A Dumb Question

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Caleb B's picture
Joined: 15 Mar 2013 - 7:39am
A Dumb Question


I've seemed to have gotten myself completely confused ..

Using Indesign;
While practising/testing different Typefaces to use in a Magazine, I've been emulating different Magazine Layouts - to try and get a similar result etc. (this is usually the best way for me to learn, I'm a beginner.)

E.g. Juxtapoz Magazine - the body text ID is Helvetica Neue Light 45
(I think)

Image of Magazine:

When exporting a PDF - the font doesn't quite look the same/the result isn't what I was hoping for.

Is this simply because the printed text will always look different to the PDF version ?

Or am I completely missing something ?

Nick Curtis's picture
Joined: 21 Apr 2005 - 8:16am

Your question isn’t dumb, as evidenced by your asking “Is this simply because the printed text will always look different to the PDF version ?”

The answer is yes: there is a tremendous difference between a virtual anything and the real thing, especially so in documents…

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am

Don't emulate a magazine that uses Helvetica -a light weight no less- for text.


Charles Ellertson's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 11:00am

One of the things that seems hardest for people to get their heads around is that printed mater will look different, not only than from how it looks on the screen, but from what materials and techniques were used in printing.

The way paper takes ink -- and ink itself -- varies. Taking the second first, the dry ink (toner) from a laser printer is quite different than the "wet" ink from an offset press. This is more than just the color, more important is how the ink disperses.

Paper too affects the ink absorption/dispersion. Even limiting oneself to the offset press, ink spreads more with an uncoated sheet than with a coated one.

Understanding this, being able to select the right fonts for the materials & processes used, is a matter of experience. I don't know any shortcuts aside from looking at what "goes in" and taking note of what "comes out. "

* * *

By the way: you didn't ask, but halftones too are affected by paper choice. The dynamic range of a halftone on an uncoated sheet is about 10:1 (arithmetic). A coated sheet will take that to 20:1 or 25:1, primarily in how black you can get, though whiteness too is a factor. The dynamic range of your computer monitor depends on ambient light in the room and how much hits the screen, but 100:1 can be achieved.

It follows that preparing halftones for printing requires knowing in advance how they will be printed. You'll make different choices in bringing out shadow detail depending on the black point of the ink on a particular paper. Take a loupe & look at a "black" headline on a newspaper -- you'll be amazed at how much white you see, where there isn't suppose to be any.

This can kind of be pre-planned, but the tools to get a good ICC profile are not cheap, and measuring "what comes back" requires making some of your own tools -- I know of no commercially available ones.

Daunting, isn't it?

Michael Byrnes's picture
Joined: 28 Nov 2012 - 11:13am

cbkinetic... perhaps a way to translate what the above comments seem to suggest:

1. Choosing a type is part technology, part communications art, and part ego...

2. The technology part is basically first defining what specific medium in which you plan to communicate... type reacts very differently on paper (and various types of paper) versus screen (including pdf for viewing and/or pdf for printing). Depending on the type of paper, readability is a primary factor (certain types of paper soak up ink, whereas other types of paper might make certain typefaces toooo crisp and draw attention to the type). Choosing type for screen is also a challenge. Typically, Sans-serif are used for body text... but modern technology is beginning to blur this concept.

Helvetica is not generally regarded as being a typeface suitable for long body text because it is a bit too dense... if you are looking for sans as a body text, then look more toward Fakt (OurType) (diverse, has several alternate characters that changes Fakt from grotesque to neo-grot {like helvetica, but much better}, to humanist), Walbaum Grotesque Book (Storm Type), Myriad Pro (Adobe), Greta Sans (Typotheque) (excellent for newspaper), FF Milo, and the like...

3. Each one of the types mentioned above possesses a natural "voice" or "color"... you need to be clear about what voice the audience is wanting/needing to hear from you...

4. Ego comes into the picture when you or the audience simply 'tire' of a certain typeface, and you want something in the same "voice" but a bit different or new...

Don't let these old guys intimidate you... they were once young and wet behind the ears... the journey has to begin somewhere... keep us apprised of your progress...


James Michaels's picture
Joined: 6 Mar 2010 - 12:54am

The short answer is yes, the same font can look different printed vs. viewed onscreen. Or professionally printed vs. printed on your inkjet. Or printed on glossy paper vs. uncoated paper, and so forth.

As Charles pointed out, there are many factors involved.

Neil Caldwell's picture
Joined: 8 Jan 2010 - 12:11am

And then there's additive vs subtractive light...


Caleb B's picture
Joined: 15 Mar 2013 - 7:39am

Thank you all for your responses/advice, I cannot express just how much this has helped - it is really appreciated.

Thank you also for the typeface suggestions; as I already own a copy of Myriad Pro (Adobe), I've decided to use this typeface for the text body (or at least see how it goes). After doing some quick tests/experiments, it looks quite good when exported as a PDF and it also seems to hold its shape/colour when using the zoom function in Acrobat (which was frustrating me greatly, when trying out many typefaces).

/ /

I'm currently studying an introductory course in Graphic Design and my current project is a 4 page magazine spread - which is to be submitted in PDF format.

My spread is to be based on an Interview with an Artist (Killian Eng), I wanted to use the images as the highlight/main showcase of the spread - with only the use of two different typefaces for the text for contrast (sans + serif), along with the idea of keeping the text looking subtle and clean (if that makes sense)