I'm not an expert let me just say, so with the risk of sounding a little stupid I have a question.

I had to send .pdf and .ai files (around 100-300mb each) to a print service to have them printed on very large formats of forex.

Lately, we've had some trouble working with them. First, they asked me for "default" .pdfs from Illustrator, which usually do not have a standard color profile (SWOP or FOGRA39, etc). Then they claimed they could not open a .pdf in Photoshop and I didn't understand. I found out they do not use any RIP program, they just drag the pdf into Photoshop to raster it and then straight to the printers.

Is this a normal practise or do serious print service offices usually have RIP programs to optimize the process? How should it usually work when they receive a large format .pdf with a mix of vectors and images (120dpi max)?


Thank you for all the answers!

The resolution they require for the print is from 80 to 120dpi because these are very large graphics (16 feet wide) composed of large forex sheets placed together and they are seen from a certain distance.

I asked them for their postscript so I can export pdfs with their profile, but they didn't have one. They usually get the cut grid on .ai and the image pdf. I feel very out of control, but most importantly as Jackson mentioned, the time all this requires when they have troubles importing these large pdfs is insane.

To match a specific color they ask for a sample or a pantone as reference.

I think I will be looking around for other services just in case.

  • This scenario make me suspicious as well, but I cannot really articulate why. I expect that most of the time it is of no consequence, but there MUST be specific things that a RIP will do better. I am thinking the cheap way prevents variable resolution plates, and possibly involves unwanted extra color transforms in the driver. But I never did prepress.
    – Yorik
    Oct 15, 2015 at 14:51
  • 1
    The reason you would use a RIP is mainly for consistency and debuggability. If all you do is one off runs on one machine its not as useful, not useless but less useful. Theres no reason why you cant use Photoshop as your rip. Ive ocasionally done so when i needed something really special.
    – joojaa
    Oct 16, 2015 at 7:29

3 Answers 3


Is this a normal practise or do serious print service offices usually have RIP programs to optimize the process?

It's not essential, but every print shop I've used for professional quality printing has used some sort of RIP. I've seen it most commonly used for handling multiple jobs across multiple printers. Here's an article on the typical uses for RIP. The article looks fairly neutral to me, although I'm not familiar with BreathingColor's products and services so it may be biased towards their offerings.

How should it usually work when they receive a large format .pdf with a mix of vectors and images (120dpi max)?

The contents of a PDF shouldn't make that much of a difference (so long as typefaces are correctly embedded) They would probably mention that 120dpi is normally too low for high quality printing. 300dpi would be the minimum I recommend for most print mediums.

I would say, there's no harm in shopping around for a different print shop. Try sending them one of your files and see what they say. If you're constantly having problems with file delivery don't forget to factor in the associated time-cost when comparing other quotes.


If they really know what they are doing, rendering PDFs in Photoshop is an accepted technique, because it can deal with some situations, other procedures can't.

With large format printers, it is not for sure that they do indeed use a RIP, although that would be recommended anyway.

OTOH, it appears as if they do not understand color management (very well, if at all). Maybe worthwhile to talk to other print service…


The printer itself often has a small internal RIP that reads PostScript (not all though). A RIP is not necessary for large formats or some digital printers but necessary for presses that need plates in the process; the RIP converts the data into halftone, adjust trapping and create the color separation. These are not things necessary on large formats that are inkjet type. It's possible your printer uses a raster image of your PDF because they do not have anything to "decode" the postscript. Even if they had a RIP, these machines are extremely expensive (easily in the ten or hundred thousands of dollars) and not all printers have the newer versions that interpret transparency and other new "effects" well; the good old "default PDFs" work better for them. If your printer is specialized in large format printing then I don't find it weird they don't have a RIP.

Large format printers are often big inkjets and in the end, there isn't always a visible difference between a vector or a 300ppi raster image, especially if it's printed at lower resolution. It's not a big deal if your PDF gets converted to raster only. You can always send your Photoshop PDF/image at 300ppi and let them lower the resolution; anyway they often lower the resolution to save time because it's quicker to process not always because they can't print at 300.

As for color management, they got their own. You can have any profile you want, not all printers will care about it and that goes for offset printing as well. It's the proof and final result that will tell you if you're close to their profiles or not.

If you are happy with the printed result, the prices and the customer service then keep using that printer and simply send your files as they require them! If you are worried about the conversion of your PDF into Photoshop then simply do it yourself and send the file print-ready according to their standards; it's better to convert your own files yourself, at least you can have some control on this!

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