Rules of risograph / risograph rules

Published:  March 24, 2015

Risograph printing wasn’t designed to be an artistic tool, but it has been adopted as such by people looking for affordable and less mass-produced methods of colour printing. The machine’s flaws, such as its tendency to print colours slightly out of registration and a slight patchiness when printing solid blocks of ink, are often embraced as features.

Here is The Rizzeria’s guide through the ins-and-outs of Risograph printing.


Take a look at the print below by Katherine Hall: the surfing photo is printed in a tint of black over a green background. The hand-lettering, the slight mis-registration and the toned-down colours work together to create a beautiful lo-fi image.

Katherine Hall

Katherine Hall

Printing on a Risograph is a unique experience. The machine works by digitally producing a stencil (made from banana paper), which is wrapped around an ink drum and then duplicates an impression of the image onto paper by rolling it over the drum and through the machine. It’s all automatic, like a photocopier.

Some Risograph machines print two colours at a time, but our printer (an RP3700 model) prints one colour at a time, which means if you want to print more than one colour you need to make a master for each colour and then feed the paper through the machine as many times as is needed. You will also need to lift the ink drum out of the machine and put another one in every time you want to change colour. This means that you need to separate your artwork into each colour layer.

Risograph printers handle tones quite well, making it possible to print variations of the same colour, for example, pastel and fluorescent pink, using the same master. Because the ink can be too thick where there are solid blocks of colour, users might have to adapt their artwork to suit. Paper stock needs to be uncoated so it soaks up some of the ink.

Penrith Arcades Project zine by Vanessa Berry

Penrith Arcades Project zine by Vanessa Berry

The RP3700 can print on many different paper stocks (ranging in thickness from 46-310gsm), making the printing of zines, small books, CD covers, street posters, flyers, envelopes, invitations and more completely possible. It can print on custom sizes of paper ranging from A6 to A3. Like a photocopier, it puts a margin on everything so if you need your artwork to bleed, you’ll have to trim it. Price-wise, it sits somewhere in between black-and-white photocopying and offset printing, making it a good choice for print runs up to a few hundred.

One of our favourite things about the Risograph is that it uses eco-friendly soy inks. It also makes it super easy to screenprint as, instead of exposing a screen, you can take the Riso master off the ink drum and tape it to a blank silkscreen or frame. Out of Gocco lightbulbs? You can cut down the Riso master and use that instead of exposing a Gocco screen.

The Rizzeria started in 2008 when a bunch of artists, designers and zine-makers chipped in money to buy a Risograph machine. Some of them had been working with a Risograph collective in Amsterdam called Knust. Since then we’ve bought a replacement machine with the generous assistance of Rizzeria users and supporters and helped thousands of people print their work. We’ve also seen more and more designers and artists around Australia buying their own Risograph machines (prices for secondhand printers seem to be decreasing as they’re used less for commercial purposes). For example, in Melbourne Ashley Ronning and Sarah McNeil just purchased two printers. They’re producing amazing Risograph zines and prints and also teaching people how to use the Riso.

Get excited and make things print Miss Helen

Get excited and make things print by Miss Helen

We currently stock 12 colours of ink (yellow, red, orange, blue, green, teal, purple, brown, black, pink, flat gold and silver/grey).

The Rizzeria runs open-print sessions and risograph courses from their Marrickville studio.


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