Will a font always print exactly the same, regardless of the print technology?
Example: printing at the local print shop on a laser printer versus the commercial printing of a book.
Here is Linotype’s example PDF for their Stempel Garamond typeface.
When I look at the book (in the bookstore, not on screen), the result is exquisite. When I print off Linotype’s example PDF, it doesn’t feel the same. It feels a bit inferior. The strokes don’t seem to be as thick, for one thing.
Is this just my imagination, running away with me?
Does modern book printing use a technology which is ‘leakier’ than an ordinary laser printer, whereby the strokes become a wee bit thicker?
This is a well-known problem with font design; it has been a problem for over a hundred years. Fonts look much lighter when they’re printed on coated paper than on uncoated book paper. It’s particularly a problem with many early digital fonts which were digitized directly from metal type working drawings. Unfortunately, metal type manufacture leads to more spread compared to the drawings than modern offset litho or laser printing, so the fonts looked way too spindly. Typeforms by Alan Bartram compares early digital fonts with exactly the same font designs in metal, prepared by the same companies, and shows how much spindlier the digital fonts look.
Many digital serif fonts created more recently look a bit darker on the page to get more of the look of classic metal type when printed offset. You might want to take a look at Adobe’s Garamond Premier (similar to Stempel Garamond), or maybe Arno, Bembo Book, or Matthew Butterick’s Equity, as examples of digital fonts intended to match the density of metal type printing on book paper.
A trick that’s become common with super-professional digital fonts, especially ones intended for newspapers, is to issue several “grades”, fonts with only slight differences in weight, and no difference in spacing. This lets you fine-tune your font choice to match the exact printing process in your printing facility, and local conditions like air humidity, altitude and temperature which may affect the appearance slightly. Equity is an example of a font intended for what you might call “prosumer” use that has grades, so you could check printing the pdf specimen and see how it looks for you. If you need seriously pro support on this, like you want newspaper ads to look the same as ones printed in a glossy magazine, Font Bureau and Commercial Type have collections of fonts with many grades.
Separately, many digital fonts have the problem that they’re often “one size fits all”, whereas metal type was designed individually on a size-by-size basis. You can see this in this image, comparing a metal type designed differently for every size with a scaling of the 12pt size. Below 12pt specially designed fonts, called “optical sizes” or “opticals” are needed to get a good appearance. For your query I massively recommend Garamond Premier: it has these opticals, it’s in the Garamond style like Stempel Garamond and it looks really good at small sizes; it’s free with an Adobe subscription if you have one and it’s not that expensive to buy.