I have the possibility to buy a PCL 6, PCL 5e , PCL XL, XPS laser printer but I discovered that it hasn't PostScript language support.

For office uses that would not be a problem, I would use only PCL.

However I should use this machine for graphic arts and typography.

My fear is that I will have not the possibility to handle correctly colors of the photos, profiling, and have the same quality I would get with even a PS emulated support (I have a upper level machine too with PS emulated and works great!). I would like to have no problems printing from photoshop or acrobat as I do with other machines.

Do you think PS is crucial for proper color management, full shade no bad dithering or posterize effects and so on? Is PCL6 or PCLXL enough? It is possible to print from Acrobat using with the PCLXL driver and hoping in a decent conversion of the languages? Mostly I print bitmap images, srgb, adobe rgb and cmyk coated/uncoated high res 300/600/1200 dpi tiff, and some transparencies in pdf (that I guess they should be flatterned first).

I found this online, but I'm not sure how is reliable, if it was refered to old PCL versions and if it is still actual if the language made improvements:

enter image description here

If the things are like this it would be terrible.

Example of what I could print would be resturant menus, postcards, pages catalogs with high res images and lot of photos, cmyk rich of color shades illustrations.


1 Answer 1


The software are you printing from matters to a degree.

Adobe apps, especially InDesign and Illustrator, really need Postscript Level 3 for quality output. PSlvl3 is a raster image processor (RIP) in the printer driver. This allows postscript vector data to be converted to raster data for output. Without a RIP, PCL merely outputs the best it can, often a low-res proxy image embedded in the output data, because PCL won't understand postscript vector data.

Here, on the MacOS, PCL always results in poor quality output from InDesign or Illustrator. But, PCL is absolutely fine for output from various other apps -- from Photoshop (because all prints are raster-based) to the Microsoft Office suite ... to a range of smaller non-design applications.

With no Postscript support, you can save/export things to PDF from INDD or AI and then print the PDF from Acrobat. Results are generally better if there's no Postscript support in the printer. Acrobat is a software RIP which will perform the same imaging processes as a printer's Postscript rip.

I always ensure all printers have Postscript Level 3 support here - but I am also always using the MacOS and want to receive quality prints directly from InDesign and Illustrator.

So, for me, yes Postscript level 3 support is crucial. I have found it well worth any additional cost over the years.

Note that some PCL-based printers have a supplemental chip you can buy and install to add PSlvl3 support. I know at one time I purchased a Xerox printer and had to also purchase the PSlvl3 chip for it. So, if you are eyeballing a printer you really like, it's worth checking the manufacturer for "accessories" or "add ons" for that model to see if they offer such an add-on.

  • 1
    Acrobat is the easiest, simplest, PS Rip I know of. There's not much reason to go looking for others, especially if you are already an Adobe user. Adobe invented postscript. It's been quite some time since I had a PCL-only printer. The best I can remember is the headache of needing to save everything as a PDF and then print the PDF just slowed work down and, for me, created more money lost in the time it took, than the cost of a PSlvl3 device. I realize the cost for Postscript support is always higher, I just accept that it's a "necessary evil" due to the sheer nature of my work (design).
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 22:57
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    But yes, the quality of output from Acrobat/PDF will be much better than output from Indesign/Illustrator if the printer is only PCL-based. Acrobat will output a raster image, similar to everything Photoshop outputs, rather than the vector data present in INDD/AI files. Photoshop output to a PCL device is comparable to PDF output from Acrobat in my experience.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 22:59
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    That's why I mention what you are printing from matters. :). It is a bit like purchasing a TV during a blackout... can't really see picture quality until after you've purchased something. But Photoshop outputs raster data when printing.. Acrobat will do the same.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 23:02
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    Yes. But that's the same for all printing. A Postscript Level 3 printer.. reads vector data, rasterizes it, then outputs the raster data. Acrobat merely rasterized the vector data internally when you generate a PDF. Same process, one is merely software and other hardware. Even commercial printing platemakers and imagesetters have a RIP which will do the same rasterization before output.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 23:08
  • 1
    I don't want to give the impression I'm recommending a PCL printer. I'm not. For my money, I'd still purchase the Postscript level 3 support - especially for "production." But I do want to dispel the idea that PCL will always result in less quality. It doesn't have to.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 23:12

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