I have a color hardcopy with a very small font that is hard to read but just barely acceptable when scanned to a JPG file and then viewed zoomed on a LCD. It is impossible to read when color inkjet printed. What should I do to make a more legible hardcopy on any printer? In other words, I do not know what kind of printer and printer software will be used.

Specifically, I'd like to know what format to save the file in when scanned. Should I then do scaling or cropping or both? What format should the result be saved in? I'm not looking for a trial and error type of answer but sort of an optimal kind of answer, please.

Edit: I paid the internet shop downstairs to rescan. It's now 10085 x 13120 pixels at 1200 DPI, far better than what I had originally, and saved as a JPEG (because I did not see the lossless recommendations until now). Unfortunately, it's still illegible on paper after zooming.

Edit: Cropping is feasible since the document has margins of about 1.5 cm. Zooming is also feasible for the same reason. Unfortunately, the extent you can crop (and save to disk and print later) only helps a little because you only gain 3 cm from cropping. The extent zooming (to print immediately) helps is limited by the physical paper size. When I say it's acceptable on the LCD, I'm zooming and panning. Unfortunately I cannot pan physical paper (unless it's e-ink paper, but it has to be cellulose in my case). Zoomed to print still results in illegible text because of the physical paper constraint on zooming.

Edit: The original averages 32 words per line, so perhaps 192 characters per line. Definitely not printer friendly.

  • If your scanner is very old you may actually get better quality by taking a digital photo of the document if you have a recent digital camera or smartphone. – Col Apr 4 '13 at 17:00
  • Getting or saving, or aquiring the original is sometimes the only option. Most printing is an output format. – Psycogeek Apr 4 '13 at 17:40
  • I think the document was tested in a browser and the creator did not realize that averaging 32 words per line is not printer friendly. – H2ONaCl Apr 4 '13 at 17:45

The problem here is probably not the file format, but the resolution of the acquisition. The scanner resolution is indicated in dots per inch: it is the maximum number of dots that are visible on a line a inch long. If the acquisition resolution is low (and by low I mean less than 200 DPI for a small font image), the font will be hard to read even if you save the image in an uncompressed bitmap (BMP). My suggestion is to scan the image at the highest resolution available for your scanner. Then you will be able to crop or scale the image as desired and to save it in the desired format.

The "optimal" answer is that you should choose the file format that gives the desired balance between file size and image quality. The best quality is of course obtained with an uncompressed or lossless format, such as BMP, PNG or TIFF.

  • I will do a rescan to a lossless format, (though my latest JPG is a pretty good 1200 DPI) then find a large sheet printer. Not an intuitive answer: bigger printer. However, that might be part of the right answer. – H2ONaCl Apr 4 '13 at 17:35
  • I don't know the font size. I think it averages 32 words per line or 192 characters per line. – H2ONaCl Apr 4 '13 at 17:47
  • 1
    Do you need to have a 1:1 copy of the document? Otherwise you might take OCR into account. Then once you have a recognized the text, you can print it with the desired font size – Pincopallino Apr 4 '13 at 17:49
  • No I don't need 1:1 reproduction so I am considering a bigger sheet of cellulose. I cannot do OCR because it has logos and colours that need to be preserved. – H2ONaCl Apr 4 '13 at 17:51
  • I guess this is your best option to enlarge the text. Otherwise, I guess that you will need an high quality photo printer to reach the resolution required for such an insanely small font! And still it would be difficult to read. BTW, many OCR softwares recognize the images and the layout of the document and will place them accordingly in the output file (PDF or Word document) – Pincopallino Apr 4 '13 at 17:56

For both scanning or printing, using the maximum DPI the equipment supports will give you the best resolution it is capable of producing.

When printing, you can use glossy paper with "photo quality" print setting for even more quality, if this feature is available in your printer (most have something like it).

When scanning, chose a lossless file format like PNG. JPG generates smaller files, but produce a perceptive loss of quality even in the highest quality setting.

If nothing helps, you can use a Sharpen filter to make the text more readable. This filter is available in many applications like Adobe Photoshop, Corel PHOTO-PAINT and even the free and open-source Gimp.


The optimal solution is to scan at sufficient resolution to reproduce the text, and to a lossless format like TIFF to maintain whatever image quality you were able to get, and print with a device whose resolution and accuracy are sufficient to reproduce the small text.

Since you don't know what printer will be used, the best you can do is to make sure your scan meets your approval on-screen. Then it's up to the printer (person) to print it in a way that preserves the image. You can't make a high quality scan that will make a high quality print on a low capability printer.


Find a printer that can print it on a bigger sheet of paper and it will scale up to the paper size. You'll find it easier to read.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.