Everything you need to know about Risograph printing.

Posters, flyers, comics, booklets or artwork - it's easier than you think to create beautiful riso prints!


WHAT IS RISOGRAPH?


RISO is a low-cost, eco-friendly print process with a unique aesthetic. Invented in 80s Japan as a duplicator for schools and offices, RISO is now really popular with graphic designers, artists and illustrators.

How does it work?

Think of it as mechanical screenprinting. The machine makes a ‘master’ stencil of your artwork and wraps it around the ink drum. Ink is then pushed through the stencil onto the paper as the drum rotates at high speed. Want a two-colour print? Change the ink drum, make a new master and put the same paper through again for the second layer. 

Once each master is made, the machine can reproduce thousands of copies very quickly and cheaply. It’s best used for runs of 50+ prints, as most of the cost is in making the masters (extra prints cost pennies!)

What can I use it for?

RISO isn't like a normal full-colour printer, so it doesn't work for glossy photos - but it's perfect for flyers, posters, artwork, illustrations, comics, booklets, zines, indie mags, programmes, leaflets, you name it.

It's also the most eco-friendly printer on the planet! RISO is energy efficient, with no harmful emissions and minimal waste. Using soy based ink and banana paper stencils, we print on recycled paper stock and use local suppliers to reduce our impact on the environment.

Yellow ink drunk extending from Risograph printer

INKS


Image of INK / SOLID COLOUR

We have eight ink colours in the Blueprint studio: red, blue, green, yellow, black, teal, fluorescent orange and fluorescent pink. You can use any combination of these, though we recommend limiting your design to 1-4 colours per print as each new colour means an extra print pass. 

Riso uses soy based inks, which are non-toxic and eco-friendly. They're very tactile and smudge easily, and will sometimes leave unexpected print marks if printing double-sided or using more than one colour. Any smudges or roller marks can be tidied up with an eraser.


Intensity

Inks can be used at full intensity or at a lower opacity for a paler effect.

The darkness of your greyscale artwork will roughly correspond to the intensity of the ink in print. Any artwork that's black on screen will print using the full saturation of the ink, and any pale grey artwork will come out as a pale tone (light blue, pastel pink etc.) 

Prints often come out paler than you'd expect, so if in doubt, go darker! 


Colour variations

It's impossible to colour match with riso as the ink coverage will always vary between prints. Please bear in mind we cannot guarantee prints will match what you see on your computer screen, and the colour will change slightly from print to print. 




PAPER

All of our paper stock is recycled and FSC approved. We use 120gsm Corona Offset as standard, and have a selection of special paper to choose from.


Samples of all of our paper stocks.

Paper Stock

  • Corona Offset is our house stock and ideal for most print jobs. Made entirely from post consumer waste. Off-white with a smooth clean surface, in 80gsm, 120gsm, 190gsm and 250gsm.
  • Milkweed is a premium paper stock in slightly speckled ivory. 100% recycled, carbon neutral and made with wind power. Available in 120gsm.
  • Sugarpaper is a coarse, coloured paper – think school jotters! Range of neutrals and low-saturation colours with coarse texture flecked surface. Available in 100gsm or 140gsm.

Have a different kind of paper in mind?

Get in touch and we'll see what we can do!


FILE SETUP




Example image showing how to lay out files for Risograph



EXAMPLE

Example image showing how to lay out files for Risograph






LAYERING COLOURS


Image of INK / SOLID COLOUR

RISO inks are semi transparent, so layering different colours on top of each other results in more colour possibilities. 


In the example opposite, we've used blue and yellow to create a range of green colours. You could use red and blue to create a purple colour, green and red to make brown .. or anything else you can think of!


You can use Photoshop to see how each colour combination might look – simply set the layer blend mode to 'multiply'. 


Please remember that ink colours do not line up perfectly, so bear this in mind when designing your artwork. We don't recommend overlaying two colours for fine details or small text (see 'misregistration' below)


MISREGISTRATION


Image of MISREGISTRATION

Because each ink is printed one at a time, colours rarely line up perfectly on top of each other. This gives RISO's distinctive 'misregistration' aesthetic, where the alignment of colours shifts between each print. This is an inherent part of the process and makes each print totally unique – part of why we love RISO.
Overprinting text risograph example.

We don’t usually suggest overprinting small details or text as they won't always line up perfectly. Each print can vary by 3mm in any direction, so please bear this in mind when designing your artwork and include trapping if necessary. Or embrace the imperfection!


TYPE


Image of TYPE

If the Riso knows it's printing text then it will preserve sharpness and ensure a higher quality print. We recommend not using Photoshop to set type, as this means it is rasterised and no longer 'read' by the machine as text. 

For best results, make sure any body text (12pt or smaller) is set to registration black in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign - even if you're not printing using black ink!

Legibility of text deteriorates drastically at lower opacities, so avoid printing body text or important information in pale colours – save that for large titles or decorative text.

Avoid using 'knockout' or white text, as the riso isn't reading the text but rather the area around the text, so it's not as sharp. We don't recommend using white text on two-colour prints as these will not line up perfectly, meaning it will not be very readable in print. 


HEAVY INK / SOLID COLOUR


Image of INK / SOLID COLOUR

RISO wasn't intended to print full pages of ink, and we can't print full pages of 100% opacity colour – too much ink means the paper sticks to the ink drum and causes all sorts of problems! Any large blocks of ink should ideally be set to 75% density or less, and please bear in mind that large areas of solid colour can have inconsistent ink coverage.

If your artwork has too much solid black it can crash the print drivers which means the file just won't print. In these cases we suggest that you reduce the intensity of coverage, or even invert the design to have more white areas than black.


In particular, heavy ink on the top edge of the print are more susceptible to inky roller marks, and sometimes result in a line of ink dragged down the centre of the page. If you only have heavy ink on one edge, you might be able to rotate your file 180° to get around this issue.


PHOTOGRAPHS

Monotone Images

Riso can work well with monochrome photographs. If your photo looks good in black and white, chances are it'll work well on RISO. Try bumping up the contrast, as images often come out paler than you expect. 


Mock CMYK

We can't print an exact CMYK, as the RISO doesn't use Cyan or Magenta inks. If you're feeling adventurous, you can try using Black, Blue, Yellow and Fluo Pink inks to simulate a CMYK effect. 

Scanned image of a Monotone Risograph print.
Scanned image of a CMYK risograph print.

HALFTONES (expert mode!)

RISO automatically processes greyscale files as a Bitmap, and makes the image up out of dots either in a grain pattern (Grain Touch) or by applying a halftone screen (Screen-covered).


At the print stage, we also have the option to adjust the LPI (38-200) and angles (0-90) for the halftone screen.


We're usually pretty good at choosing the right options for each image, but if you want to use a particular setting please specify when sending in your files.  


Image of Risograph halftones.