I know how to echo text to my HP Deskjet 420 printer on lubuntu with bash:

echo -e "line of text" > /dev/lp0

Is there a way to print text that is bold or in color? Should I echo some sort of escape command to the printer?


  • The conversion from ANSI-escaped text to pdf (currently performed by aha+wkhtmltopdf) seems like something 'enscript' or 'paps' should natively be able to do; try submitting a 'wishlist' bug with one of them.
    – user421303
    Feb 22, 2015 at 1:24

1 Answer 1


The way to echo bold or colored text in a terminal is to use ANSI escape codes. For example, try this:

$ echo -e '\033[01;1mthis text will be bold\033[00;0m this will not'
this text will be bold this will not

The escape sequence \033[01;1m causes the following text to be bold and \033[00;0m turns all attributes off, so it goes back to normal.

See here for a nice list of the various escape sequences.

Unfortunately, lp does not know how to deal with this. It only knows how to print postscript files. We therefore need a way of turning the ANSI escape characters into formatted postscript. I was intrigued by this question so I posted one of my own on U&L asking about ways of interpreting the ANSI escapes as postscript commands. The following is from the answer I got there, please go upvote it!

You will need the following tools:

  • aha : Ansi HTML Adapter, this program can translate ANSI escape codes to HTML.

           aha takes SGR-colored Input and prints W3C conform HTML-Code.
           aha  reads the Input from a file or stdin and writes HTML-Code
           to stdout.


    sudo apt-get install aha
  • wkhtmltopdf : An HTML to PDF converter.

           Converts one or more HTML pages into a PDF document, not using
           wkhtmltopdf patched qt.


    sudo apt-get install wkhtmltopdf

Now, put them all together. I will use this command whose output is shown in the image below:

echo -e '\033[01;1mbold\033[00;0m,not bold, and \033[32;1mgreen'

enter image description here

So, let's print it:

echo -e '\033[01;1mbold\033[00;0m,not bold, and \033[32;1mgreen' | 
      aha | wkhtmltopdf  - - | lpr

And that's it, that will print a nice, formatted bold and colored line of text.

  • It makes me feel very old that someone wouldn't know about those straight away. :)
    – Alan B
    Mar 28, 2013 at 14:30
  • 1
    I think it has more to do with your general geekiness than your age :)
    – terdon
    Mar 28, 2013 at 14:38
  • @terdon I'm sure that it's some sort of escape code. I made a quick bash script to see what sort of characters it can print and its an odd set of 256 characters that aren't bash. Used \x and hex (ex. \x9e ) and it is very different from Lubuntu's bash characters for those same values.
    – Blue Ice
    Mar 29, 2013 at 13:46
  • For example, \x1 is a smiley face, and \xc is a page break. Don't see that much in bash :)
    – Blue Ice
    Mar 29, 2013 at 13:49
  • @BlueIce sorry but I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about :). But hang on, I've found out how to do this, I will be posting an updated answer soon.
    – terdon
    Mar 29, 2013 at 13:50

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