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The Problem: I am working on a project and I wanted to add super fine print (words and graphics). When I say small I am not referring to 7pt type at 300dpi business card small. I am referring to something you would see on security items or the small graphics/words that appear on currencies etc.

The Question: The question is would a 1pt word on a 600ppi document translate if printed on a printer that could print at 600dpi. Does this scale even lower at higher resolutions.

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    In such case you may have to use something like soft raster image processor. Anyway you can try to rasterize your artwork to bitmap and manually correct it, then print it and try again. – amrok Feb 2 '14 at 11:03
  • I don't think 1pt type would be legible with only 600dpi of resolution. As Benteh points out, microprinting is engraving, which is an extremely high resolution (higher than most offset presses which can max out at around 1200 dpi--depending on the paper being used.) – DA01 Jun 22 '15 at 14:36
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You are talking about microprinting. The whole idea of that, is that you cannot reproduce it by using printers or printing presses. It is engraving that are designed to trip up professional counterfeiters. So, no, I can´t see how on earth it would be possible to pull off. (of course, if you have unlimited resources and good connections in shady parts of town then maybe).

Here are Wikipedias snippet on microprinting.

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    It has been a decade or more since I worked with typesetters, but the plate resolution is over 1200dpi, so fonts less than 1 point are definitely possible when using real ink presses and printing plates. You just have to use the tools that output to the typesetters the printing shop you contract with uses – KeithSmith Feb 2 '14 at 3:34
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    Hi @KeithSmith - if am I wrong, go ahead and give it as an answer, that would benefit us all. – benteh Feb 2 '14 at 11:01
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    @boblet No you are not wrong. It is not possible to print microprint using 600dpi inkjet printers. It is possible to print microprint using typesetters, printing plates, and printing presses. What I was trying to point out is microprinting is not difficult to obtain. It isn't done with inkjet printers. I'm sorry if I caused confusion. I thought I was helping the OP that getting microprint items is not difficult, just talk to a real printing shop, not a Kinkos or Staples. – KeithSmith Feb 2 '14 at 16:39
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    Ah, I see what you mean; and it is a good addition, I think you should add it as an answer. I used to work in offset printing years ago, and though we never had the request, I think it would have been rather tricky. It also depends a huge amount on the paper you print on. – benteh Feb 2 '14 at 17:28
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    +11,000 on the Wikipedia reference. I never realized that the signature line on a check was micro-printed. Looked at it with a loupe and was amazed. – Ray Mitchell Feb 3 '14 at 20:29
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One outfit I used to work for did security borders for credit cards. These were typeset at least 10x the size of the original and reduced photographically (this was about 20 years ago). One option would be to find an outfit that still does film composition and use them. Some late model imagesetters will also go up to 5000+dpi resolutions, which might be enough to render a security strip.

However, this is only going to be possible through a pre-press process and offset or gravure printing, which will have significant up-front costs.

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A round-about method.. But you can reproduce microprint to a scale not possible by standard consumer printers with a standard consumer laser or gel printer (not inkjet) by using non-wood based paper (e.g. Rag paper). Whatever it is you want to print, print it at the smallest scale your printer is capable of printing.

Once your done, take your paper which you've printed on and soak the paper in liquid anhydrous ammonia. Take the paper out of the ammonia and let it dry. As it drys the ammonia will soften the fibers within the paper and create surface tension, and the paper will shrink a small amount (a few millimeters). Repeat this process of soaking and drying the paper and it will continue to shrink a little bit more each time. Since the paper is shrinking, it will also draw the printed characters into a tighter formation, thus reducing the apparent size of the print.

Repeating this process about a dozen times can produce dramatic results.

One negative result is the ammonia, and the tightening of the paper will result in your element result paper being more stiff than it was originally.

You do not want to use standard wood pulp paper because the repeated soaking will begin to dissolve or tear the wood fibers. You don't want to use an inkjet printer because inkjet ink is not resistant to fluids.


Alternatively, if you have access to a laser engraver, you can likely print characters as small as 0.3pt. Laser printers are generally not capable of printing characters smallert than 0.5pt and to do so demands using specific fonts which are specially designed to be readable at such small scale.

Even this Xerox specially designed digital microtext font which, the article states, is 1/100th of an inch in height. 1/100th inch = 0.71999999999999 points. - http://www.xerox.com/innovation/news-stories/microtext/enus.html

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this is very late, and likely useless but I used Lightroom and have been able to have success at microprinting with a 1200DPI printer with a 2pt. font. All it depends on is the legibility of your font size and font type.

here is the photo of my work( a chemistry cheat sheet, don't tell anyone) enter image description here

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The numbers behind the lowest sized font for a given printer resolution

1. Choose a pixel font. The one that uses the smallest amount of pixels to define the line height is 5px, plus one pixel for the line spacing it gives 6px. (only for standard english alphabet) There are some other models that need some more pixels per line.

Pixel fonts examples.

2. A point (pt) is 1/72 of an inch.

3. We take the DPI of our printer, in this case, 600 DPI and divide it between 72 to see how many points we can have on 1 pt. 600/72=8.33 We can have then 8 pixels to play with our fonts.

4. This also means that we can have (potentially) a font size lower than 1pt. We can have a font of 1/100 of an inch.

5. On a higher resolution printer, we can have lower sizes, but some other factors come into play, like absorption of the paper, dot gain, etc.

The extra resolution can be used to "solidify" the dot. Instead of printing a smaller font, it can use 4 dots instead of 1 to define the black and the white spaces.


The old answer:

My 2 cents.

For really small fonts on commercial offset print, I would make a test on the press itself using well-controlled 1-bit images using pixel fonts at various resolutions, mainly 2400, 1200 and probably 600 PPI.

Make them one ink only, on a CMYK file, it would be only one of those colors or one additional spot color.

Do not use a big offset printer (like A0) but a high precision small one. (Like A3) because on different sections of the cylinders, you can have different quality on the print. If I need to use a big machine I would use a small paper.

Use a synthetic paper.

I would not use negatives but direct to plate.

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