It’s August, and we finally got ourselves back to Peacock Visual Arts, our local printmaking studio to do some hands-on design! We used the Risograph machine at Peacock to produce flyers, posters and planners we'd designed, which was super fun since a lot of our work is exclusively digital.
So for this month’s nuggets, I’m diving into the story and quirks of Risograph printing!
Rice or Reese?
Firstly, how do you pronounce Risograph?
This is one thing that seems to be undecided in the community: some people say Rice-o-graph, and some say Reece-o-graph.
It’s also often abbreviated to just 'Riso', which I think sounds better if you go with the Rice-o-graph pronunciation ('rice-o' just sounds catchier to me than 'Reeso'). So that’s what I stick to, but either is OK!
A brief history
The Risograph, sometimes called a printer-duplicator, was invented in Tokyo, Japan in the 80s. It was originally created for high volume copying and printing, but it has become a medium for many artists and designers in its own right due to its unique charm and characteristics.
What is it & how does it work?
Risograph printing is unique in the way it works. It works a little like screenprinting, but involves less manual work. A stencil of the image (scanned, or sent to he machine digitally) to be printed is created on an ink drum (which are manually inserted into one of the printers two ink slots) by a thermal plate. This produces what is called the master. Once the master (masters if you are using two colours) are made, you are ready to run your prints.
Why Riso is unique & fun
It uses exclusively spot colours. Most print techniques use CMYK which gives you a huge range of colour possibilities, but Riso uses spot colours, meaning you are restricted to the inks in supply at that particular Riso machine.
You can only print 2 colours at a time. The way Risograph machines work means that you can only print two colours at a time, and those colours have to be separated and exported from your design individually. You can print more colours if your design requires it, but you need to layer these up, which involves printing your first two colours, drying those prints, and then doing some more set up work (separating and exporting the additional colours from the design for another print run). The constraint of a limited colour palette always makes for a fun challenge, and interesting results. Less is more!
It forces you to think about design differently. Since your design has to be separated and layered by colour, you are forced to think about how it all comes together differently than designing for digital or traditional print methods. You can layer colours up to produce different shades, and experiment with transparency too.
It’s imperfect! Risograph printing can be a little unpredictable, sometimes the master starts to rotate and move, meaning the two colours don’t line up perfectly. And sometimes the ink may be less dense in some areas of the print. All of this means that each print is unique.
Here are some of our recent prints: