Messing with Risoprinting

‘Riso’ means ‘ideal’ in Japanese. The Risograph was invented in 1986 by the Japanese company RISO Kagaku Corporation. While it may appear to be nothing more than a humble photocopy machine to the naked eye, the risograph is capable of creating beautiful colour overlays that look almost like brightly coloured silkscreens.

Why Riso Printing?

One of our non-work office discussions was around Riso Printing. Headant was talking about a book completely dedicated to riso printing and the processes involved, only to realise that one of the comics we have sitting in the office (Curveball) has made use of a similar style.

Following this discussion, we decided to make an Riso-inspired illustration about the chemical components in air freshener (because we had a can of Febreze within arm’s reach).


Not only is the Risograph cost-efficient, but it also appears to have a great ecological quality! The inks that are used in creating it are soy-based. The masters, too, are eco-friendly and are made from banana paper. In addition to these qualities, the Risograph produces a minimal amount of waste.



Risoprinting uses very few colors, usually two to three in one illustration. However, techniques like halftone gradation and overprinting compensate on the limited number of shades.

The range of colors include:
● Cyan
● Magenta
● Yellow
● Black
● Pantone(185 U; 187 U; 265 U; 275 U; 3005 U; 321 U; 355 U; 806 U; 871 U)
● Pantone Black U; Pantone Orange 021 U and Pantone Yellow U


Opacity on riso printing is handled by halftone.

Halftone is the reprographic technique that simulates continuous tone imagery through the use of dots, varying either in size or in spacing, thus generating a gradient-like effect…This reproduction relies on a basic optical illusion: the tiny halftone dots are blended into smooth tones by the human eye. Source


Another interesting aspect of riso is overprinting. Overprinting refers to the process of printing one colour on top of another. This is achieved by make proper channel spots required to make the print masters. Source

How it’s printed

Riso printing follows this process:

1. The various colors are separated into individual files with channel spots.
2. These files are then sent to the print house.
3. The file is then sent from the computer to a machine.
4. The master is created for each color.
5. The master is wrapped around a drum, and ink is forced through the master’s voids.
6. The drum then rotates at a high speed, and the paper runs flat through the machine.
7. Each image is then printed on the paper. This process involves the printing of one colour at a time.



Riso printing, however, has a few limitations – the first one being the size. The maximum size
that Riso prints can be done is that of A3. Additionally, the Riso soy ink does not go well with gloss. This leads to Risographic printers being able to only print on a range of papers which are uncoated and under 250gsm.

However, for many artists, the Risograph’s ‘limitations’ are actually the key to a world of creative possibilities and artistic styles. Maybe that’s why Risoprinting is still so fascinating to this day!




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