The definition of RIP is Raster Image Processing (some would also say Raster Image Processor). The RIP software takes your digital image from a graphics software (CorelDraw, Illustration, Photoshop) and turns it into a raster image file (thus the term Ripping the File). The ripped image can now go from your PC to your wide-format printer.
Desktop printers do not need RIP programs because the printer comes with a print driver. This controls the communication between your PC and the printer. Recall when you click “print” and a box comes up and you can select if you want to print in color, black and white, or gray scale—this is your print driver. Wide-format printers are a bit more advanced, thus they need RIP programs, as they do not come with a print driver.
So what does rasterizing your image mean? Think of the digital image as a bunch of single dots. When the graphics are being rasterized with the RIP program, additional dots are being added into your image. If you look at an older photograph up close, you can see the dots. You won’t be able to see the dots when printing a high-resolution photo that has been rasterized through a RIP program.
Adding dots is just one simple item that RIP programs offer. There are additional features, including color management, which aids in what you see visually, but also controls the amount of ink that is put down during the printing process. RIPs have upgradeable features as well, such as variable data, color separation, halftone screening and much more. Some RIPs allow you to manage up to four printers, all rasterizing and printing an image at one time. These are all functions that you won’t find in your typical desktop print driver.
Your graphic design software, the RIP software program and the printer are all separate entities. They will work together to bring you the end product you want. It is important to make sure that they are all compatible. RIP software programs can be purchased separately or, in some cases, they are paired with the purchase of your printer. If this is the case, be aware that you are getting the basic version of the RIP software program.
—Darci Jeffrey-Andersen, Coastal Business Supplies