF sewing pattern?

PDF sewing patterns are downloadable patterns which you can print out at home on your domestic printer. You then assemble them together with glue or clear tape and you then use it like a normal tissue paper pattern.

Most older patterns come with all the pieces all together in an envelope. Nowadays with the rise of indie designers and everything going digital, it’s common to see more patterns that are in PDF format.

How does a PDF sewing pattern work?

When you buy a digital pattern, you can download it straight to your computer and print PDF patterns off at home.

A PDF pattern is digital files of a version of the printed pattern created by a designer. There’s no difference between the fundamental pattern itself, it’s just in a different format.

Once you’ve downloaded and printed out the pattern, it will work exactly the same as a shop bought tissue paper pattern.

Here’s a video on an easy swing top that anyone can make at home!

How to Use PDF Patterns

How to print PDF sewing patterns at home?

You don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment to print off a PDF pattern at home can be done simply with your printer and regular letter size paper.

You will need a pattern reading software, such as Adobe Reader (this is available for free on the internet), which reads these files by converting them into a PDF file that your printer understands.

By checking the size and printer settings you will be able to print out your PDF pattern in a matter of minutes.


Before racing to expensive pattern companies, you can try to get the pattern pages right with a free pattern, easily found online.

What is a layered PDF pattern?

A layered PDF pattern means content can be placed above or below the pattern content within the document.

All of the sizes will be in the same file, but they will be put on top of one another on separate size layers. This means you can select only the sizes and layers you need before printing to save on paper.

You’ll know if this is the case as there will be a visible layer icon.


The visible layer icon looks like a stack of papers, you can click the eye icon to toggle the visibility of the layer.

What you’ll need to print PDF pattern pieces

Even though you don’t need lots of tools to get started, there are some key elements you can’t miss when printing:


To print PDF patterns you need a domestic printer that will print A4 paper and a paper source.

woman at a printer
Any old household printer will do!

PDF pattern

Choose your PDF patterns from your favorite pattern company.


I recommend Adobe PDF Reader when printing patterns as you can create a PDF from almost anything.

Steps to printing PDF patterns

Download the pattern pieces

If you haven’t already, click on the download link you wish to use for printing, it will end up as a ZIP file in your downloads folder. A ZIP file is a folder containing several files.

You’ll need to unzip the separate files, which can be done by double clicking on the file.

You’ll see two patterns inside – one that is for home printing and one that’s made for printing at a copy shop.


The difference between a copy shop file will usually only have 2 pages to print out, as a copy shop can usually print on really large paper so more pattern pieces can fit on each page. A file to print at home will be around 30 pages of regular paper size.

Open PDF file using Adobe Acrobat Reader

Next open the digital pattern in a PDF reading program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can find your PDF if your downloads > Right click the file > Open with > Adobe Reader.

laptop in use on a table
Make sure to update your programs!

Make sure to have the newest version of the program installed to prevent any bugs or glitches during the process.

If you don’t have Adobe Reader, make sure that the program you are using can read the files.


I don’t recommend printing a pattern piece directly from your web browser or from Mac preview as it will print out inaccurately.

Check pattern instructions booklet

There will be a separate instructions file in the ZIP folder. Each piece will probably be a little different so make sure to read the printing instructions carefully. Some patterns may have scaling instructions.

Some patterns may need to be assembled first, some may need to be cut first.

Decide what to print

Not all pages will need to be printed out, such as the first page, variations and extra information which you can read from your computer screen.

Check your printer and correct scale

Check the settings of the printer. Make sure that the printer is set to 100% full scale or no scale. Don’t select the ‘shrink to fit’ or ‘fit to page’ options as this will distort the pattern.

The patterns will print out on multiple pages. Double check the print layout and paper size, as some patterns need to be printed portrait style, while others need to be printed landscape.

sewing materials hanging on a brick wall
Make sure to check, and check again to avoid wasted paper!

Click on the print dialogue box – sizing and handling – size – size options – actual size.


When I printed the first page of pattern sheets – a pair of dungarees I was a total novice and selected ‘shrink to fit’ and ended up with a pattern that was so small it wouldn’t have fit a barbie doll!

