Working With Risography

[expand title=”1. Theory”]

The risograph is a modern bridge between a mimeograph and a copy machine. It uses a paper stencil to regular the flow of ink from an inking drum, which in turn rotates to feed paper across an impression roller and transfer the stenciled design to the sheet. The machine operates in speeds from 30 to 150 sheets per minute. Designed originally as a low cost means of in-house printing for businesses, schools, and churches, the Riso is not a very accurate printing method. It’s been designed for speed, and the majority of the paper handling is automated, and prevents fine tuning.

Because of all this, Risograph printing is highly recommended for designers and artists who are looking for a raw look with some variance from sheet to sheet. The process is inexpensive, though we should say that we do not like to work with substandard materials. The paper we recommend for risograph printing is the same range that we prefer for our finer print processes.


[expand title=”2. Registration”]

Riso work will look cleanest with designs that have no registration between colors. For color intensive designs, there are a few tricks that you can use to help ensure that the risograph will handle your job with the best possible results. When possible, try to create your designs with overprints built into them, as overprints will require very little registration. Second, you should make use of an exaggerated trap between layers with working on a riso print.

We do our best to squeeze great results from this process, but minor misregistration is expected with the risograph. If this is detrimental to your project, you should consider working with letterpress.


[expand title=”3. Trapping?”]

Like we mentioned in the letterpress section on trapping, we are happy to assist with trapping. But, since a more exaggerated trap is required for risograph printing, we prefer you to build it into your files at the start, rather than allowing us to do it for you. You can check for overprint colors with the Multiply feature in Photoshop.


[expand title=”4. Riso┬áColor”]

Our riso has 4 individual color drums, which are currently filled with Black, Purple, Blue, and Green inks. Each drum can print faint tints of their parent color via halftone screens in the stencil process. But, the inks are difficult to clean when changing colors, so we are limited to those 4 base colors. In the future we hope to offer additional colors, but it will depend on availability of supplies for the model we own.


[expand title=”5. Margin Creep / Paper Dummies”]

If you are working on a zine, book, or other publication, a paper dummy is your best friend! Simply put, a paper dummy is a mock of your project once constructed. So, if you plan to make a 12 page zine, you should get 12 sheets of equal weight paper, fold them, and look at how the finished product looks. For a more accurate approximation, you should print a digital copy to fully mock up your project.

Longer works experience margin creep, which means the ends of the paper begin to stick out further than the cover as the number of sheets increase. To combat this, we usually cut the ends of books after printing, but on the design side, you need to build this effect into your files. By checking with a paper dummy, you can check each press sheet and scoot the art over a bit so that it isn’t in risk of being sliced during the finishing, or being hidden by the spine of your book!