Almost every day I receive the following questions: ‘Will a RIP software 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?’ … “Do I need a RIP?”
WHAT IS 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 print 20 large format images (100 x 150 cm) with a file size more than 300 MB at once ? ‘
Through the standard print driver, this can be stressful and time consuming. With a RIP you will have the capability of processing and printing multiple files simultaneously and you will be able to store all of the processed data (the files that you’ve printed), making reprints a breeze. Having this capability will greatly improve printing production and efficiency. A RIP software 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. Have you ever wanted to maximize the use of your paper roll? do you want to cut back on waste? Do you want to print 250 copies of the same image (in a nice grid) at the same time? The nesting function allows you to combine many different files in one print job.
‘Let’s do the calculation: try to make 250 copies of a 20 x 30 cm image in Photoshop on a canvas that is 111 cm (42″) width with a gap of 1 cm. Indeed, this is time consuming in Photoshop … A RIP can do this in 5 seconds. And if you are unable to do that in Photoshop, then calculate the amount of time it needs to print this big file that contains the 250 copies.’
NEED FOR ACCURACY ?
In addition to above handy functionalities, there are some more important factors to start using a RIP, because a RIP does 3 important things:
1. it can linearise your printer(s):
This means, if you ask to print 50% of cyan, the printer will put the exact amount of ink on the paper, so it will give you 50% of cyan on the Chromaluxe panel. Because the sublimation paper is only an intermediate phase of the total workflow, the printer needs to know how much ink he needs to print that 50% of cyan.
2. it can handle the total amount of ink:
This means, if you print for example a dark grey background, it will use 95% Cyan + 95% Magenta + 95% Yellow + 95% Black. That’s a total of 380% ink on your paper. This will be too much ink for the paper and you will have a pooling-effect. You’ve got the same effect when you drop too much water on a sheet of paper. A RIP will be able to reduce the total amount of ink (from 380% to 340% for example) without reducing the total amount of colors (also known as color gamut). This makes that you will not have a ‘wet’ output (certainly when you print a lot, or big pictures on the full width of your printer).
3. Color Management is more accurate:
Photoshop or other graphical applications do render (calculate) their colors in 8-bit mode. RIP software, like Wasatch SoftRIP, calculates every color in 16-bit mode. This means 4 times more data to calculate all colors, certainly for the difficult colours like skintones, solid greys or gradients. Do the test: print the below image on your current system (click on the image to download the files). If you see anything other than a perfectly smooth gradient, you need to use a RIP solution.
Steven Roesbeke has a huge experience in the graphical industry with a lot of expertise in color management and output solutions. Since 2013 he is the Technical Support Field Engineer at Universal Woods EMEA. Read his technical blog posts to discover helpful tips & tricks and learn more about the do’s and dont’s of (large format) sublimation. You can always contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org