Network Diagrams: Tips for Printing from Visio

By request

Michael asked in the comments on the Visio Shape Union to put a post together on “something on Visio page sizing and printing”. Great suggestion, I got it worked out, and this one is for you.

Underlying Concepts

It seems to me that the idea of printing from Visio is not particularly obvious because tt’s a bit different from what you might be expecting when you use Microsoft Office. Lets start by understanding that the size of the page that you use on the screen does not necessarily have any relationship to the size of the page that you print.

Said another way, the size of the paper that you can print on, is not necessarily the size that you can define in the document page size.

To demonstrate this I will walk through creating a new page and how to set it’s size, and then how to set its’ print size.

Create a new page

Create a new page using Insert/New Page from the menu. You will get this screen.


Select the Page Size tab and the screen will now show the paper size. By default the Paper Size, FOR JUST THIS PAGE, will match the paper of the currently defined printer.


I recommend that you everytime you create a page, that you should immediately set the page size. Lets say that you want to use a A3 page:


But your printer driver will default to using A4 paper. So you will get this screen showing that the paper size is wrong:


This is not a problem, page sizing fix coming up

So far so good, we have a Visio page that is set to ALWAYS be A3 in size. If you click OK, and tried to print this out then the printer will valiantly print something. You will need scissors and sticky tape to make it useful, but at least the printer tried , right ? As this point you might give up and be happy with what you have.

The solution is to go to Print Setup tab and set the Printer Paper to fit 1 sheet across and 1 sheet down:


You can see the little picture on the right is telling you that the diagram will fit on the page.

Changing to Print on A3 Paper

So we have defined the page in Visio to be A3, and that is should be printed on A4 paper. Because A4 paper is exactly HALF the size Visio will scale down the diagram at print time. If you now have a printer that can print to larger paper, then you will need to change the Page Setup:


If you later decide that you want to print to A3 for every page in your document, you will need to change the Print Setup for every page . This is because the print configuration is stored for each page in your Visio document.

Some people have the idea that changing the print setup once work for every drawing page like say Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. Because every drawing might be a different page size, and a different page print property, each drawing has to be changed manually. In my opinion, this is correct behaviour

Some Recommendations perhaps

Most of my drawings are done on A3 Page Size, and then printed on A4 paper. This is because I spend most of my time looking at the drawings on screen. Printing just uses up valuable resources that very few people even look at so why bother ?

For large and detailed diagrams, I will often use A0 or A1 Page Size and then print to A3. It gets a bit small, but frankly, you shouldn’t be printing this out anyway.

On the other hand, if you have an A0 plotter handy then nothing, and I mean nothing, has more impact in a management meeting than an A0 diagram spread across the boardroom table with some felt tip pens drawing the connectivity from end to end and explaining why your project will take thirty days to deliver and its ‘not just a few firewall rules’ that could be done by next week.

Some DONT’s

Don’t fit to drawing contents

Don’t set the Page Size to “Size to fit drawing contents”. When Visio tries to scale the page to your print paper, it will distort the image. For example, if you drawing size is 10cm x 10cm and Visio tries to scale that up to 21cm x 29.7cm, then the horizontal is going scale 1:2.1, and the vertical will scale 1:2.9 thus stretching the image. This is a very bad idea.


Don’t try to set the scale

While someone might know how to use the scale functions, I don’t and never needed them.

American Paper Sizes

The ISO metric paper sizes are direct multiples when scaling. That is, an A2 is twice the size of an A3 page which is twice the size of an A4 page and so on. This means that printing from a A3 drawing to an A4 page scales correctly.

As far as I can tell, American paper sizes are based on some random sizing system and scaling may need some consideration. After some research, I would think that a Letter size (8.5″ x 11″) page should scale to a C Sheet (17″ x 22″) since this is exactly double the size. If you aren’t using these paper sizes, then it is probably time to go out and buy them.

Otherwise you will need to do some math and work out the percentages for something like a Folio to C Sheet. Enjoy that all you like, but it would be easier to use the right paper.

Any suggestions or confirmation on how this works for American paper sizes would be welcomed.

