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Making the most of your Brother laser printer

January 28th, 2016

Recently, I got my Brother mono printer and made a print server from Raspberry Pi. The printer’s quality is quite OK. I mean the black&white prints are really good. But the problem comes when you print something not from your text editor (poor b&w) but let’s say your flight ticket from a pdf file.

Challenges of printing grey shades

You may wonder – why? I read somewhere that most of the B&W printers face difficulties in printing grey colour. Well, as it appears the pdf file can contains a lot of grey colour and/or its shades etc. However, the grey prints are not comparable to b&w with this Brother printer and they are a lot lower quality. This printer (and some other) prints grey and graphics as dots. Similar problem of mono laser printer is described here. It is related to how the printer produces the halftones.

Tweak Brother printer

1st solution

The first option is to play with “Halftoning” option in “Advanced options” of the printer properties on Windows. You can find them by going
in Windows to printer’s properties -> Preferences (General tab) -> Manual settings -> Use system half tone -> Halftone pattern (SuperCell). Anyway, … it did not help with this printer. It brought some positive changes but not up the acceptable level.

2nd solution

So, I went through different forums looking for some solution. Just to remind, this printer is GDI (Windows Graphical Device Interface) and no PCL support is mentioned in this printer specs. Its bigger brother with the network interface has the PCL support 🙁 More on differences between PCL, GDI and PostScript can be found here. Some people on Internet claimed that this HL-L2300D still supports the PCL5e language …

I came across a forum, where the Linux users used Brother HL-2170W drivers instead of unavailable original driver for another Brother printer (that is not the case with HL-L2300D). According to specs, HL-2170W supports PCL6 . So, I thought it is worth trying 😉

The results of tweaking

I tried such combinations:
1) Brother HL-L2300D series driver was installed on both CUPS server and on Windows workstation
2) Detected Brother HL-L2300D printer on RPi was installed as Brother HL-2170W Foomatic/hpijs-pcl5e (driver) on CUPS, then the same Brother HL-2170W drivers were installed on Windows workstation to print to RPi print server. The chosen half tone pattern was ‘SuperCell’.
3) Brother HL-L2300D printer with its drivers were installed on the CUPS server and the Brother HL-2170W drivers were installed on Windows workstation. The chosen half tone pattern was ‘SuperCell’.

All three combinations work but the results are different 😉

Here are the Brother printer printing examples.

Tweak Brother printer

In this first case, the printer with original driver (top left) does not produce  appropriate half tones even if I played with related setting. Here is zoomed crop of the print:

Tweak Brother printer

It uses the dotes to produce half tones with the original driver 😉 But if HL-2170W drivers are used with this Brother printer, the situation changes to better and that can be seen from the examples.

What else changes with this HL-2170W driver?

Well, printing a grey colour & drawings changed and  that you can see here:

Tweak Brother printer

First top left drawing is filled with grey colour. However, the contour is pretty blurred and this grey colour is produced from pretty big dots. The countour in second drawing in the middle and last one in bottom right is not so blured anymore. However, one multi-angle detail (top part of the camera) is lost in second and third drawing.

It looks, that different driver of the HL-2170W, which is declared as PCL6 compatible, assigns grey colour either to fully black or to white. It depends on grey darkness 😉

Let’s conclude

The results of the first test are far away not the greatest for printing grey colour. Second & third combinations produce a lot better handling of the grey and also the graphics printing improved.

Last two options worked with Win7&Win8, but it produced the same results as with 1st option for Win10. A bit weird … but at least it works with Win7&Win8. Enjoy your improved Brother printer!