PostScript, Do I Really Need You?

For complex digital files, use a PostScript printer

Commercial printing companies, advertising agencies and large in-house graphics departments use state-of-the-art PostScript printers. However, desktop publishers in homes and offices rarely need such a powerful printer. PostScript 3 is the current version of Adobe's printer language, and it is the industry standard for professional high-quality printing.

What Is PostScript?

PostScript was developed by Adobe engineers.

It is a page description language that translates images and complicated shapes from computer software into data that turns out high-quality prints on a PostScript printer. Not all printers are PostScript printers, but all printers use some sort of printer driver to translate digital documents created by your software into an image that the printer can print. Another such page description language is PCL—Printer Control Language—which is used in many small home and office printers. 

Some documents such as those created by graphic designers and commercial printing companies contain an intricate combination of fonts and graphics that are best described using PostScript. The PostScript language and a PostScript printer driver tell the printer how to print that document accurately. PostScript is generally device-independent; that is, if you create a PostScript file, it prints pretty much the same on any PostScript device.

Do You Need PostScript?

If you do little more than type business letters, draw simple graphs or print photographs, you don't need the power of PostScript. For simple text and graphics, a non-PostScript printer driver is sufficient.

That said, a PostScript printer —is a good investment for graphic artists who routinely send their designs to a commercial printing company for output or who make presentations of their work to clients and want to display the very best prints possible.

A PostScript printer delivers accurate copies of their digital files so they can view how complicated processes look on paper. Complex files that involve transparency, many fonts, complicated filters and other high-end effects print accurately on a PostScript printer, but not on a non-PostScript printer.

All commercial printers speak PostScript, making it a common language for sending digital files. Due to its complexity, creating PostScript files can be tricky for the novice, but it is a worthwhile skill to master. If you don't have a PostScript printer, troubleshooting any PostScript files you create becomes much trickier.

PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file format based on the PostScript language. It is increasingly used for submitting digital files for commercial printing. Additionally, one of the two primary graphics formats used in desktop publishing is EPS (Encapsulated PostScript), which is a form of PostScript. You need a PostScript printer to print EPS images.