Laser Printer for Proofing fonts

aquatoad's picture


So I am really fed up with trying to proof my designs on an
inkjet. Anybody have any suggestions on a good laser that I
can get reliable prints from? I want to spend less than
$1000. I'd like to spend a lot less if that's possible. I'd
definately consider a used machine.

Currently I'm going to Kinkos and chucking coins into the
machine (a Xerox 4050 or something - pretty good).


keith_tam's picture

You can't really use an inkjet to proof your type; the output is invariably heavier no matter how good the paper is. Even a laser can be quite unpredictable. You have to always keep the toner at a reasonable level, otherwise it is hard to have a consistent distribution of toner on the page. I have an HP LaserJet 6MP. It's 600 dpi and it served me well for seven years, but I could do with a better machine. You can pick up a 1200 x 1200 dpi HP for well under $1000 now, so don't go for a used one.

bieler's picture

I use an HP 5000N w/duplexor. Very good machine. This was discontinued maybe a year-and-a-half ago or so. I suspect you could pick one up fairly cheaply. It has the ProRes feature (true 1200 dpi, which is camera ready quality). Probably all kinds of stuff out there.

bieler's picture

Um, is there some reason folks on Typophile overwhelmingly use pics of themselves as infants, adolescents, or young adults (Hrant)?

Mark Simonson's picture

Gerald, these are current photos. I met many of these people at TypeCon. They were so cute. :-)

Seriously, I think people here are a little self-conscious about using a current photo. I confess that mine is not exactly current either (c. 1983). You may not be able to tell, but I'm sitting in a campground reading a computer magazine.

hrant's picture

Gerald, right on. I'm getting fed up with the kiddie photos.

My picture is old, but it's still mostly what I look like (now that the goatee is back), so...


Mark Simonson's picture

Here's a more recent photo of me:


cheshiredave's picture

Beware laser printers that are not true PostScript. Most low-cost ones out there are PostScript emulators. When I was in the market for a new printer a couple of years ago, after the death of my beloved Personal NTR, I went through a hellish process of trying to find a reasonably priced laser with real PostScript.

The problem is that most salespeople have absolutely no idea what the difference is, and some manufacturers are not totally up-front about the fact that theirs is an emulator. I bought a couple and then returned them, after discovering that the emulation was beyond awful.

I finally ended up finding a used Apple 16/600 (which is very similar -- if not identical, structurally -- to an HP 5MP, I believe), and it creaks a little, but I'm plenty satisfied. I paid $225 for it.

johnbutler's picture

I have a non-PS HP LaserJet 3200, a letter-size non-duplexing unit with fax and (sheetfed) scan capabilities, bought three years ago for $350 or so. There's an M version with Postscript as well, but I was too dumb to get it. Not big enough at this point, but the 1200dpi output is gorgeous and the toner cartridge has a fair capacity.

About a week ago I bought a Lexmark C720 for a steal. The C means color. The color isn't too good, and there's only a black cartridge in it now (CMY will be an extra $600!) but it's PS so I can finally print from my Mac, hallelujah.

The best PS printers these days are Xerox. Lexmark is also good. AVOID HP. They have gone WAY downhill... especially their PC printers, which install some crazy proprietary print driver that bypasses all of Windows' own print UI. Just give me pure, unfutzed-with Postscript 3, thank you.

.00's picture


I'm a big Xante fan. Have a B&W 2400dpi and 1200dpi color in the studio both with PostScript 3. Maybe a tad expensive but very nice!

twardoch's picture

I visited James' studio two years ago and saw his 2400 B&W Xant

hrant's picture

> For proofing body typefaces

How big is the difference between 1200 and 2400?

More than the rendering of details, what seems to change most significantly with resolution
is typographic color: lower resolutions come out darker. Is 2400 much lighter than 1200?


.00's picture


> How big is the difference between 1200 and 2400? >

A big difference.

> More than the rendering of details, what seems to change most > significantly with resolution > is typographic color: lower resolutions come out darker. Is 2400 much > lighter than 1200?

2400 is slightly lighter than 1200, (very close to how the type looks at repro resolutions) but the real difference is in the detailing. Shapes and forms that create "spots" in lower resolutions look cleaner at 2400.

