Even 1200-dpi printer not good enough for testing spacing & kerning at text size. What do you do?

When printing a repeated sequence like 'abababababab...', the space between each 'a' and its following 'b' may not be consistent due to letter shapes being rounded to fit the pixel matrix. Even with a 1200-dpi laser printer, these slight differences can be significant enough to make test printing for spacing & kerning unreliable. For instance, when printing 'HHXOHH HHXQHH', the 'XO' might look fine while the 'XQ' appears to have too much space, even though the O and the Q share the exact same left side.

What do you do then?


  • Printers that are 1200 dpi in theory are often not that good in practice. Have you tried looking at it with a magnifying glass? Does it have true PostScript?

  • Ori Ben-DorOri Ben-Dor Posts: 383
    I have the Xerox VersaLink B400 mentioned in that thread; it has true PostScript.

    However, I don't believe that its quality has much to do with the issue at hand. Except for very specific fonts sizes, those slight differences in spacing between letters cannot be avoided. The printer essentially rounds an arithmetic sequence of non-whole numbers, which doesn't necessarily result in an arithmetic sequence (e.g. 2.21, 3.31, 4.41, 5.51, 6.61, 7.71 -> 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, note the jump from 4 to 6).

  • What exactly are you trying to achieve?

    If you want to see the kerning for specific pairs, I'd say just print it out bigger, put in on a wall and take a few steps back.

    If you want to see the overall color of the text, print it at text size and forget about minute differences.

    The precision you want seems like a little bit overkill to me ;)
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,970
    Just accept the imperfections and move on. Even 6,000 LPI offset printing isn’t perfect; spacing and strokes are different on different papers, when printing with different inks, etc..
  • I use a Xerox VersaLink C500 with true PostScript 3 and I find it excellent for testing.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,398
    If you want to see the kerning for specific pairs, I'd say just print it out bigger, put in on a wall and take a few steps back.
    To get really nerdy, you can even use sizecalc.com to calculate the printing size and distance. It tells us that 12 point type at 20 inches away is about .48 degrees of vision. Keeping that .48 degrees, if we view the printout from 3 feet instead, we should set it at 21.7 points. 🤓
  • Ori Ben-DorOri Ben-Dor Posts: 383
    Thank you for your comments!
    @James Puckett, I think I'm going to take your advice and move on... :smile:
    @Igor Freiberger, the B400 specs say "up to 1200 x 1200 dpi (enhanced)" while the C500 sepcs say "up to 1200 x 2400 dpi". I'm wondering what "enhanced" means and what the effect of the jump from 1200 to 2400 dpi, in just one axis, is.
  • @Ori Ben-Dor, I also would like to know. They (HP, Xerox, Lexmark, Brother, Epson, Canon, Okidata, Samsung, etc.) doesn't provide enough technical info. Too much adjectives, too few substantives.

    I had a HP with 1200x1200 that was barely better than another HP with 600x600. And a Brother (HL-L2360DW) with 1200x1200 which is superior to any HP. But no printer I had compares to the C500 regarding text quality.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,748
    Igor, do you use that printer from Windows? How are you finding printing variable fonts to PostScript on Windows?
  • I only used it from Mac, but if you find useful I can test it using Parallels. What kind of test do you want to do? You can send me a PDF you'd like to test and I can return you pictures of the actual printings or even send them by mail to you.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,748
    I am on Mac as well. I just heard some issues that were mostly from Windows testing. More problems for an average user, though.

    Like: printing with variable fonts from a non-design app that just uses the PostScript driver directly without writing its own PS, and printing that directly to a PostScript device in PS mode, is reportedly Very Bad still. AFAIK.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,458
    "from a non-design app" question. I am guessing that the people who buy type don't fit into this group?
  • edited March 2023
    "from a non-design app" question. I am guessing that the people who buy type don't fit into this group?

    It may well be the case. But it might be otherwise, Chris: at a designer’s suggestion, a company gets some licenses of A-Very-Pro-Font, and one of them is for an employee who uses the font to write some documents in a non-design app and even prints them. I mean, the employee actually didn’t buy the type, but somehow he is able to use it. :neutral:

  • John ButlerJohn Butler Posts: 245
    I use Very-Pro-Fonts in Word, Excel, DymoConnect for my label printer, and all kinds of non-design apps when forced by necessity. I sympathize with non-design users.

    LibreOffice Writer has better pro font feature support than Word these days, if you happen to have any users or clients grumbling about Word amputating descenders or clutching its precious synthetic small caps, etc. LibreOffice Calc probably won’t conquer Excel any time soon, though, nor does its typography support match that of Writer.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,748
    Yes, I was not meaning to cast any aspersions on non-design apps.
    Basically it is just that some apps that are savvy enough to inject their own added stuff into the PostScript stream or otherwise bypass the driver in whole or in part (functionality the Windows PostScript driver is designed to allow) can work around the problem. So for example InDesign and Illustrator can work around the problem, and I assume apps like Figma and Quark do as well.
  • Hello Thomas. This is the result of printing from LibreOffice 7.5. Both Mac and Windows results are the same. The only difference is that, in Windows, not all pages were printed due to an error. 🙄

    Text set in 8, 7, and 6pt. No special configuration. Regular stock paper (white, A4, 90g/m²). My mobile is an old iPhone SE 1st gen, so the photos suffer from lack of better quality. Actual paper is brighter and whiter than the images, but I decided keep them without further changes.

    Font is Laboratorium, still with only partial kerning.

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