[pdftex] Pale print with Adobe Reader

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Tue Mar 27 14:27:31 CEST 2007

On 3/27/07, Rodolfo Medina <rodolfo.medina at gmail.com> wrote:

> Instead, if lightness is a normal characteristic of the CM fonts, then the
> whole present thread is based on a misunderstanding.  Anyway: the problem is
> virtually solved (as I wrote) simply switching to the ptmr font with the pdf
> format for the documents without math, and continuing on using CM and .ps for
> the others.  However, once the problem has been arised by now, and we're in it,
> I've been considering:

The best way to judge the intended appearance of the CM fonts is to compare
a printout with a typeset example such as Knuth's TeXBook.   The fonts are much
lighter than many commonly used fonts, which does cause problems with
faxing, photocopies, etc.  These days I hardly ever get to see a math
paper in the original, only
the illegible photocopies from interlibrary loan or pdf versions from
the publishers..

In the days of bitmapped fonts, many sites used configurations that
made the fonts appear darker.  This could be achieved easily by
printing 300 dpi fonts on a 600 dpi printer or by tweaking the
metafont parameters in a printer-specific configuration. Many early
laser printers also had knobs that would produce darker print by
increase dot size -- in my experience these were invariably set for
maximum darkness so for optimal results I had to remember to reset the
knob before each print job.  Modern laser printers have sophisticated
algorithms to compensate for changes in dot size depending on
neighboring pixels and are generally pretty uniform in the output

> a) that, after all, CM is much more beautiful than ptmr, so it'd be nice to go
>    on using it also for documents without math;

You can't judge a document based on the appearance of individual glyphs.
If you just substitute ptmr for CM without adjusting the design, you
end up with lines that have way to many letters for readability.
Also, very few systems still use the orginal Adobe
Times Roman font.  Usually you get either a URW clone (there have been
many versions, some with bugs), Adobe Myriad, or some clone installed
in the printer.  There are a number of good free fonts that are well
suited to publications that don't need (much) maths.  When you change
fonts, you have to adjust the design, especially point size, line
width, baselineskip (often set bit larger for maths to accomodate
inline maths).

> and, on the other hand:
> b) suppose I need printing my math documents through pdf format one day?
> So I was wondering if it's possible to have CM without the problem of
> `paleness'.  I hope I was clear enough.  Thanks to all for their replies.

Many people have been accustomed to seeing CM fonts that have been darkened, so
it is difficult to know if you are in that category or have
encountered some other issue
(such as some combination of poor rendering of bitmapped fonts
combined with ill-considered metafont configuration).  You should look
at samples of other fonts, preferrably in a mockup of your documents,
so see if there are other fonts that will be acceptable in your

Xetex (from TL2007) has the advantage that it can used to set plain
TeX documents with "system" fonts, so it is easy to experiment as well
as compare with print quality from other applications.

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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