I work at the GRID Graphic Museum Groningen for the Risograph group. We create design-and-print projects for our A2 size Risograph Digital Duplicator: posters, gift wrap paper, sketch books. We also take on Riso-print jobs for artists, designers, concert venues and publishers.
// IF INTERESTED, please contact GRID here: firstname.lastname@example.org //
What is it?
The Risograph is a stencil machine. That means: it pushes ink through a pattern of teeny tiny holes, onto paper. You (as an artist) have drawn, designed or photographed this pattern.
How does it work?
The risograph can receive a digital file of your design straight from the computer, and burn these teeny tiny holes onto a waxed banana fiber sheet, or master. It then wraps the sheet around an ink drum (the red cylinder in the image above), and is ready to print.
You put a pile of A2 size papers on the left tray. Enter your preferred number of copies, and push go. The right tray will soon be cradling your brand new prints, and you will feel proud and elated.
As mentioned, the Riso stencil is created by thousands of holes, which create ink dots on the page. Big dots close to each other will give you a fullly filled area of ink on the page. Smaller dots further apart create a lighter shade of the same color.
It is quite possible – encouraged, even – to print multiple layers of colors on top of one another. This means they will blend, and create ‘secondary colors’. Red and yellow become orange, etc. See also image above.
One may even let the machine reproduce color photos (though not very accurately). The Risograph process, and the raster dots will make your photos look like they came out of an old magazine: warm, analogue hues and all.
Because each ink drum contains only one color, each color layer of your image needs to be printed separately, and consecutively. In the example below, I used blue ink to print the bubble pattern below on 30 sheets of A2 paper. A few days later, when the sheets were dry, I put the red ink drum in the machine to print the wavy pattern over the existing blue layers.
And the results speak for themselves:
Spot the irregularities in the red pattern, near the top. This was caused by a little bit of dried ink in the master sheet, which prevents the ink from flowing through the holes onto the paper. It takes a few more prints to loosen it up, problem solved. Such accidents are unavoidable with Riso printing. Sometimes they are happy accidents. Other times, you’ll end up cursing the damn thing. Straighten your back. Keep going!
Credits: Riso machine infographic by Johan Visser, GRID.
Illustration, photo and grift wrap paper by Jop Luberti.