The Confusion over RIP Software by Terry Combs

RIP HS Package_webIf you’re a screen printer, and you make your own film positives, chances are you own RIP software. OK, some folks still use laser printers, or your rich uncle bought you an image setter, and some folks fake it with their inkjet printers and just find a way to make it work. But most printers today use inkjet printers along with some brand of RIP software to create their films. Yet still, I regularly hear new printers or printers taking that next step to legitimacy wonder aloud “What the heck does a RIP do anyway?” Here’s the condensed explanation.

Raster Image Processor

The RIP, or Raster Image Processor, will convert your computer graphic into a Postscript file. Why you ask? Because your inkjet printer is not a Postscript printer like a laser printer. Without a Postscript file, you will not be able to print halftone dots. Inkjet printers are color printers, and always “think” you are printing in color. When the printer sees a halftone dot, it will help you out by printing your dots as grey, because the printer assumes you are trying to make a shade of color.

RIP software will tell the printer to print solid black dots. With inkjet, no RIP means no halftones. Yes, there are methods in art programs to circumvent the process and print a halftone, but nearly everyone chooses to avoid this extra time and effort and print via a RIP specifically made for screen printers. An added and important bonus is that most if not all RIPs will allow you more control over ink lay down and result in a more dense film positive.

But the Guy at the Store Said…

After the salesman asks you why you or anyone would ever want to print solid black dots, he will go on to explain that he can sell you RIP software. Problem is that all RIPs are not created the same. I will almost guarantee that any RIP you do not buy from a screen print supply dealer will be a Color Management RIP. That means, extraordinary photographic reproductions, but still no halftone dots. The guy at the store never gets it, but will try and sell you what he believes you want and need.

The Bottom Line

What it all means is this: With a better film positive, you eliminate all the re-burning (which means more reclaiming and recoating), under-exposing (on purpose to try and hold your fine lines and dots), and the resulting frustration of precious time lost during screen prep and on the press. Inkjet gives you your best film positive today for the money, and a good RIP makes that job 100 times easier. A perfect film should translate to a perfect screen. A perfect screen puts you on the road to Maximum Production!

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Terry Combs is a 30+ year veteran of the garment decorating industry, offering training and consulting through his website TerryCombs.com. Terry is also editor of the management and production newsletter Screen Print Weekly.

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