[texhax] microtype: bad printing

Karl Ove Hufthammer karl at huftis.org
Thu Jan 28 21:58:52 CET 2016

Arno Trautmann wrote:

> Long version: A fellow PhD just had his thesis printed, which he
> produced with pdfLaTeX using microtype. When he had the final pages in
> his hands, he found that some lines of text where kind of bold, but only
> on pages that contained color and not equally over the whole page, not
> even reproduceable over the several print-outs. (It got worse for the
> later prints, which is why he did not immediatly see it on the test
> print.) The lines looked like some kind of poor man's bold, i.e. the whole
> line seems to be shifted for each color. (Since it was a color page, the
> printer appareantly did not take just black, but combined the colors to
> get black). Since this happened only to a few lines per paragraph, I
> suggested that it might be connected to microtype and the printer not
> being able to handle the scaled fonts.

This does sound familiar. I have experienced the same thing with the printer 
at work (a Ricoh printer). A few observations:

This doesn’t happen only with PDF documents from LaTeX, but also with 
several other (but very few – it’s not a common problem) PDF documents, 
created by other applications. (I have a few example documents if anybody’s 

For many documents it happens only with lines containing the letters fi, ff 
or ffi. So I guess it’s related to ligatures, somehow.

The output for these lines (or *parts* of the lines) looks like an ugly, 
blurry bold.

IIRC, this only happens when printing the document in colour.

I do *not* think that it’s a bug in the actual PDF document. It is either a 
bug in the printer, in the printer drivers or in the application doing the 
printing (or in two or three of them).

This *only* happens when printing the document using Adobe Reader (on a 
Windows system). A workaround for me is printing it using (the very 
expensive) Adobe Acrobat software.

A *related* problem with blurry text happens when printing documents 
containing figures that uses transparency. Then Adobe Reader will use the 
‘Print as image’ feature (which produces a too low-DPI bitmap) automatically 
for any pages with transparency, resulting in low-quality output. But then 
the *entire page* will be (slightly) blurry, not just a few lines here and 

Karl Ove Hufthammer
E-mail: karl at huftis.org
Jabber: huftis at jabber.no

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