This article will explain what a RIP is, what it does, and what the benefits are. It will also list some of the top RIP programs. But, most of all, it will help you answer the question: “Do I need a RIP?”

So, Do I Need a RIP?

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

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to consider a RIP.

What is a RIP?

RIP acronym

RIP stands for Raster Image Processor.

A Raster Image Processor (RIP) program is similar to the print driver included with your printer. However, it comes with much more control (and features).

A RIP is designed to handle many files, file formats , and file sizes without limiting your print capabilities. A Raster Image Processor efficiently processes your files faster and more consistently. With a completed RIP process, you can enjoy 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. You’re able 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. This means that no additional software is needed to create your own custom ICC profiles. However, you’ll still need a spectrophotometer like the i1Basic Pro 2 by X-Rite.

i1Basic Pro 2 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. This is the core concept behind raster processing: the ability to screen print with ease.

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. This is by design. The process is intentionally delayed,rather than processing/buffering/printing at the same time (as print drivers typically do).


With larger files, the process is doubly important. Processing them entirely before sending them to the printer will keep them running at the fastest speed possible. This processing speed 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.


Multiple image files printed at the same time

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 into 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 in action, 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). You can then lay these 3 files next to each other. This enables 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 your images to meet your needs. This will ensure the best fit onto the roll you are printing with.

Multiple Printers

Multiple printers

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. This way, 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. Instead of having to dedicate one printer to one job, you can run that job on any printer. Conversely, you could 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, it “dials in the printer” to its factory standard of output.

Since normal use of a printer causes it to “drift” from its original state, maintenance is important. 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.

Color Management

RIPs can make a significant impact on your spot color management workflow.

Along with Linearization, most RIP programs give you the ability to create your own ICC profiles easily. And all without needing additional software.

While this can be accomplished using the standard printer driver, you have many more options and control through a RIP.

Color calibration

Most standard print drivers force you to choose an existing media type that is already installed in the driver.

You have little control in adjusting the ink capacity (the maximum amount of ink a particular media can hold without pooling). You also have no control over linearizing a particular type of media.

With a RIP, you are creating the media type and storing it in the RIP. When you enter the name of the media you are using, everything gets saved.

This process is also useful if you have two 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.

Wide format printer printing a floral image

If you are using two or more printers and each printer is a different model, the process still works. 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.

Raster Image Processor Software Recommendations

What is RIP software but a means to process raster images easily?

While there are many different Raster Image Processor programs out there, some are better than others. I’ll list a few of the more commonly used RIP software for printing in the industry:

Each of the RIP software for printing listed above will offer roughly the same benefits. However, it is important to note that each raster image processor software may offer slightly different functionality.

More importantly, though, the steps to complete a RIP may be different, software to software. When in doubt, consult the RIP software developer’s product guides for more information.

Free RIP Software

The software noted above comes with licensing fees for use. However, there is also free RIP software for large-format printing available. This includes software such as:

  • GIMP
  • GraphicsMagick
  • MyPaint
  • Phatch
  • ShareX
  • And more.

We can’t specifically vouch for any one free RIP software. However, those looking to try raster image processing before committing might get a benefit from accessible software like these. Still, when looking for best-in-class RIP software, the choice is easy. Paid versus free RIP software for large format printing is always going to offer the most professional user experience.

RIP acronym

Now that you understand what a RIP does, consider yourself informed. But more importantly, now that you understand how it can add value to your printing workflow, consider yourself educated. You can now make the informative decision of whether you need it to be successful.

Check out #AskBC Episode 6: Rip Software and Color Management to further assist you in your decision