Greyness, or typographic color is the apparent blackness of a block of text. I would be curious how you deal with improving it in TeX. How much can TeX's inherent line-breaking algorithm be fine-tuned to obtain the best solution?

(Edit: Rephrased the question.)

  • 3
    I'm afraid that I don't understand the question. Could you clarify it and explain exactly what aspect of TeX you are asking about? Aug 4, 2010 at 8:52
  • Discussions should be "community wiki" - btw: I think that your question is design related, not TeX, but you should clarify.
    – topskip
    Aug 4, 2010 at 8:57
  • Could you clarify what do you mean by "grey" or "grey value"? Aug 4, 2010 at 10:49
  • Grayness is also called typographic color see: businessdictionary.com/definition/typographic-color.html . Microtypographic extensions should probably be used with great care. I was interested to see how much TeX's inherent line-breaking algorithm can be fine-tuned to obtain best solution.
    – helcim
    Aug 4, 2010 at 14:57
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    @Caramdir: AFAIK that's not possible - once wikied, always wikied. (That's certainly true on MathOverflow, maybe not here though, but it would almost certainly need moderator powers if it were possible.) Aug 4, 2010 at 15:47

2 Answers 2


Perfect grayness, for typical text, is possible only at the expense of ugliness somewhere else. Clearly, allowing arbitrary hyphenation will make perfect grayness much easier, and forbidding hyphenation will make it much harder.

Conversely, relaxing grayness would make perfect hyphenation (i.e. none) much easier.

Typography can often be improved by rewriting to fit the context (measure = text width, and location on the page).

TeX's big achievement in line breaking are, in my view, the use of dynamic programming, and the care, experience and diligence applied to the many details involved in the problem.

A large part of the art of typesetting is the art of breaking things, but gracefully. Best results will always require an element of hand adjustment, but TeX does a good job automatically, most of the time.


I guess you mean the gray value of a page. The microtype package improves that.

Other things you could do: In some books the headings are gray so the page looks more evenly gray.

  • I'm no expert. But, it appears that the easiest-win way to improve the greyness of the page is to use the microtype package (as @andre-r noted). This is supported in pdfLaTeX. It's not at present supported in XeTeX, and I can't remember if it's supported in LuaTeX. However both of those implementation do anticipate supporting it eventually, if I understand correctly. It can make quite a difference, especially to narrow columns. There's some parenthetical discussion of the package on stackoverflow, and you Aug 4, 2010 at 12:50

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