Conversely type color that looks even at 600 or 1200 looks spotty at 2400.

An "unnamed" cut of Akzeiden Grotesk I once proofed at 600 looked great, but at 2400 it looked terrible. It looked terrible in film as well.

aquatoad's picture

Thanks everyone.

James, the Xante sounds unbelievable! The cost is also unbelievable. Wow! Need some proceeds from the fonts before I'm ready to take the plunge.

Is there anything used or otherwise that is useful to proof fonts at 8-12pt for less than $1000? Doesn't need to be a fancy network printer or anything.


peterbruhn's picture

I've got a Brother HL1650 - it's really good.
before I had an Apple 4/600 PS it was OK.
None of them are that expensive.

You need good paper make all the difference.

aquatoad's picture

Thanks Peter,

Forgot to mention, would be really nice if it did 11x17.
The agency I used to work for had a Xante Accel-a-Writer
2800 that did tabloid, but it must be 10 years old by now. Surely something newer?


aquatoad's picture

So I took the plunge and am expecting delivery on a new laser printer. Minolta QMS 9100N. It does 11x17 which was crucial for design work, 1200 dpi which was crucial for font work, and I found it for $799 which was crucial for my accountant.

I'll let you know how it works out.

hrant's picture

Randy, I'd especially be interested to [eventually] find out how your 1200 dpi output compares to 2400+ dpi lino, in terms of texture and color of small type.


tayojimenez's picture

disregard this post

hrant's picture

Robert, if you have some small (like maybe 8-9 point) serif text on your Xante, how different does it look than the same thing on imagesetter? I mean especially in overall darkness, but also of texture/details. Thanks.


hrant's picture

Thanks for the scans!

Just to make sure: the left/top are from an imagesetter and the right/bottom are from your 1200 laser? The difference is huge. What point size is that though?


kris's picture

Peter: You need good paper make all the difference.

Robert: thicker paper = thicker type.

So paper makes a difference. What are the best types of paper for proofing on laser printers?

anonymous's picture

We bought a Xant

anonymous's picture

Good point; the darkening is much more severe with small point sizes.

I have attached two versions, one at actual size (at 72 dpi) and one close up. I think that they will give an idea of the difference. I had to get rid of the paper texture (the printed example was on very textured paper) but I tried to keep the type from bulging. I hope these examples appear. I have never posted to a forum before yesterday, and am a little new to this.

The details (in my opinion) are captured well (except for very fine differences) however the feeling is generally darker. This can be a problem when you are dealing with the color of the text in comparison with other graphic elements, or very large type (which looks impecable) with small type.

actual size -- 2400 dpiactual size -- 1200 dpi

close up -- 2400 dpi
close up -- 1200 dpi

However, despite these shortcomings, I am still very pleased with the printer. When we print out first pages for a book, it takes only 1 hour, with no printing errors (aside from our own). This is in comparison to the day and a half we used to have to set aside for printing on our ink jet... and I cringe to think of all of the streaked sheets... and the cost of ink!

I hope all this helps,

P.S. I actually have been wondering about something related to this topic and I wonder if anyone has any thoughts...

Has the direct-to-plate technology changed the thickness and color of type (made it thicker)?

I have wondered about how the films (which are negatives) made type thinner, especially thin lines. However, direct-to-plate, which I think is more similar to a laser printer, dosen't go through the negative step, and may reseult in thicker type. Or type that is more like laser output.

anonymous's picture

My pleasure. It was interesting to see the difference. You're right, it is enormous.

Yes, left/top are from actual printed examples. NB: I think I forgot to sharpen the 1200 dpi blown up version.

blowup sharpened -- 1200 dpi

I think that the point size is 9 pt, but it is Perpetua, which looks small. I would have to go look in the backups for the exact size. The first examples shows the images at the visual size. The blown-up versions are more for fun.

I've meet people who claim that 600 dpi is good enough... but I think that this examples disproves that theory.

Also, I should mention that we've noticed that the thicker the paper used, the greater the difference. That is: Thicker paper = thicker type.

Good day,

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