Test prints

1996type's picture

Hello everybody,

I'm currently working on a text typeface so I constantly need to make testprints. Problem is: My inkjet printer (not even on high resolution paper) shows enough detail at text size. How do you guys do this? Is the laserprinter from the coffeeshop next corner good enough or is there some other way? Any advice/help is much appreciated.

Thanks in advance, Jasper

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Hello,

Definitely get a laser printer. Even a cheap one with 600 dpi will do the trick, but you can get some 1200 dpi printers for not too much money and are far better: as an alternative to my HP LaserJet 5200, that I love but was expensive, for my other place I got a much cheaper Brother HL-5370DW (249 USD) which is not great, but works fine for my purposes (printing proofs for text typefaces).

If you need more information about what brands, characteristics and models are better, you can consult some old threads here.

Good luck!

1996type's picture

Thanks! When you say it works fine. Does that mean 'fine' or 'not great for pictures but same as HP 5200 for text proofs'? I will have some money to invest in new equipment and software after Expletus is released in the Google Font Directory, so perhaps I should just buy a good one. If there is no noticable difference for text proofs, than I might as well take the cheap one.

Cheers, Jasper

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Well, I’d like to show you images of the same file printed with both printers and in offset, but this is not possible right now. Anyway, hope this helps.

First, here is an image printed with my Brother printer (originally scanned at 600 dpi, grayscale, no retouches made):

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Same image, now printed with the HP printer (same scanning preferences than the first one):

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Same image as you can see it in InDesign (PDF saved in InDesign, opened in Photoshop and saved as png):

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Finally, here is an image of the typeface printed in offset (no retouches made):

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

FWIW, on the first three images the typeface was set in 12 points, but the offset image was composed in 11 points.

charles ellertson's picture

look at the fine line of the lower case "d" in all them. Looks different on all to me. As does the contrast within the letter- weight of fine strokes to heavy ones. Wish your non-offset samples had more lower-case letters.

BTW, nice font.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

The other one thing I’ve noted is that sometimes both printers show some supposed inconsistencies in stems, spacing or kerning when you print at smaller sizes (say 8-10 points), but most of these “problems” are solved if you print at bigger sizes (14-16 points), so I print bigger if I see something weird is going on. It happens in both printers, but the Brother printer does this more frequently, or at least it is more evident there.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Wish your non-offset samples had more lower-case letters.

I can do some cut & paste work to show all the lowercase letters. I’ll post it later today.

BTW, nice font

Thanks!

charles ellertson's picture

I can do some cut & paste work to show all the lowercase letters. I’ll post it later today.

Not for me -- I'll take the offset proofs as evidence. The problem with laser printers is as you say, at least when smaller sizes are used. I have no great experience with evaluating larger sizes on a laser printer.

One thing I have noticed though, is if you optimize character fit at a larger size, it will be wrong for text-size settings. An old friend of mine use to try, occasionally, to get one of the 18-point master Linotype photocomp fonts to work for text. In those days, all you could do with those proprietary fonts was to kern them. Every damn letter pair with one of those 18-point masters.

As a compositor, I have a lot of experience with laser proofs for text settings. Kerning, fit, even sometimes the characters themselves will be different from the final offset printing. If we're really working over a font, all the work before that first offset book is considered "preliminary."

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Well, I did it already, so here you can see the proofs of Espinosa Nova. The first one is from the Brother printer, the second one from the HP.

Please note that this was done by “manual” cut & pasting, so don’t expect consistence in spacing or even baselines. It is just for comparing letterforms.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

One thing I have noticed though, is if you optimize character fit at a larger size, it will be wrong for text-size settings.

Absolutely right. So I tend to start with smaller sizes for the general fitting and the first kerning proofs, and then I move back and forth to larger sizes just to be sure I am not dealing with false problems derived from the limited printer capabilities when it comes to smaller point sizes.

Kerning, fit, even sometimes the characters themselves will be different from the final offset printing.

Absolutely right again. Anyway, most of us don’t have an offset machine at our disposal for every single project, so we must find reliable substitutes – at an affordable price, if it is possible.

@1966type: One more thing: in part, the HP printer was pricey because it can print in tabloid – which was a good decision at that time since I was composing a magazine bigger than legal size. You may find some other good & cheaper options by HP (or any other company, for that matter).

dezcom's picture

The laser printer syndrome is inescapable when it comes to rounding decimals. There is no replacement for high-rez film output. You can't even find a place that does Linotronic output anymore :-(
Laser printers are, however, better than inkjets for many reasons, speed, quality, and cost come to mind. Injets just eat ink cartridges (which end up costing way more than an economical laser printer).

@Cristobal: Your Espinosa Nova still looks quite spectacular!

charles ellertson's picture

most of us don’t have an offset machine at our disposal for every single project, so we must find reliable substitutes – at an affordable price, if it is possible.

While it would mean a delay in releasing the font, if it is a good text font, I'd bet you could get an book interior designer to specify it for a book. Most would do that for a free license for the font. From that point on, it is straight production right up to the final book. Once F&Gs are approved, the publisher usually has no more use for them; there are your proofs, in an unbound form.

