How To Print Back to Back

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Even the simplest of printers can print double-sided sheets.

Duplex, or double-sided printing, is a cost-efficient method of producing hard copies of documents. Whether you're using office printers or a simple, no-frills printer at home, there are many ways to ensure that you don't waste paper or energy. Joyce Dickerson, director of sustainable IT at Stanford University, points out that printing and photocopying both sides of paper can save up to 75 percent of printing costs, a statistic that reinforces the ecological sense in conserving paper and energy.

Programmable Printers

Step 1

Check that you have paper in the feeder tray and it is correctly aligned. Check the document on-screen for blank pages and any other layout anomalies that might affect the final appearance. Click "File" and scroll down to "Print Preview" to check the appearance and layout in print view. Exit "Print Preview" by following the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 2

Press "Control" and "P" to bring up the printing menu, or go to "File" and scroll down to "Print." Read your manufacturer's user manual or operating instructions to check how to program your printer to print double-sided sheets. The option is usually on the print menu. You might need to click "Advanced Options," depending on the make and model.

Step 3

Click the selection button for double-sided printing and any other printing or orientation requirements. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to complete the "Print" command. Usually this means clicking "OK" on a printer menu once you have made your selections.

Step 4

Check the first page of the printed document to ensure printing appears on both sides and the document is correctly oriented and properly aligned. Doing so ensures that you don't waste a great deal of paper and energy on a wrongly printed print job.

Non-Duplex Printers

Step 1

Check the direction and orientation of print on your printer by marking a small X in pencil on one narrow edge of a sheet of paper. Insert the paper into the feeding tray of your printer, according to the manufacturer's instructions, with the X at the top and facing you.

Step 2

Press "Control" and "P" or go to "File" and then "Print." Select "Current Page." Print one sheet using the marked piece of paper. Notice which way round the printed copy appears and where the pencil X is in relation to the text. Use this information to work out how to insert the printed sheet to print the other side and ensure that printing on both sides of the paper is oriented the same and not upside down.

Step 3

Insert your printed sheet in the feeder again in the direction that prints on the reverse of the sheet in the correct orientation. Write down, for future reference, which way to insert paper when printing both sides to prevent errors and wasted paper down the road.

Step 4

Click "Control" and "P" again, or go to "File" and "Print." Select the page print option that enables you to print all the even-numbered or odd-numbered sheets and print them.

Step 5

Turn the printed sheets over and reinsert them into the feeder in the correct orientation. Access the print command again and select the opposite command for odd- or even-numbered sheets. Print that batch. The result should be a multi-page document printed on both sides.


Check if the duplex printing facility is available on your printer. Click "Start," go to the Control Panel and click "Printers and Faxes." Right-click on the printer you use and scroll down to "Properties." Write down the correct orientation for double-sided copy on a small sticky label and fix it to your printer for future reference. To print most of the document double-sided but with some pages single-sided, program the printer for the first few pages, change the settings to single-sided when you reach the relevant pages and change them back to double-sided when the single-sided pages are complete.


Some basic printers are not reliable when taking single sheets from a batch of paper in the feeder. When printing double-sided, it may be wiser to print each double-sided sheet individually to avoid two or three sheets being taken at once.

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