I've finished writing my thesis, and it is now at our University print service. However, I got a call from the today, saying that they can't print my thesis, because of some errors (don't know which ones, they couldn't specify). I can print it on our lab's printer (HP Color LaserJet 4700dn).

So, my question is: what is the right workflow in order to produce printable PDFs?

My setup is:

  • Mac OS X 10.6.8, running latest MacTeX-2011
  • pdflatex to produce the final PDF
    • packages: microtype, graphicx, xcolor, biblatex, fourier
  • OmniGraffle 5 to draw figures
    • save as EPS
    • eps2pdf to convert them to PDF
  • ggplot2 to produce graphs and other figures built on some external data

    • R version 2.13.1
    • this snippet produces PDF:

      embedFonts(image.name,options="-dEmbedAllFonts=true -dPDFSETTINGS=/printer")
    • some graphs contains throusands of points and transparent layers

If I use pdf2ps to produce a PS file, converting the PS file back to PDF through Acrobat Distiller's "Press Quality" preset gives me the following, useless, error:

%%[ Error: ioerror; OffendingCommand: imageDistiller ]%%


%%[ Flushing: rest of job (to end-of-file) will be ignored ]%%
%%[ Warning: PostScript error. No PDF file produced. ] %%

My second question would be: How to debug these issues? How to find where the problem in the workflow may be?

  • 4
    I think it is more important to know the publisher's printer and PostScript capabilities.
    – percusse
    Dec 15, 2011 at 12:59
  • 2
    A common issues are included PDFs which do not have their fonts included. Converting these using Ghostscript so that they hold theirs fonts helps in this case. However, this doesn't need to be you particular issue. Dec 15, 2011 at 13:08
  • 3
    You've got to press the people who claim to be experiencing a problem with creating hardcopies to be more forthcoming with information about the specific problems they have. Without this information, your chances of being able to correct the problems are nil.
    – Mico
    Dec 15, 2011 at 13:54
  • 1
    It is impossible to debug the exact cause of your problem without access to your PDF file. Just one hint: you quote Distiller's error message, but the quote is incomplete. With access to the complete Distiller log, you should be able to spot the page number where this error occurred. This will help you to narrow down the problem. -- Maybe you can extract that particular page, fix it individually and put it back into your PDF? Dec 15, 2011 at 21:47
  • Have you tried reprocessing your PDF with GhostScript? As pdfTeX has to write the PDF directly, it sometimes misses out on potential optimisations which can only be seen after the PDF is complete. GhostScript reprocessing is often used to compress PDFs, but this process also can clear up any minor inconsistencies in the file.
    – Joseph Wright
    Dec 15, 2011 at 22:24

2 Answers 2


I would recommend against a conversion of pdf to ps and back. That will not help you with printing problems.

After fixing all errors and warnings from your pdflatex session it might be helpful to import your file into Adobe Acrobat. A PDF can contain all kinds of formats, fonts, color spaces and other special stuff that your university has trouble dealing with. You can make sure that everything is correct on your side if you give them a clean PDF file according to the ISO standard PDF/X-1a or later.

There is also a package on CTAN to support ISO conforming output from pdflatex: pdfx on CTAN directly without going through Adobe Acrobat.

What might also cause troubles from generated graphics are plots with a very high number of objects. If you plot thousands of individual data points in a single figure the pdf file will contain all of them even if it looks like more or less like a line to you. These figures can give you troubles on printers with not enough memory/processing power.

If that all does not help I would fall back on the standard TeX way of debugging: start with a working minimal example and work your way up from there even if that implies some back and forth communication with the people printing your thesis.

  • 2
    Hi Alexander, the high number of data points was indeed the problem! Feb 1, 2014 at 18:00

Since you seem to have access to Distiller, I conclude you also have access to the full Acrobat product, maybe even the Pro version? I this case, by all means try to avoid to "re-fry" your PDF (going back to PostScript, and then pass it through Distiller again to convert it back to PDF). In this respect I entirely agree to Alexander. [Yes, there are cases where this procedure may be required in order to repair an otherwise b0rken PDF, but your case is different...]

In Acrobat Pro you've got a component called "Preflight". This can fix and/or avoid all kinds of printing problems directly within the PDF without going through a re-frying process:

  • merge PDF layers into one
  • "flatten" transparency
  • "optimize" your PDF (remove junk)
  • convert to a PDF standard format (like PDF/A-1b, or PDF/X-3, or whatever...)
  • embed missing fonts
  • convert all fonts and their glyphs to outline shapes (this will make the file bigger, no more searchable -- but it will remove printing problems caused by font quirks)
  • ...and many more.

At least if you succeed to convert the file into one of the built-in preflight standard formats for PDF eXchange ("PDF/X"), and can verify this -- then you can slap your print service for not being able to process it. Otherwise, the ball is in your yard...

One of the options you may need to consider is this:

  • narrow down the exact page number(s) which cause the problem (the Distiller log you've mentioned helps you here);
  • extract the page(s) from the file;
  • treat these pages individually with the appropriate fix(es);
  • (or give these page(s) to a professional for further analysis);
  • re-insert the fixed page(s) back into your PDF.

I can feel your pain. Been there, done it quite a few times already....

  • Kurt, thank you for you exhaustive answer. If it were possible on SE, I would make both yours and Alexander's responses as valid answers. Feb 1, 2014 at 18:03

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