As you have shown, you can get quite close with laser proofs. If the printing is decent, one book printed offset should let you get the final refinements. I suppose you could even have an early release or a beta version of a font, either at a discounted price, or with the offer to replace it when the final work is done.

Edit: Chris, I agree about ink jet printers for type. For photos, they are much better than laser printers. We use to have to do a new (ICC) profile for the laser printer once a day to do proofs for images -- or more often, if the damn thing got hot. The ink jet will hold a profile for a long time.

William Berkson's picture

For text sizes, I do think it is very important to look at the final output as much as possible. There was, fortunately, a place near me that did a linotronic output on "rc paper", so I could see it when I was testing Williams Caslon text. I still held my breath when I first looked at its actual use in Boston Magazine, small size on slick paper. It worked, to my great relief. I think it also works pretty well in my new book, on at 11 point on rougher paper, but I'm a very prejudiced judge, of course.

I don't have time this week, but maybe next week I could do some scans of laser vs print with comparisons. I'm interested in the comparison myself. I'm hoping that I can "tune" my Xante 1200 enough to match print fairly well.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

if it is a good text font, I'd bet you could get an book interior designer to specify it for a book

Right again. Actually, the offset image that I posted is from a book set with a trial font of the Regular (and a primitive version of the Italic, not shown in the image). But the result of the Regular was good enough for me, so I decided not to do any change, while the Italic was at an early stage so it was not so useful after all for identifying “final improvements”. Probably my problem is that I want to finish* the Regular weight before I start with the Italic, and only when I have both the Regular and the Italic I go for bolder weights, so if I ask for someone to use my Regular trial font I don’t even have a working small family to offer by then (well, you can always propose substitutes for the missing fonts, but this is not ideal). So, while I think it is a very valuable resource if it is available (as it happened with Fondo, a custom font that I made some years ago for a publishing house with his own press), I find that I would need this kind of offset trials more often than my speed to get projects ad hoc but, as I said, this is probably because of my not-so-efficient workflow.

*This is just a way of talking, of course.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

I don't have time this week, but maybe next week I could do some scans of laser vs print with comparisons. I'm interested in the comparison myself. I'm hoping that I can "tune" my Xante 1200 enough to match print fairly well.

Looking forward! Now, I think the point would be to tune the laser printer before the offset comes in, so you can trust in your home-made proofs while you are designing. I am saying this because different offset machines can give different results, so it is a never-ending story.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

@Chris: Thanks again! I am very glad you like it.

charles ellertson's picture

Bits and pieces . . .

In point of fact, we have a Xante 1200, but it is just too expensive to operate. There is no non-factory service where we are, so you have to ship it in for service. Factory toner is expensive as well. There were also some curves programmed into the machine which made coming up with ICC profiles difficult, but we did overcome that. Still, if the Xante 1200 works well, and you have no access to offset printing, I suppose these aren't overwhelming obstacles. But I remain unconvinced that any electostatic, powder toner on paper system can approach a *system* (total) resolution of close to 1200 dpi (1/Rt = 1/R1 + 1/R2 + 1/R3 + . . . 1/Rn).

I've seen short-run books printed both by offset press and digital press where I can tell the difference between offset press and the digital press three feet away, where I can't even read the type. Usually it is cheaper to go offset around 500 copies, but some printers are investing in digital presses because it is easier to get the images right. Talk about the horse and cart!

* * *

Yes, if you don't have both a roman and an italic in pretty good shape, it will be hard to talk a designer into using your fonts for a book.

* * *

I am going to mention Espinosa Nova to a couple of our clients who do a number of books on Mexican history. University press budgets are terribly constrained just now, but I think it would be a useful purchase for them.

1996type's picture

Ok I've done a lot of searching and realised what I need just costs too much. If I buy a cheaper one now I'll buy a good one in a few years, so it would be a waste. I'm gonna have a look at some copyshops and just ask them what kind of printer they have. So far from what I read on typopgile I need: no HP, true postscript, Xante is best.
am i right?

William Berkson's picture

Charles, I haven't had a problem with repair of my Xante 1200. The only thing mine has needed is new rollers, and those I installed myself—not that difficult. The toner costs more, but I think lasts longer. What is the meaning of your "Rt" etc. in your formula?

I really don't know what is best, as I don't have a side by side comparison on resolution at small sizes. Xante followed up with the 4G, which has 2400 resolution, and I believe does approach print, but is very expensive. The more recent Xante machines are still more expensive film setters, I believe.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Ok I've done a lot of searching and realised what I need just costs too much […] So far from what I read on typophile I need: no HP, true postscript, Xante is best.

Xante is way too expensive for me as well, but I am curious about these comparisons. Both Charles and William have a Xante, so I could send them a PDF of my file so they can print and scan it, just to add their printer to the comparison… Or I could print a PDF with Williams Caslon on my HP (the Brother is not near at this moment), if William Berkson send me the file he is going to use for his printings…

Another suggestion before you buy: you probably have a couple of friends with access to a laser printer at their offices or something. Get a book set with a typeface you own and know well. Try to recreate one of its pages. Save it as a PDF (it would be better if you have access to the original PDF, of course) and give it to your friends. If possible, provide them with a paper similar to the one used for the book. Compare the results with a scanner or a magnifying glass.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

I am going to mention Espinosa Nova to a couple of our clients

The mention itself will make me feel proud, let alone if they finally use my typeface. Thank you!

