postscript {grDevices}R Documentation

PostScript Graphics


postscript starts the graphics device driver for producing PostScript graphics.


postscript(file = if(onefile) "" else "",
           onefile, family, title, fonts, encoding, bg, fg,
           width, height, horizontal, pointsize,
           paper, pagecentre,, command,
           colormodel, useKerning, fillOddEven)



a character string giving the file path. If it is "", the output is piped to the command given by the argument command. If it is of the form "|cmd", the output is piped to the command given by cmd.

For use with onefile = FALSE, give a C integer format such as "" (the default in that case). The string should not otherwise contain a %: if it is really necessary, use %% in the string for % in the file name. A single integer format matching the regular expression "%[#0 +=-]*[0-9.]*[diouxX]" is allowed.

Tilde expansion (see path.expand) is done. An input with a marked encoding is converted to the native encoding or an error is given.

See also section ‘File specifications’ in the help for pdf for further details.


logical: if true (the default) allow multiple figures in one file. If false, generate a file name containing the page number for each page and use an EPSF header and no DocumentMedia comment. Defaults to TRUE.


the initial font family to be used, see the section ‘Families’ in pdf. Defaults to "Helvetica".


title string to embed as the Title comment in the file. Defaults to "R Graphics Output".


a character vector specifying additional R graphics font family names for font families whose declarations will be included in the PostScript file and are available for use with the device. See ‘Families’ below. Defaults to NULL.


the name of an encoding file. See pdf for details. Defaults to "default".


the initial background color to be used. If "transparent" (or any other non-opaque colour), no background is painted. Defaults to "transparent".


the initial foreground color to be used. Defaults to "black".

width, height

the width and height of the graphics region in inches. Default to 0.

If paper != "special" and width or height is less than 0.1 or too large to give a total margin of 0.5 inch, the graphics region is reset to the corresponding paper dimension minus 0.5.


the orientation of the printed image, a logical. Defaults to true, that is landscape orientation on paper sizes with width less than height.


the default point size to be used. Strictly speaking, in bp, that is 1/72 of an inch, but approximately in points. Defaults to 12.


the size of paper in the printer. The choices are "a4", "letter" (or "us"), "legal" and "executive" (and these can be capitalized). Also, "special" can be used, when arguments width and height specify the paper size. A further choice is "default" (the default): If this is selected, the paper size is taken from the option "papersize" if that is set and to "a4" if it is unset or empty.


logical: should the device region be centred on the page? Defaults to true.

logical: should the file be printed when the device is closed? (This only applies if file is a real file name.) Defaults to false.


the command to be used for ‘printing’. Defaults to "default", the value of option "printcmd". The length limit is 2*PATH_MAX, typically 8096 bytes on Unix-alikes and 520 bytes on Windows. Recent Windows systems may be configured to use long paths, raising this limit currently to 10000.


a character string describing the color model: currently allowed values as "srgb", "srgb+gray", "rgb", "rgb-nogray", "gray" (or "grey") and "cmyk". Defaults to "srgb". See section ‘Color models’.


logical. Should kerning corrections be included in setting text and calculating string widths? Defaults to TRUE.


logical controlling the polygon fill mode: see polygon for details. Default FALSE.


All arguments except file default to values given by ps.options(). The ultimate defaults are quoted in the arguments section.

postscript opens the file file and the PostScript commands needed to plot any graphics requested are written to that file. This file can then be printed on a suitable device to obtain hard copy.

The file argument is interpreted as a C integer format as used by sprintf, with integer argument the page number. The default gives files ‘’, ..., ‘’, ‘’, ....

The postscript produced for a single R plot is EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) compatible, and can be included into other documents, e.g., into LaTeX, using ‘⁠\includegraphics{<filename>}⁠’. For use in this way you will probably want to use setEPS() to set the defaults as horizontal = FALSE, onefile = FALSE, paper = "special". Note that the bounding box is for the device region: if you find the white space around the plot region excessive, reduce the margins of the figure region via par(mar = ).

Most of the PostScript prologue used is taken from the R character vector .ps.prolog. This is marked in the output, and can be changed by changing that vector. (This is only advisable for PostScript experts: the standard version is in namespace:grDevices.)

A PostScript device has a default family, which can be set by the user via family. If other font families are to be used when drawing to the PostScript device, these must be declared when the device is created via fonts; the font family names for this argument are R graphics font family names (see the documentation for postscriptFonts).

Line widths as controlled by par(lwd = ) are in multiples of 1/96 inch: multiples less than 1 are allowed. pch = "." with cex = 1 corresponds to a square of side 1/72 inch, which is also the ‘pixel’ size assumed for graphics parameters such as "cra".

When the background colour is fully transparent (as is the initial default value), the PostScript produced does not paint the background. Almost all PostScript viewers will use a white canvas so the visual effect is if the background were white. This will not be the case when printing onto coloured paper, though.

TeX fonts

TeX has traditionally made use of fonts such as Computer Modern which are encoded rather differently, in a 7-bit encoding. This encoding can be specified by encoding = "TeXtext.enc", taking care that the ASCII characters < > \ _ { } are not available in those fonts.

