AccuRIP -or- Epson Driver?
A common question asked of a RIP developer is can the Epson Driver do the same thing as a RIP software such as AccuRIP?
Absolutely not. An Epson Driver does not have the postscript abilities of a RIP which will be explained further. Using their driver is an inefficient and more costly way to output graphics files.
Do I need AccuRIP to output separations from an Epson?
While others quickly see the value in a RIP (postscript interpreter) others may need further explanation.
If that is you, read on.
An Epson Inkjet does NOT contain Adobe Postscript Chips and therefore can't read/translate a graphics application that contains postscript data, for example, tools and effects such as blends and tints that print as halftones. The job of a RIP is to do the translation so you have full use of the postscript features of your graphics application and accurately output films from the inkjet. There are many postscript features within a graphics application that a screen-printer uses regularly with the two most common being tints (halftones) and blends/ gradients (halftones). When you print raster separations using the Epson driver designed for color composite printing you are seeing a dither effect (not a halftone) plus a "loss of data" that initially appears as a smooth edge but with further examination you will discover that data is actually missing. An interpretation has occurred but not a good one. For those that have the need for basic solid black shapes and have attempted to use the Epson driver you have achieved success. The Epson driver can print solid vector data. To take full advantage of the postscript features of all of your graphics applications (Illustrator, Photoshop, CorelDraw, Corel Paint, etc.) you are best served with a RIP that can translate it ALL plus provide a control over ink lay down so you can use the least amount of ink needed. The Epson driver will drain your ink tanks very quickly by "over driving" the ink, their method of controlling ink flow is hidden behind film and paper style names. You really have little control, just lucky when it works.
Are you working harder not smarter?
We still speak to a great many users that do not operate their graphics programs such as Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator properly. They create an art file in full color then take extra time to break up the image into sections filling all the elements with 100% black then print them one at a time (ouch). This is what they consider "separations." Then they use the Epson driver and say "see it works." That is a lot of time and effort and opens the door for costly mistakes so don't do this. Graphics programs have been designed to deliver color separations very easily and have done so for over 20 years - so why knock yourself out. Vector programs such as Draw and Illustrator are perfect in their form and function. A properly constructed file using "spot" or "process" color is ready to output as separations as spot or process with no extra user effort. When you use graphics applications you need to communicate in postscript language.
AccuRIP is your postscript interpreter for the Epson. In order to simply print out these separations you need a "postscript" driver to unlock all the abilities of the graphics program. This is why you need a RIP (AccuRIP). Choosing the RIP driver in your applications print window unlocks all the special abilities of the program allowing you to easily manage your separations. Now you can print halftones, solid black shapes, blends, spot or process colors, simulated process separations like Spot Process, add registration marks, control bleeds, etc.
Here is a common statement, "when I print solid black shapes from Photoshop or PhotoPaint using a RIP software I get 'fuzzy edges', but when I use the Epson driver I get what I wanted" so why do I need a RIP?
When this happens you can bet the user is using the wrong graphics program for the print style and the RIP is accurately printing exactly what the file is representing. On the other hand the Epson driver is improperly altering the file by "bitmapping" the data. The "fuzzy" edges are halftones reproducing the "aliased" (soft) edge that is proper with raster programs such as Photoshop. The Epson driver is throwing away all the detail and keeping only some of the data. At first glance the user may be happy but in the end the file is not nearly as good as it would have been if they worked within the "proper" program (Draw or Illustrator) to produce this style of art. The films are output but the extra ink used hurts the user in the pocket and many times the films take extra time to dry/cure and are less durable. Working like this on a regular basis is not good for business. You can get better results through the RIP with better ink control even if you must work this way using Photoshop for solid shapes. Convert your file to the Bitmap mode (300 dpi or higher) in Photoshop and print using the RIP.
The results will be closer (probably acceptable) to what you want. But, once again, let’s stress that when you use the proper program for each print style you'll have an easier time and achieve the ultimate result.
TIP: If you only have Photoshop or PhotoPaint and need to make solid hard edge graphics you can turn OFF the "anti alias" edging feature and work at 300 to 600 dpi to get good hard edges without converting to the Bitmap mode.
Better Tip: Get a proper vector program. Not having a vector program in the graphics industry is like a Carpenter that only has a screw driver. You can drive a nail with the handle, but it's not easy to do. You can improve the edge upon output of a raster image but it is recommended to keep hard edge elements, logos and type in vector applications. A vector image can be scaled without edge quality compromise. Vector applications also have more advanced print features providing greater control. Import raster images into vector apps to get the best results when a raster image is critical.
Want even cleaner lines - go vector!