1996type's picture

I'm only 14 and still in highschool, so I'm not really in the world of graphic and typedesign. I have one friend who is quite a good graphic designer though. I already send him an email but he hasn't responded yet. Good luck with Espinosa nova!

charles ellertson's picture

Bill, our laser printers are asked to run upwards of 2 million copies before we spend another $2,000 to outright replace them. Of course, the service work adds to the total cost. Our (older) HP LaserJet 8100 and Xerox Phaser 5500 have both passed that test. The Xante 4G is sitting on the floor, not working . . .

We stopped photocopying back when it occurred to us we could make all the proof sets as originals just about as cheaply as running one set of lasers, then photocopying them. That meant if a publisher wanted 5 sets of proof, all were run as originals on the laser printer. Much better quality that way, and less labor to boot.

Now that more and more publishers are asking for PDFs as the only form of proof, I suppose the laser printers will get less use. The reason for the switch to PDFs is shipping costs, of course. Personally, I hate making and dealing with Printers Queries on PDFs.

R(subscript)t is Total Resolution. It's reciprocal is the sum of the reciprocals of all the elements. You can have one element way up there and the effect on total resolution won't be much. But if it is the right one, it does let you legally advertise a high resolution for a machine.

* * *

Christobal, how strongly do you feel about that wide "v"?

* * *

1996type -- hang in there. Get your proofs as best you can. We all have a huge number of failures, and some of them come from having to learn how our equipment fools us. Some of us even have to learn the same thing two or three times before it sinks in (blush).

William Berkson's picture

>2 million copies

Wow, that's a different story. My AW 12000 says it's printed about 40 thousand copies, and that's over some years.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Christobal, how strongly do you feel about that wide "v"?

Very strong. I mean, though I had a lot of other projects in the meantime, Espinosa took me nine years to develop. I could continue moving nodes for all eternity, but at some point I decided to stop so I could release it and move on to the next project. I am pretty sure that some details won’t please everyone and, as a matter of fact, other persons have mentioned me other letters they don’t like. But so far the balance of the comments has been very very positive (and obtained two certificates of excellence this year!), so I must think very well if a change is really required.

At some point I am going to add more diacritics, tweak some minor things and probably add a couple of new tricks, but changing the “v” is not in my list. However, I am always open to make this kind of customization work if a client asks for it. And my EULA also gives to the user the permission to make this sort of changes by himself or by third parties, if they contact me in advance.

dezcom's picture

"...but at some point I decided to stop so I could release it and move on..."

Bravo, Cristobal! That is the spirit!

charles ellertson's picture

but at some point I decided to stop so I could release it and move on...

Oh hell yes. But If I can get a customer to pick up on it, I'll rework the kerning -- always. Even Mathew Carter's fonts. Most everthing he has is spot on to my taste, but I add to it. You never know when you might have to set "Ygraine."

The reason I asked was to see if it would bother you to have the "v" changed, not that you should do it. If you want to see before saying OK, that's fine. But with that, it's time to get off a public forum & do private emails.

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

If you want to see before saying OK, that's fine. But with that, it's time to get off a public forum & do private emails

Yes, we can do private mails anytime you want. Just for the record: if you think that the “v” or the kerning or anything else must be modified you can do it and I will not question your decisions, so actually I don’t really need to see what do you do within the font (although I’d like to, because it interests me, but I am not going to discuss with you if it is pertinent or not). All I am asking is to know what fixes are you planning, so I can get an idea about what the people think that must be changed and perhaps, if I perceive that the same thing is desirable for a number of people, add it to my list of future “official fixes”.

[It seems that this thread has gone off-topic… Sorry about that.]

froo's picture

1996type, buy an average laser printer, because you will need constant proofing, and most of it won't be crucial. Anyway, one can learn printer's behaviours at some level, compairing them with the screen and good printouts, with the time.

Grrrben's picture

Beste Jasper,

A friend and I both own a used Xante AW1200 and we're both happy with it (although it has some issues, but which printer hasn't any?). We both found one at marktplaats.nl for not so much money, though the toner is indeed a little expensive. I just had a look at marktplaats.nl and noticed also today there're a couple offered.

Way better than inkjet but of course it's not offset, although a lower toner level comes pretty close, rather than a full toner cartridge.

By the way... connecting directly onto a Mac with the latest OS is problematic (USB), but it works fine if you connect the printer to your router (LAN).

Succes, groet!
Gerben

1996type's picture

Hey Gerben,

Thanks a lot. I had a look at marktplaats.nl and there is one offered for just 25 euro in Rotterdam (where I live), so I think I'll have a look at it. €25 seems a bit too cheap, but it's a small effort to just drop by and have a look at it.

Groeten,
Jasper

blank's picture

€25 seems a bit too cheap…

When buying used printers you need to be aware that some units are sold cheap because the seller assumes that they will not work and are just being sold to scavenge the parts for use in other printers.

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