For those interested the solution would be to use Acrobat for printing.

I've noticed that OSX prints a bolder image than windows does for text that has been converted to outlines. See the circled text. It's obviously more bold on OSX.

To be clear the top text has not been converted to outlines. It prints the same on both operating systems. The circled text has been converted to outlines.

(look at the letter s if you have trouble seeing it.)

enter image description here

I made a scan of the results. Here is the same exact file printed on the same printer in OSX and Windows side by side.

Don't tell me to not print from Illustrator. I want a technical explanation as to why it's happening.

  • You realize scanning them has all but blown away any perceived "difference" right? I'd use a standard camera not a scanner to try and illustrate your problem. Also probably part of your problem is printing directly from an Adobe product. You NEVER print directly from Illustrator. Output it to a pdf or something first. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 18:32
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    @Ovaryraptor you can clearly see the bottom circled text is bolder. Just look at how the 2 "s" letters are touching. Taking a picture won't make it any better but if you really think it will I'll do so. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 18:34
  • Might have to do with printing technology. Illustrator on the Mac wants Postscript Level 3 support to really be accurate... Windows often uses PCL, not postscript. Many lower-end printers will support PCL but not Postscript Level 3. Really, just guessing though. Printing a PDF from the Mac may result in closer results since Acrobat is a software postscript RIP (Postscript Level 3 is a hardware RIP)
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 18:39
  • @Ovaryraptor You were sort of right. Printing from acrobat on both programs made them print the same. I'm still really taken back that you'd say to never print from illustrator. Why would adobe spend so much time adding features to their print function if you were never intended to print from it?! Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 18:51
  • @Scott That would make sense. When it's converting it to outlines it's no longer a font. So it has something to do with how Windows is rendering vector. It doesn't explain why acrobat prints it properly. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


Okay... explanation...

The Macintosh print technology, especially with Adobe applications, relies on a Postscript RIP (Raster Image Processor). What a RIP does is to take data and construct a raster-based image from that data. A Postscript rip is there to specifically interpret postscript data to a raster image for output.

Adobe applications on the Macintosh send data as postscript to be printed. If the printer being used does not have a Postscript RIP then the printer interprets the data as best it can. This often results in prints which are based on the embedded, low resolution, preview image within the postscript data, not the postscript data itself. So you get essentially a "this is the best I can figure out" type of print. Often vector data is inaccurate, or just looks pixelated. The printer kind of spits out a "fax-like" sheet rather than a constructed image from the mathematical plotting postscript data provides.

Illustrator especially looks for Postscript Level 3 support. There are various support level for Postscript - level 1 , 2 and 3. Similar to "versions" but called "levels". The higher the level the better the interpretation for more advanced Postscript.

You can print to a Postscript level 1 or 2 device. However you might find some aspects of Illustrator artwork look poor (such as gradients) while others appear fine. Essentially it's all a "crap-shoot" without Postscript level 3 support. You get what you get and it's not about how you've set things up or any "problem" with Illustrator. It's a limitation of the printer itself and it's ability to support some technologies.

To circumvent the fact that a printer does not support Postscript Level 3, you can save the Illustrator file as a PDF, then print the PDF.

Why this works...

Acrobat (PDF/Distiller) is a software Postscript RIP What Acrobat/Distiller do is read the postscript data and then construct a high quality image based upon the postscript data itself. The exact same thing a Postscript Level 3 printer would do. The difference is only that Acrobat/Distiller do it all within the software and don't spit out a page. Instead, Acrobat embeds a new (high quality) preview image based upon the postscript data, ignoring the existing, embedded, low resolution, postscript preview.

So, if you print from Acrobat/Reader you are printing a high resolution raster image Acrobat created directly and not relying on the printer to interpret postscript data or to print the low resolution embedded preview image.

Why Windows does this better for you....

Windows doesn't use Postscript. Windows uses PCL (Printer Command Language). So postscript support on a Windows machine isn't anywhere near as imperative as it is on an Apple machine.

Many lower-end, less expensive printer will support PCL. In fact it's hard to find any printer which doesn't. However, most lower-end printers do not support Postscript. And if they happen to support postscript, level 3 is yet another matter. This is why the same printer can print the same thing and it appears different coming from a Macintosh compared to coming from a Windows system. PCL vs Postscript.

Inkjet printers are most notably lacking postscript support in most cases. Only the top-of-the-line Inkjet printers tend to have an onboard Postscript RIP. However some manufacturers, such as Epson, provide the option to add a postscript RIP when purchasing a printer - like buying a car with the option of having air conditioning. There are some lower-end laser printers which will also fail to support Postscript. It's not just inkjets.

Checking a printer specifications for Postscript Level 3 Support before purchase is one of those things that should be mandatory if you print from or work on Apple computers, especially if you intend to print from Illustrator or InDesign directly. Photoshop prints high quality raster images (even if you used vector tools). Basically, Photoshop has it's own internal RIP when printing. So postscript support isn't really a concern for printing from Photoshop.

  • Brilliant explanation! We use a decent somewhat expensive CMYK business inkjet Epson. It's nothing crazy, it's not a proofing printer. We were aware colors wouldn't be correct on it but we never anticipated such striking differences in shape of objects. Epson WF-7620 Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 19:30
  • @LateralTerminal The postscript rip for some printers is merely a small computer chip you install on the printer. You might be able to purchase the RIP for your printer and install it. It's no more difficult than plugging in a thumb drive if the printer has that option. And I know first-had that some manufactures sell the RIP as a separate item, similar to an additional paper tray or some other add-on.
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 19:33
  • I just discovered in Windows and Mac you can check if your printer supports PostScript in the PDF print dialog box. Click on "PostScript Options" if all the options are greyed out your printer does not have PostScript. Could you add this to your answer for those who stumble upon it? Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 19:40
  • Well you can check your printer info in the OS and it'll also tell you if the printer supports Postscript.. or the manufacture's web site. I don't see how detailing how one checks for postscript support adds to the answer. It's already fairly long. And although I have a Postscript Level 3 printer, Acrobat's postscript options are all greyed out here. That's not a good indicator of what the printer supports. It only shows the options the printer will allow you to change. Not the same thing as what the printer supports.
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 19:44
  • Ah, okay. Well I couldn't find any info on the manufactures website. And googling "how to tell if your printer supports PostScript" Quark gave me this solution which apparently is false. So it didn't seem very obvious how to check if PostScript was supported. And I still don't see where it says PostScript is supported when checking printers and scanners in mac and windows. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 19:48

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