Other Posts in A Series On The Same Topic

  1. Free Custom Handwriting Font for Network Designs (14th August 2014)
  2. Network Diagrams: Font Selection and Production Context. Choosing Slab or Thin fonts (9th June 2014)
  3. Book Release: Tips on Using Visio To Make Network Diagrams (27th March 2014)
  4. Network Diagrams: Drawing Overlay Network Layers (14th March 2014)
  5. Network Diagrams: Choosing Better and Free Fonts (10th January 2014)
  6. My New Diagram Colour Scheme "Old Disco Style" (24th September 2013)
  7. On Diagrams and Information (10th September 2013)
  8. Colour Blindness, Network Diagrams and Reliability (3rd March 2011)
  9. Designer or Engineer, Artist or Painter (19th January 2010)
  10. Network Diagrams: Rotating Text on a Line (1st October 2009)
  11. Network Diagrams: Tips for Printing from Visio (22nd September 2009)
  12. Network Diagrams:Zones on a diagram with Visio shape union (31st July 2009)
  13. Network Diagrams: Drawing complex VLAN Networks with IP Addressing (7th July 2009)
  14. Network Diagrams: Drawing Freehand Curves (and then fixing them) (23rd March 2009)
  15. Network Diagrams:Aligning Shapes (12th March 2009)
  16. Network Diagrams:Locking the Background Shape (10th March 2009)
  17. Network Diagrams: Labelling an VLAN/IP Segment (9th March 2009)
  18. Network Diagrams: VLANs and IP Subnets (8th March 2009)
  19. Network Diagrams: Drawing the Background Shape (6th March 2009)
  20. On the Art of Network Diagrams and Presentation (4th March 2009)
  • John Visio MVP

    Good intro to paper handling.
    When you add a new page, you should notice that the current page settings are used for the new page.
    It is strange that you refer to the paper sizes as US because they were originally used in the UK before they went metric. As you observed, the paper sizes do double. Tabloid 11×17 is twice the size of letter 8.5×11 and C 17×22 size is double Tabloid. The only other standard size is legal 8.5×14 which is easily explained by the fact that lawyers are long winded (that is also why they end up in politics) and need the extra three inches.

    • Greg Ferro

      All of the software refers to “US sizing” for paper these days so I’ll stick with easily recognised syntax. The fact that the US hasn’t updated to metric is neither here or there. Most importantly, I wanted people to understand that I can’t personally comment on US paper sizes since I have never used them, and hope they provide feedback – so, thanks for the feedback. Good to have it confirmed.

      Lawyers always use double-spaced lines for some reason so longer paper might be necessary to actually say something…… or not.

  • Darren

    Very good intro into A3 printing.

    I have an interesting problem with a diagram I am currently working on that you may be able to help with. I have a number of copies of the same shape in my diagram that look fine on the screem but look totally different when they are printed. I copied this shape from a different diagram but the original diagram looks fine when it is printed. However, when I paste this shape into my new diagram it doesn’t print properly at all!

    The shape in question is a 3D cylindrical type shape……kind of like a can of tuna. I was wondering if the issue is to do with the page settings.

    • Greg Ferro

      I’m not sure that I can help here. Windows does weird things to objects when they go through the copy/paste clipboard and something must be occurring.

      Try putting the shape into a Visio template and then opening it in your other document. It’s another way of doing the same thing.

  • April

    Any idea how / if you can print individual shapes (1 per page) for a process flow diagram?
    I would like to tack up the individual flow components on a whiteboard so that people can move them around for a continuos improvement exercise.

    • Greg Ferro

      Sorry no. I only use Visio for Network Diagrams. But you could just make lots of pages in single diagram and put one element on each page.

  • April

    ok thanks for the idea

  • sunshine

    can you tell me how to fit a network diagram on an 81/2 x 14″ paper using visio 2010 programme

  • joe

    I’m using 11’x17′ transfer paper, I want to get 2- 8.5×11 images out of each sheet, when i size the image on visio 2010 I rotate it so it is 11′ wide and 8.5′ high,┬áit looks great, when I print it it alway prints like I never rotated it no matter what I try. What am I doing wrong?