8 Creative Weekend Printer Projects

Think your home inkjet printer is just for printing out boarding passes and driving directions? Give it a new lease on life. Here's how to use your printer to label things, play games, design a clothing line, and more. Whether you're feeling productive, playful, crafty, or creative, there's a project here for you--and it won't require specialized (or expensive) equipment.

Make Super Models

You don't need to buy a huge kit or a set of expensive tools to start building models. Just look into Papercraft, a do-it-yourself modeling community that uses nothing but printers, paper, and tape. All you have to do is print out the model sheets, cut them out, and follow the instructions, though they can be as simple as a basic box shape or as complicated as this papercraft replication of a classic IBM Thinkpad laptop, complete with accurately modeled internal parts.

Paperkraft.net is a good place to start--this papercraft blog is updated daily with all kinds of new models, including plenty of contributions based on retro tech, sci-fi, and video game themes. My personal favorite is the official Street Fighter II set.

Print Your Own Posters

You don't need to break the bank at your local music store to plaster your wall with pics of your favorite band. Here's a faster, cheaper, and easier way to do it: Just pull a few high-resolution images from Google Image Search, run them through a poster-printing app, and you'll be able to print them out on letter-sized pages from your printer and assemble them yourself. Some printers have their own poster-size printing functions (look in the Page Setup dialogue box), but I prefer to use the Rasterbator and Easy Poster Printer--apps that can take an image and blow it up into readily printable letter-sheet-size chunks you can tape together.

The Rasterbator app can blow up an image into printable letter-sheet-size chunks for posters.
This is particularly useful for students who have a small dorm-decorating budget (and some extra printer credit at the end of a semester) and really want some larger-than-life LOLcats on their walls. Of course, you'll have to shell out for some photo-quality paper if you want your posters to have that glossy look, but it's still cheaper than buying posters from the store, and you're not limited to a store's selection, either.

Get Organized

Whether you need to label your file folders, stick name tags to your personal possessions, or simply remind yourself that a stapler is, in fact, a stapler, your printer can get the job done.

Load up any inkjet printer with a label sheet, and you can guarantee that everything in your house or home office has that clean, organized look. With the right templates, your printer can push out everything from address labels to name tags. If you're using Avery label sheets (or cheaper brands with the same dimensions, like Worldlabel), don't forget to grab the Avery Wizard app for Microsoft Office--using the manufacturer-supplied templates can help you avoid misprints and save you time and money.

But why stop there? Your stack of burned discs with the barely-legible permanent marker tags are so 1998. Give your carefully crafted mix CDs some extra street cred with print-out disc labels. If your printer is one of certain models from Epson or HP (the HP Photosmart D5360 and C5280, or the Epson Artisan 50/710/810 and Stylus Photo 1400 and R1900), your printer may have a special tray that supports direct printing onto special CD/DVD disks, saving yourself the hassle of buying separate disc labels and the risk of messing up an optical drive if a label comes off or gets stuck.

Home brewers, on the other hand, will want to grab some waterproof labels to class up their operation a bit--it's no fun being a do-it-yourself beer or wine snob if you're still using masking tape and Magic Marker to label your bottles. (This also makes your homemade hooch more appropriate gift for a house call.)

Get Your (Old-School) Game On

A printer might not be much of a match for an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, but with a little imagination on your part, it can be a pretty solid game machine in its own right. Simple print-and-play games like word searches, crossword puzzles, and dot-and-boxes sheets are readily available on Google if you're looking for a low-tech way to amuse yourself (or the kids) during a long car ride. HP even has a printable version of tabletop football available, in case you feel like your finger-flicking field goals need more flash.

However, you can find plenty of printer games that cater to the more discriminating gamer. Start by hunting through BoardGameGeek.com, a Web site devoted to the art (and craft) of making and playing board games, many of which are free to download, print, and play. Just use the site's Advanced Search button, click Filter on Board Game Category, and check the Print and Play box to see a full list of games with instant gratification.

Your printer can also supplement your existing gaming habits, too. Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts can use the Dungeons & Dragons Character Builder app (free demo available) to keep track of your characters and loot, complete with readily printable character sheets. Feel like getting back into Magic: the Gathering but don't want to fork over obscene amounts of money on cards? MagicCards.info has printable proxy images of every card in every single series, so you won't need to take out a second mortgage to get back in the game.

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