"Hey Dave- if you run into a day with nothing to talk about can you give the photo 101 talk on why its necessary to purchase RIP software to get good iooking results from a printer? I don't get it. I thought PShop was a Raster image processing program." - b. e.
I don't really get it either and resisted buying an additional piece of software for a very long time. Raster Image Processing doesn't really tell you anything, well, nothing important. I could write a program to process raster image data, but no one would want it.
So here, in a nutshell, is my understanding - and anyone who has a better explanation - feel free to correct me.
There is a communications gap between your picture file and what is going to appear on your printer. What we got here is a failure to communicate.
This gap is supposed to be filled by your print drivers. (Why they called drivers? 'Cause they drive your printer).
The print drivers should take what is on your screen (assuming it is calibrated), and duplicate same on your printer.
The driver makes whatever translations are necessary, decides how much ink should go on for that type of paper, how to mix various inks to achieve what you are looking at on your screen. Okay, maybe more complex than that since your screen doesn't have the same 'gamut' as your printer, but basically - this is what the driver is supposed to do.
With color prints, I don't think this has been the terrible problem that it has been with black and white prints. Unless you were blessed by someone, if you take a black & white image and print it on your printer (unless it is an HP 7960 or some printer with a bunch of black inks) - you are going to end up with a print that has some cast to it - usually magenta, but could be just about anything.
In other words, the drivers that come with the Epson printer of your choice don't do a very good job of translating the info in the file to your printer and the result is a non-neutral print that usually look like junk.
So you go out and buy a replacement for the drivers. They come with hundreds of profiles for various papers, and various inks. This fairly expensive program goes between your file and your printer and starts doing translating, and guess what - it works. And not only that, but it lays down the ink in an intelligent way depending on the type of paper and ink you are using. And if you want to give the black and white print a slight tint - from very cold to warmish - you can do it with this Computer-to-Printer Translator.
There are other ways to do all this: which involve changing all the ink cartridges to b&w shades; and or getting other profiles and other inks etc. What I like about this system is that you can print color or b&w with the same printer. You are using the inks that Epson made for the printer.
I happen to have decided on IMAGEPrint lite ($450). One reason was that they've been around a long time and have thousands of profiles for different papers.
Epson now sells a RIP. (If I were them, I would just package it with their printers.) And there are freeware RIPs around as well such as QuadRIP.
Using the 'gray profiles' from IMAGEPrint, I don't see much color shift at all moving the b&w through varous color temperature lighting situations. So that is something else that a good RIP helps with. However, one thing that a RIP DOES NOT DO is effect 'bronzing' or gloss differential with pigment inks on glossy paper. For that, there is protective spray, or one of the newer pigment printers with a separate gloss cartridge.