I often need to print out 1:1000 scale drawings to use as a basemap for landscape surveying in the field. We draw directly on to the map so it has to be perfect.

I've found that when I export to pdf it prints out perfectly to scale, but if I try any other image format (png, bmp, tiff, etc.) it prints wrongly (i.e. I measure the scale bar and it's not the right length). I've looked around but I can't see any reason for this in the help.

I can't print directly from the project as these files needs to be emailed to other colleagues for them to print for themselves. I've double checked that I'm not using 'Fit to Page' or any similar other printing related things. So, my question is - is PDF the only possible format for this officially, or are there other formats that work properly?


A PDF file has a controlled page size that can be used by the reader app (Adobe Reader or similar) to output a set page size when printed.

Image files such as TIFF, PNG, BMP etc., are not a page at all, they're a picture/photo. Their size is dependant on the resolution and dimensions of the image in pixels, not a set page size.

While I believe you could (with time and trial/error) determine specific DPI and image dimensions for any page size you wish to print to, you are likely to find that other users with different printers are likely to have different results.

If you always require a set page size, I recommend you stick with PDF.

  • So this is the case despite creating a layout on a set paper size to export? Very useful to know. Mar 15 '17 at 21:22
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    @HenGoodchild Yes that is the case. Easy to test - output a set page size at 72DPI and another at 600DPI then view them at 100% - they will display (and print) at quite different sizes.
    – Midavalo
    Mar 15 '17 at 21:26
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    I'd stick with PDF not just because of the fixed page size, it's generally the smallest export (important for emailing) and can be opened on any client computer (even Linux and Mac). Adobe Illustrator and EPS also have a fixed page size, thereby scale, but it's a lot less likely your client will have the software required to view these formats. Mar 15 '17 at 22:11

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