Risograph printing is a stencil based process similar to screenprinting! Original images are copied on the machine’s flatbed scanner, or sent directly to the printer from a computer. These images are then “burned” onto a master sheet which is wrapped on one of the color drums in the printer. During printing, the drums spin at high speeds, pushing ink through the master, transferring the image onto paper, et voila! A riso print is born.
In general, risograph is best suited for high-volume, high-contrast printing utilizing bright saturated inks. Risograph is not ideal for small run or individual prints. The inks used in riso are typically soy or rice based, which are semi-transparent. This lends itself to intricate color mixing, and experimentation with paper color!
The machine itself has inherent quirks and imperfections when printing. This can include smudging, misregistration, roller marks, spotty ink coverage, and image skewing. While we do our best to prevent these from occurring, we find that they add to the charm and intrigue of riso-printing!
As with all printing processes, paper is extremely important to riso-printing! Changes in color, texture, and weight can all affect how your prints look and feel. Here’s a quick guide to get you started on picking the right paper for your project.
First off, let’s talk about size. The largest size paper we can print with our riso is 11x17 inches (tabloid size), and the smallest we can print is 4x6 inches (about postcard size). Any size between those dimensions is OK to print, but finding custom paper sizes can be difficult. We currently don’t offer any trimming or cutting services, so we recommend sticking with standard paper sizes!
Secondly, when choosing paper for riso, always select an uncoated paper! Papers that are coated or glossy are incompatible with the printer and will not be accepted to print with. Some of our favorite uncoated and absorbent papers can be sourced from French Paper (who have an incredible range of colors), Mohawk (the Superfine Vellum is a primo choice), and Domtar EarthChoice or Cougar (great texture and eco-friendly).
Finally, you should consider the weight of your paper that you’ll be printing with. Our machine can handle anywhere between 13lb bond and 110lb index (46 to 210 GSM for all of you metric folks), and we will not print anything outside of that range. Paper that is too thick or too thin can cause printing issues and damage the machine.
We can always supply the paper for your projects, and will have a selection of “house” papers that we’ve specifically chosen for the shop. You are also welcome to supply your own paper, however we will NOT print on newsprint, fine art cotton rag paper, or coated stock. If you have any questions about your paper choice or compatibility feel free to contact us before submitting a quote request!
File Prep and Print Set-up ︎
When creating a file for riso printing, there are several key things to keep in mind. The first thing you’ll want to keep in mind is image size. The riso cannot print full bleed images. The printer has a “dead zone” where it will crop your image if it isn’t properly sized. At minimum, we recommend making your image .25 inches smaller on all sides than your paper. For example, if you’re printing on 8.5x11 inch paper, then your image size would be 8x10.5 inches. If you’d like a full bleed image, we recommend looking into trimming and cropping your prints after receiving them.
Your files should be in grayscale between 300-600 DPI. The printer recognizes different shades of grays and blacks, and will output the master accordingly. Essentially, 100% opacity = full ink coverage, 50% opacity = less ink coverage, 10% opacity = even less ink coverage, and 0% opacity = no ink coverage. When printing large flats of color, please reduce opacity to 65% at maximum. Large color flats are prone to smudging and uneven inking, so a lower opacity color flat has a better chance of printing evenly.
When sending us a file, please have all of your layers labeled and separated as their own PDF. For example, if you’re printing a 3 color print using blue, yellow, and pink, your files will be named “title_blue.pdf”, “title_yellow.pdf”, and “title_pink.pdf.” If you need any assistance with creating files for riso, please let us know and we can help!
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