Phototypesetting is a method of setting type, rendered obsolete with the popularity of the personal computer and desktop publishing software, that uses a photographic process to generate columns of type on a scroll of photographic paper.
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The first phototypesetters quickly project light through a film negative image of an individual character in a font, then through a lens that magnifies or reduces the size of the character onto photographic paper, which is collected on a spool in a light-proof canister. The photographic paper or film is then fed into a processor—a machine that pulls the paper or film strip through two or three baths of chemicals—where it emerges ready for paste-up or film make-up. Later phototypesetting machines used alternative methods, such as displaying a digitised character on a CRT screen.
Phototypesetting offered numerous advantages over metal type, including the lack of need to keep heavy metal type and matrices in stock, the ability to use a much wider range of fonts and graphics and print them at any desired size, as well as faster page layout setting.