There are supplied families "ComputerModern" and "ComputerModernItalic" which use this encoding, and which are only supported for postscript (and not pdf). They are intended to use with the Type 1 versions of the TeX CM fonts. It will normally be possible to include such output in TeX or LaTeX provided it is processed with dvips -Ppfb -j0 or the equivalent on your system. (-j0 turns off font subsetting.) When family = "ComputerModern" is used, the italic/bold-italic fonts used are slanted fonts (cmsl10 and cmbxsl10). To use text italic fonts instead, set family = "ComputerModernItalic".

These families use the TeX math italic and symbol fonts for a comprehensive but incomplete coverage of the glyphs covered by the Adobe symbol font in other families. This is achieved by special-casing the postscript code generated from the supplied ‘CM_symbol_10.afm’.

Color models

The default color model ("srgb") is sRGB.

The alternative "srgb+gray" uses sRGB for colors, but with pure gray colors (including black and white) expressed as greyscales (which results in smaller files and can be advantageous with some printer drivers). Conversely, its files can be rendered much slower on some viewers, and there can be a noticeable discontinuity in color gradients involving gray or white.

Other possibilities are "gray" (or "grey") which used only greyscales (and converts other colours to a luminance), and "cmyk". The simplest possible conversion from sRGB to CMYK is used (, and raster images are output in RGB.

Color models provided for backwards compatibility are "rgb" (which is RGB+gray) and "rgb-nogray" which use uncalibrated RGB (as used in R prior to 2.13.0). These result in slightly smaller files which may render faster, but do rely on the viewer being properly calibrated.


A postscript plot can be printed via postscript in two ways.

  1. Setting = TRUE causes the command given in argument command to be called with argument "file" when the device is closed. Note that the plot file is not deleted unless command arranges to delete it.

  2. file = "" or file = "|cmd" can be used to print using a pipe. Failure to open the command will probably be reported to the terminal but not to R, in which case close the device by immediately.

On Windows the default "printcmd" is empty and will give an error if = TRUE is used. Suitable commands to spool a PostScript file to a printer can be found in ‘RedMon’ suite available from The command will be run in a minimized window. GSView 4.x provides ‘gsprint.exe’ which may be more convenient (it requires Ghostscript version 6.50 or later).


This section describes the implementation of the conventions for graphics devices set out in the ‘R Internals’ manual.

At very small line widths, the line type may be forced to solid.

Raster images are currently limited to opaque colours.


If you see problems with postscript output, do remember that the problem is much more likely to be in your viewer than in R. Try another viewer if possible. Symptoms for which the viewer has been at fault are apparent grids on image plots (turn off graphics anti-aliasing in your viewer if you can) and missing or incorrect glyphs in text (viewers silently doing font substitution).

Unfortunately the default viewers on most Linux and macOS systems have these problems, and no obvious way to turn off graphics anti-aliasing.


Support for Computer Modern fonts is based on a contribution by Brian D'Urso


Becker, R. A., Chambers, J. M. and Wilks, A. R. (1988) The New S Language. Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

See Also

postscriptFonts, Devices, and check.options which is called from both ps.options and postscript.

cairo_ps for another device that can produce PostScript.

More details of font families and encodings and especially handling text in a non-Latin-1 encoding and embedding fonts can be found in

Paul Murrell and Brian Ripley (2006). “Non-standard fonts in PostScript and PDF graphics.” R News, 6(2), 41–47.


## Not run: 
# open the file "" for graphics output
# produce the desired graph(s)              # turn off the postscript device

## On Unix-alikes only:
postscript("|lp -dlw")
# produce the desired graph(s)              # plot will appear on printer

## On Windows:
options(printcmd = 'redpr -P"\\printhost\lw"')
postscript(file = tempfile("Rps."), = TRUE)
# produce the desired graph(s)              # send plot file to the printer
## alternative using GSView 4.x :
options(printcmd = '/GhostGum/gsview/gsprint -query')

# for URW PostScript devices
postscript("", family = "NimbusSan")

## for inclusion in Computer Modern TeX documents, perhaps
postscript("cm_test.eps", width = 4.0, height = 3.0,
           horizontal = FALSE, onefile = FALSE, paper = "special",
           family = "ComputerModern", encoding = "TeXtext.enc")
## The resultant postscript file can be used by dvips -Ppfb -j0.

## To test out encodings, you can use
TestChars <- function(encoding = "ISOLatin1", family = "URWHelvetica")
    postscript(encoding = encoding, family = family)
    par(pty = "s")
    plot(c(-1,16), c(-1,16), type = "n", xlab = "", ylab = "",
         xaxs = "i", yaxs = "i")
    title(paste("Centred chars in encoding", encoding))
    grid(17, 17, lty = 1)
    for(i in c(32:255)) {
        x <- i %% 16
        y <- i %/% 16
        points(x, y, pch = i)
## there will be many warnings.  We use URW to get a complete enough
## set of font metrics.

## End(Not run)

[Package grDevices version 4.4.0 Index]