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Almost every printmaker out there has heard that RIP software will make printing easier and more efficient. Will a RIP make your colors brighter and improve your image quality? Is it really necessary to run your printer with a RIP? Can’t you achieve the same results simply by using the included print driver? This article will explain what a RIP is, what it does, what the benefits are, list some of the top RIP programs, and most of all, help you answer the question: “Do I need a RIP?”


RIP stands for Raster Image Processor. A RIP program is similar to the print driver included with your printer, but with much more control (and features). A RIP is designed to handle many files, file types, and file sizes without limiting your print capabilities. A RIP efficiently processes your files faster and more consistently, resulting in faster print times and less waiting. Have you ever tried to run a large image where the file size was more than 300MB? Through the standard print driver, this can be cumbersome and time consuming. With a dedicated program designed to process large files, this task becomes much easier and allows you to work on other projects while your image is processing. You will also have the capability of processing and printing multiple files simultaneously. A RIP also will store all of your processed data (the files that you’ve printed), making reprints a breeze. Most RIP programs include ICC profiling capabilities, so no additional software is needed to create your own custom ICC profiles (you’ll still need a spectrophotometer like the i1 Pro by X-Rite).


As mentioned above, a RIP will allow you to process and print multiple files at the same time. Having this capability will greatly improve printing production and efficiency. Imagine printing a job, processing another job, and preparing more jobs to come later; all at the same time. A RIP will give you complete control over handling your files including: scaling, rotating, color correction, color profiling to a wide array of media types, multiple copies, nesting, and much more. Most RIPs will process your entire file and then send it to the printer, meaning you’ll have consistent output with no lagging. This is because the RIP will only start to buffer data when all of the data is processed, rather then processing/buffering/printing at the same time (as print drivers typically do). With larger files, processing them entirely before sending them to the printer will keep them running at the fastest speed possible (this is determined by the media profile/print mode/speed you have selected in the RIP). Having these options will “open up” your printer’s capabilities and give you complete control over how things will print.


Have you ever wanted to maximize the use of your media? Want to cut back on waste? Want to print multiple files at the same time? A RIP makes all of this possible with its nesting features. Nesting allows you to combine many different files onto one print job. This works just like making your canvas size larger in Photoshop’s “Canvas Size” and adding files by copying them to 1 file (to see this process, take a look at the #4 tip in our monthly Tech Tips – July article). In other words: Let’s say you have a 36″ roll and you have 3 files to print, each sized at 8″x10″. With a RIP, you can rotate each image so 10″ is the width (left to right when facing the printer), and lay these 3 files next to each other, enabling you to print all 3 images while only using about 8″ of media. The RIP will allow you to drag files to a specific location so you can arrange you images to best fit onto the roll you are printing with.


With a RIP, you can run multiple printers from the same computer simultaneously, and without slowing anything down. You can process/print/prepare files for each printer to maximize production. A RIP will give you the ability to calibrate and profile each printer so you can achieve accurate and consistent colors between all connected printers. This is especially useful if you have 2 or more printers that all output the same media because instead of having to dedicate 1 printer to 1 job, you can run that job on any printer (or split it up and use all printers). The Linearization process accomplishes this by finding the original printing state of each printer (in terms of color output), thus “dialing in the printer” to its factory standard of output. Since normal use of a printer causes it to “drift” from its original state, the linearization process brings the printer back to where it needs to be. A real world comparison of this would be like adjusting the alignment of the tires on your car. Over time, wear and tear on a car’s tires can cause the car to drift slightly to one side, but a tire alignment brings you back to the original state of the vehicle’s steering, which is straight.


Along with Linearization, most RIP programs give you the ability to create your own ICC profiles without needing additional software. While this can be accomplished using the standard printer driver, you have many more options and control through a RIP. Most standard print drivers force you to choose an existing media type that is already installed in the driver. You have little control adjusting the ink capacity (maximum amount of ink a particular media can hold without pooling), and have no control over linearizing a particular type of media. With a RIP, you arecreating the media type and storing it in the RIP by entering the name of the media you are using. This process is also useful if you have 2 or more of the same printer model. You can essentially create a profile on 1 printer and simply copy it over to the next printer. If you are using 2 or more printers and each printer is a different model, you are still able to get accurate color prints with the profiling process in the RIP. This is especially useful if you have aqueous and solvent printers.


Still not sure if you need a RIP? Here are a few questions to help you determine if a RIP is right for you:

Do you have 2 or more printers?
Do you create your own ICC profiles?
Do you need to simplify your printing workflow?
Do you have more then 1 operator running your printer(s)?
Do you need to maximize your media usage and cut back on waste?
Do you need to print many copies of the same image or multiple images?
Do you need to reprint images you’ve run in the past, but need the color to match?
Do you need to increase your print productivity?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to consider a RIP. While there are many different RIP programs out there, I’ll list a few of the more commonly used RIPs in the industry:

Image Print

The intent of this article is to help you understand what a RIP does and how it can add value to your printing workflow. But do you really need it to be successful? While the answer to this question is subjective, this article will hopefully assist you in making an informative decision.