All about Risograph Printing リソグラフ

The Risograph is a copier made in Japan by the Riso Kagaku Corporation.  Pronounciation guide: リソグラフ (ree-so graph)

The Risograph is an automated mimeograph released in Japan way back in 1986. It was designed mainly for high-speed, high-volume photocopying and printing in an office environment. When printing multiples (generally more than 20) of the same image, it is typically far less expensive per page than a conventional photocopier, laser printer, or inkjet printer. For schools, clubs, and other short-run print jobs, the Risograph bridges the gap between a standard photocopier (which is cheaper up to about 50 copies) and using a commercial printer (cheaper over about 10,000 copies).

20 Likes, 1 Comments - Dundee Print Collective (@dundeeprintcollective) on Instagram: "@kieran_plastik printing @dcadundee print studio for Riso Soup's next project #risosoup #riso..."

It is also better for the environment than regular digital printers or photocopiers. The machine itself is energy efficient, and uses recycled, uncoated paper. It also only prints with soy-based ink, which is better than toner in appearance, and does not require the extra process of setting the ink with heat, as photocopiers do with toner.

rose blake

rose blake

It looks like a bulky photocopier, but inside it has a silkscreen mesh that is uses to print, along with stencils made from a roll of banana paper. It uses spot colours in a limited palette of vibrant inks. The finish of the print is similar to both lithography and silkscreen, with results that are sometimes unpredictable. Oh, and it prints FAST!

So, How can I use this process as an artist? Spot colour means that each colour is printed separately, and layered to create new colours. This can be used to great advantage to create beautiful effects. I love how 2-3 colours can be blended together to recreate hand painted tones, or how the semi-opaque quality of the inks can lends itself to very clean layers. There is a limited palette, sure, but sometimes working with restrictions helps you to make something you wouldn't have thought of normally. It forces you to learn to work with what you have. Anyway, there are beautiful florescent colours, a metallic gold, and plenty of subtle greens, reds and blues to work with. Keep in mind, though, that not many places will have the full range of colours available (they are hard to come by, and you would need a very large storage area!).

Ashley Ronning

Ashley Ronning

Cost is also something to consider. If you're only going to print 5 copies of something, Risograph may not be the best value for money. The more copies you print from one stencil, the more cost efficient it is. It is designed to print 50-2000+ copies at a time. Great for posters, zines and booklets. You can print on different colours and textures of paper, too! Because it uses uncoated paper, this opens up a whole world of options. This book was printed on a coloured paper stock, which can change the perceived colour of the ink quite a lot.

Esther McManus

Esther McManus

Tali Bayer

Tali Bayer

Overall, as with all printmaking processes, it has its own quirks and benefits. I personally love making riso prints! I've been working with lots of local artists recently on a Dundee Print Collective project called Riso Soup, and it's been a rewarding challenge to really experiment and play with Risograph Printing. I'll make a separate post about that, as this post is getting pretty long. But it's been fun blogging more regularly! I'll be back soon.

Like the idea? Do you want to make something with this process? I am a trained riso tech, so I can try to answer any questions you might want to ask. :)

About my New Watercolour Monoprints

I've been experimenting in print for a little while now, using techniques that are new to me but which better suit my style of working. I have always painted, even throughout art school where I began to outwardly produce linear, clean drawings and prints. I mainly painted in my sketchbooks, using colourful ink and watercolour washes, often just as a background to a white page.


Not my best work, but I made A LOT of these.

Then I thought... why don't I consider this work in itself, and not just an aside to my 'main' projects? I have been trying to view the things I produce more holistically, and ignore barriers between them such as 'fine art', 'craft', 'design', 'writing', etc. In the end, they are all informed by each other, and I move fluidly between them, which is personally quite a refreshing way of working.

So I began making new things, using watercolour monotype, a basic technique I covered here. It allowed me to use washes of colour and ink blot shapes just like I used to in my old sketchbooks.

Katie Ravenscraig- Eyes Open All Around (Small)
Katie Ravenscraig- Eyes Open All Around (Small)

Of course, I have always loved making intricate, fine detail work too, usually in some kind of symmetrical pattern. Masking off my paintings before printing allowed me to find a new way of approaching my drawings. Plus, they have a sweet emboss, plate mark and are one of a kind. Interestingly though, you can get more than one print out of a watercolour monotype plate. I can reliably take 3, but some artists have managed up to 6. Of course, the image gets fainter and fainter each time.

I will have more to show you before the year is over, but for now, I am off to the studio to finish making even more new pieces! :)

The Circle

I have been looking at circular forms recently. An enjoyable read about circles is The Discovery of The Circle by Bruno Munari, a seemingly out of print book now (I used the Duncan of Jordanstone library). I believe you can download it for kindle, though.

I admire the infinite, cyclical, and symbolic nature of circles, and how they are found everywhere in nature. From water and tree rings to atomic structures, to planets and gravitational forces... there is a lot to look at and think about.

Anyway, I had a quick visual search looking at circles, to put together some more inspiration...

Large Scale lino cuts for The Big Print, at Print Festival Scotland

At the same time as IMPACT 8, The very first Print Festival Scotland took off, with loads of events including studio open days, print and education exhibitions, and special film screenings at DCA. The Big Print has been in the works for the last 6 months, led by the Creative Learning Team at The McManus. The artworks are collages of many pieces by children, young people and adult learners inspired by the McManus collections and Dundee history, architecture, science, and culture.

There were then many sessions of lino cutting to transfer the initial drawings into the giant lino blocks. This was done by many artists, students and volunteers, and I managed to help a little. Here is a cutting process picture I took on an extremely rainy day in the creative learning centre at The McManus...

So when the day of printing rolled by, the momentum was really something- a great atmosphere of excitement and fun. The 'giant printmaking' was achieved using a road roller! Here are some photographs of last Saturday...

Well done to everyone involved, there was a lot of hard work involved but it turned out fantastic in the end!

Working on Editions for Thomson and Craighead

One of the new pieces of equipment the DCA print studio acquired recently is the CNC router. I would absolutely love to create a woodcut piece with it... going to have to think about that one a bit, though. You can cut some really precise, large scale stuff with it, and it has interchangeable cutting tools for both fine and rougher work. Artist duo Thomson and Craighead are getting their work for Never Odd or Even, their first survey exhibition in the UK at the Carroll/Fletcher Gallery in London. The woodblock pieces I have printed are part of the London Wall project, where local tweets are chosen and made into artwork. They have already been selling very well, I hear, which is fantastic news. Here are some pictures on the process...

cnc router for Thompson and Craighead


I alsolutely love to use that style of press- it's so old and still works perfectly. Here is the only 'finished' shot I could find:

The other one that I printed was black and said 'Don't blow my high'. You can see the block being prepared in one of the previous pictures. This project was really fun and rewarding to complete, and I really enjoyed it. More on relief printing soon! :)


Edit: I just realized that the pieces I printed are available to buy at the Carroll/Fletcher online shop, too.