Most patterns have a 1-2” box that you will need to print out. This will be on the first page of the document. Before you print the complete pattern, print this out first.

Some patterns will have a black bar, or a set of arrows instead of the test square box.

Measure the test square

Take your measuring tape and check the measurements of the test square. The actual measurements need to match the measurement that’s printed on the page.

Adjust if necessary

If the test square did not match up with the measurements that are printed on the page, you need to check the printer settings and make any scaling adjustments.

woman using a ruler to measure cloth
Double-check your measurements!

If the square is smaller than the measurement it will be too small and needs to be scaled up, if the square is bigger than the measurement, it will be too big and needs to be scaled up.

Once you’ve scaled the pattern piece properly and you’ve assessed exactly what’s important and needs printing out it’s time to print at home!

You don’t have to print out all the sizes and variations unless you need to.


Most patterns will print out in the exact order they need to be assembled.

Assemble PDF patterns

Once you’ve got the pattern printed, you are then going to assemble PDF pattern lines and then cut it out so it will work like a store-bought pattern.

You will need to find a big enough space to work in, I usually use the floor when I’m assembling PDF pieces.

Look for the symbols.

Most patterns will have notches, letters or other symbols such as triangles along a bottom edge that you have to match up with another. You should pair up matching symbols e.g. 1a goes with 1a, etc..

woman using sewing pattern on cloth
The symbols will help you align everything


Some pattern pieces need to be overlapped while others don’t. If the lines on the pattern extend to the edges of the paper then they should be aligned edge-to-edge.

If there is space or a margin then you should overlap them.


Sometimes the spaces or margins need to be cut away. If they cover part of the pattern you will need to trim them off.

Tape the pattern

Lay a piece of tape across the seam of the paper if the pattern is butted up against each other with no overlap. If the pieces overlap then you can connect them together with some glue.


When I am taping up the edges of my pattern, I always place tape on the back of the entire pattern page to give it more stability.

Cut the pieces out

I like to use a rotary cutter for this.

If your pattern is in multiple sizes, pay close attention to the different sizes. Many patterns include multiple lines, one for each size.

… pay close attention to the different sizes.

Also, pay attention to the seam allowances which are the extra bits of material we leave for perfect sewing around the edges. Some patterns include them, while others don’t.

Cutting then assembling

There is another assembly process for piecing, where the pieces are cut out first and then assembled together, rather than in the previous method above.

overhead shot of woman cutting sewing pattern
Pay attention to which pattern pieces you’re cutting

Cut out the pieces according to the desired size, making sure to keep like pieces with like pieces.

Match the corresponding symbols on each pattern piece, overlap if necessary and then tape or glue together

If a pattern needs darting, there will usually be dotted or solid lines in a triangle or diamond shape. They indicate where you should stitch to create shape at the bust, waist and shoulders.

Why would I use a PDF pattern?

PDF patterns can be downloaded instantly, so once you’ve figured out how to find the correct food seamless pattern printed, you will be able to start sewing new items from your favorite designers almost immediately, without ever learning your house!

What wonderful gratification.

Another benefit is that you can print it out at home as many times as you like.

woman at a sewing table using laptop
You can even share the patterns you find with your friends!

If you’ve ever cut out the tissue patterns before in your size, only to realize that you actually needed a different size? Well, there’ll be no more of the stress of damaging patterns with a PDF downloadable pattern as you can print them to make sure the pattern fits as many times as you like.


So, learning how to print PDF sewing patterns is not so hard is it?

To be honest, until you try it for yourself and figure out a pattern at home it may be confusing to get your head around. But, once you’ve figured it out, you can use the same settings for all the pages of your files in the future.

Are you new to PDF sewing pattern files? Or are you a seasoned PDF pattern user? Let me know if you’ve got any tips or tricks or recent patterns to share in the comments below.

Share this post with anyone you know who might be struggling to get their head around PDF sewing patterns! If you need a model for your PDF projects, consider a dress form or mannequin. Click here to find the best on the market.

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