How to Use a PostScript Printer

PostScript drivers deliver professional-grade, high-resolution output

PostScript printers are printers that use the PostScript programming language from Adobe. Commercial printing companies, advertising agencies, and large in-house graphics departments likely use state-of-the-art PostScript printers. Desktop publishers in homes and small offices rarely need such a powerful printer.

Here's a look at why PostScript printers are the publishing industry's standard, and why you may not need one if you're printing only simple documents.

PostScript 3 is the current version of Adobe's printer language. It's been the industry standard for high-quality professional printing since 1997.

Printing photo banner on large format color plotter.
scanrail / Getty Images

PostScript Translates Images and Shapes Into Data

PostScript was developed by Adobe engineers. It's a page-description language that translates images and complicated shapes from computer software into data, turning 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 Printer Control Language (PCL), which is used in many small home and office printers. 

Many modern printers include drivers that emulate PostScript.

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. If you create a PostScript file, it prints the same on any PostScript device.

Who Should Invest in a PostScript Printer?

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.

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 for clients and want to display the very best prints possible.

A PostScript printer delivers accurate copies of 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 so much on a non-PostScript printer.

Portable Document Format (PDF) is based on the PostScript language. One of the two primary graphics formats used in desktop publishing is Encapsulated PostScript (EPS), which is a form of PostScript. You need a PostScript printer to print EPS images.