I have owned Rita my Risograph machine for 5 years now, I love the process as the preparation needed for the artwork is very similar to screen printing. I often get asked what Riso printing is so I thought it might be useful to write a post about it. So read on if you want to know a bit more about how to prepare artwork for riso printing – and if you get to the end and think you’d like to have a go – then check out my website for Riso Workshops here at the studio.

What is Riso?

Risograph machines are a Japanese technology – they look like photocopiers from the outside but they work very differently.  Think of Riso as a cross between screen printing and a photocopier.

How does the Riso Machine Work?

Your image is scanned via the scanner bed on the machine and then a master is created by burning the image onto the master roll inside the printer. This stencil is then wrapped around the ink drum. 

The machine feeds paper under the ink drum as it rotates and ink is pushed out through the stencil to create a print.  

Preparing Art Work for Riso Printing

There are a number of ways to prepare artwork for Riso writing – I work in a few different ways, sometimes I create using Illustrator on my computer, but the easiest way I think to get started is to use collage. Each colour is printed as a separate layer, so you need to separate your imagery into the two layers ready to be scanned.

So for example, if you are printing a 3 colour image in orange, blue, and black, you need 3 separate images for each layer – you can see how this develops in the image below.

I often work from an image, photocopying it and then using it as a template to cut variations of each shape from different types of patternend black and white or greyscale papers. The image you scan into the risograph needs to be in black and white or grey scale for it to work when the stenci is created. Another example below.

Original Artwork on the left and Riso Print on the Right

Creating some layers on tracing paper is helpful to see how your imagery will overlap.

I particularly like how you can retain the hand-drawn element when working with collaged papers and line. But you can achieve some interesting results working on computers too and that can be a quick way to separate out your layers of colour.

I always have a lot of fun teaching this workshop at the studio. I start off with some easy mark making exercises for students to warm up and get used to the process. Its always fascinating to see how different everyones results are.

If you fancy coming along to the studio to have a go, then you can book on workshops here.

See more examples of past student work over on my instagram account here

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