In the process of printing my dissertation, I encountered problems where the text and figures were dithered and in gray instead of black. This exact problem has been discussed in an earlier question, and the problem finally got solved by a technician at the printing company turning the PDF into Postscript and then darkening the pages by two steps.

When discussing this problem, another employee there said that they often have this issue with LaTeX-generated documents, even having had Xerox technicians there to look at it, and said that they had claimed that LaTeX was never meant for print.

I find that very hard to believe since Knuth designed TeX to allow math to be better typeset. However, there does often seem to be problems with printing. Or is that perhaps always an issue, no matter how the document is generated?

  • 35
    TeX was never meant to print? What a silly statement.
    – egreg
    Mar 1, 2018 at 15:42
  • 6
    I remember having printed my PhD thesis (generated with LaTeX and dvips) on Xerox printers -- they had problems with the PostScript (no particular or weird settings, however). On other printers, there were no issues ... so much for Xerox ;-) Every PDF I generated with LaTeX during the last years printed on every printer model I have access to without any problems, so TeX etc. is meant for printing ..
    – user31729
    Mar 1, 2018 at 15:44
  • 8
    From the TeXbook: "dvi stands for 'device independent,' since texput.dvi is capable of being printed on almost any kind of typographic output device." Doesn't sound like something not meant to be printed...
    – Skillmon
    Mar 1, 2018 at 15:50
  • 12
    @CarlWitthoft Not in this case. In the case of TeX and DVI files, the “device-independent” meant something like: instead of outputting device-specific instructions for a specific printer, we'll output typesetting instructions in an abstract format, and you can write a “DVI driver” specific to your printer that interprets these typesetting instructions. (Analogous terms used in programming today are “bytecode” and “IR”.) (Of course, today most printers natively handle formats like PS or PDF, so we just need DVI→PS or DVI→PDF.) Mar 1, 2018 at 20:47
  • 1
    I wonder what percentage of (printed) STEM papers and books are composed in LaTeX? For a random sample, I have one called "Using OpenMP" on my desk at the moment. Right there on the copyright page: "This book was set in LaTeX by the authors and printed and bound in the United States of America".
    – jamesqf
    Mar 1, 2018 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


This may or may not apply to your specific situation, but it is generally worth knowing:

(1) If the PDF has a color profile (*.icc) embedded, then many printers will produce CMYK "rich black" instead of pure K black. That is very undesirable for text, as it is intended for images. It will resemble rasterization.

Most TeX-produced PDFs will not have an *.icc embedded. But it is possible, especially if you are using PDF/X, and do not do it in a particular manner.

Do you have access to a program such as Adobe Acrobat Pro? Not the free version. If so, open one of your problem PDF files in it, and see if there is an Output Intent with embedded color profile. If that is the case, strip out the profile, and like magic your print will improve.

(2) If a page has both raster image and vector (text) objects, then any vector object that overlies any part of a raster image may be rasterized. In some cases, merely approaching the image will cause rasterization. Of course, everything is rasterized during print; but I refer to a lower-resolution rasterization that precedes final print rasterization.

This applies even if the underlying image is white or transparent there. In particular, it may apply if you are using a background or raster watermark.

(3) The above situations are not specific to TeX. If your printer has seen problems more frequently with TeX files, I surmise that the reason has to do with the content of the files, rather than the program used.

Also, some TeX users may still (in this day and age!) be using bitmap fonts here and there. The presence of a bitmap (raster) character may spread rasterization around to nearby vector text, like an epidemic.

(4) The information I provided above does not come from my own deep knowledge of the technology. Instead, I have noticed rasterization issues raised in other forums, by book writers (non-technical). They never heard of TeX. My information is a summary of responses from those who know.

  • 1
    "some TeX users may still (in this day and age!) be using bitmap fonts" it doesn't help that \usepackage[T1]{fontenc} automatically switches Computer Modern to raster without warning.
    – marczellm
    Mar 1, 2018 at 21:02
  • 1
    @marczellm Not really; it uses whatever T1-encoded font is available on the system—and at least in TeX Live full, those are the vector fonts. (I've heard that otherwise you may need to install the cm-super package so that the vector T1 fonts get picked up, but I've never had to do that myself.) Mar 1, 2018 at 21:09
  • @marczellm Indeed, use of that line is often recommended precisely to ensure that postscript type1 fonts are used rather than metafont. The default built in to TeX is bitmap fonts with OT1 encoding, whereas many TeX distributions provide CM in the T1 encoding only in postscript format. Generally these days, you may well get type1 anyhow. But certainly switching to T1 was an easy way to ensure postscript in older distributions.
    – cfr
    Mar 2, 2018 at 1:39
  • 2
    Some of us actually think the type 1 versions (and latin modern) are too thin and prefer the result one can get by changing parameters in the MetaFont. On our rather good printers at university, the result using MetaFont looks really good. This might be off topic here, sorry in that case.
    – mickep
    Mar 2, 2018 at 8:14
  • 1
    @mickep Actually, on topic! I almost edited my reply, to mention this: The CM and LM fonts are beneath "book weight." That is, they are a bit too light for what is normally seen in a printed book, particularly the kind with long passages of text. This is why my own document class attempts to force Libertinus fonts as default, and actually issues a warning if (due to fonts not installed) the document reverts to LM. But then, my document class is for long passages of text, not math.
    – user139954
    Mar 2, 2018 at 15:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.