Risograph Print Guide
Risograph is the perfect bridge between digital design and physical artwork, producing speedy prints with a tactile 'screen printed' look using a range of vivid spot colour inks which are completely unique to Riso. Thousands of copies can be created from each stencil, yet each print is subtly unique due to the Risographs (charmingly!) imperfect registration between ink layers.
Artwork is sent to the Riso via a computer connection or manually through the scanner bed, just like a photocopier. The machine then burns the artwork onto a roll of thermal sensitive paper and wraps this around the print drum, creating a stencil from which hundreds or thousands of prints can be made. Paper is then fed into the machine where it presses against the rotating drum and stencil to print the exposed image. Each colour is printed using a separate drum and must be done in layers, one on top of the other.
Using little power and soy based ink, the Riso is very environmentally friendly. Inks can be used independently or layered at different opacities to make new colours, as they are semi-transparent.
With it’s signature look of very tactile, flat colours which ‘pop’ off the page, Risograph works really well with layered graphics, text, illustrations and photographs. Almost anything can be Riso printed including posters, art prints, flyers, postcards, stationery, business cards, zines, vinyl/CD/cassette covers, packaging, tags, menus, leaflets, maps and stickers.
The Risograph doesn't produce 'perfect' print results and finished prints will look different to digital designs. Although we print from digital files, Risograph is more of an analogue method and layers have to be aligned and adjusted manually. Each print will be slightly different, with mis-registration between layers and visual imperfections. Its limitations and imperfections are what makes Risograph prints unique and when used in a creative and intelligent way, produces outstanding results!
This page should contain everything you need to know to create Risograph print artwork, or you can check out our FAQ's.
● Maximum paper size - A3, 297 x 420mm
● Maximum printable area is 277 x 400mm
A 10mm blank border should be left around the edge of artwork, as the Riso can't print full bleed. We print onto A3 paper and trim down as necessary, so you'll get 2 x A4 copies / 4 x A5 copies / 8 x A6 copies from each A3 sheet. We can also trim to custom sizes and full bleed designs, by setting crop marks plus 3.5mm bleed - download our artwork templates here.
Each colour layer is printed one at a time and registration is controlled manually, therefore one of the Risograph's signature quirks is that there's always a couple of millimetres mis-alignment between layers. The more layers in your design, the higher the chance of mis-registration, as the paper passes through the printer separately for each colour.
We don't recommend designs where alignment is crucial such as very small details or overlaid text, as they won't look clear when the layers print out of sync with each other. Double sided prints are also quite difficult to align between back and front, so please allow for this in your artwork.
You should not expect perfect alignment with Risograph! If your project demands this, digital printing will be more suitable.
As Riso inks are semi-transparent, you can overlay them to create new shades and interesting effects. The only exception is metallic gold, which sits on the surface of other inks and is very opaque. Risograph inks change appearance depending which colour paper they're printed onto; for example fluorescent pink ink on yellow paper will appear orange.
You can choose to set your design to overlay, where colours will sit on top of each other and ‘mix’, or you can knock out your design if you want each colour to be independent. Adding trapping to your design will help minimise any gaps due to mis-registration. This is a guide from Adobe on trapping.
Overlaying inks to make new shades means you can use less stencils for your prints, reducing the cost and chance of mis-registration and printer marks. A helpful way to check the results of overlaying colours is to set your layers to ‘multiply’ in Adobe; this will give you a rough idea of how your design will look. We also offer free of charge digital proofs prior to printing. Setting your artwork layers to lower opacities is great for mixing inks and is recommended for large areas of colour, to avoid inky paper and printer jams. You can also set gradients within artwork to achieve a faded effect - gradients should start from 20-30% opacity at the lighter end, fading into 90-100% at the darker end.
Heavy ink coverage
Large areas of dense ink do not print very well, causing the paper to jam or get stuck to the drum. You should set large areas of colour to an opacity of 70% or less. Large areas of ink can also produce 'waves' where the ink is wetter in some parts than others. Instead of printing a full colour background, we recommend printing onto coloured paper for a better result.
Roller & pick-up marks
The top 5cm or so of the paper is fed into the machine by rubber rollers, so ink coverage in this area should be kept to a minimum to avoid jamming and roller marks. There are two other rubber rollers which feed the paper and can cause small compression marks in large areas of colour. There is also a plastic 'pick-up needle' inside the machine which helps to feed sheets through, but this can drag through heavy areas of ink and cause a line to appear.
Roller and pick up marks should be expected when printing multiple colours or double sided prints, although we do try to minimise this where possible and may suggest altering artwork for a better result. However, roller marks on paper can be rubbed out with an eraser!
Ink transfer & smudging
Prints are stacked to feed into the machine for additional colours, as well as being stacked when fed out of the machine, therefore ink can transfer to backs of prints. We do offer a blotting paper service (at additional cost) if you wish to minimise this, although it won't eliminate it completely. As ink is soy-based and similar to newspaper printing it never completely dries, so prints should be handled carefully to avoid fingerprints and smudging. Reducing the opacity of your layers will help to avoid transfer marks and smudging.
Risograph artwork should be set up in the same way as for screen printing - as each ink layer is printed individually, we require a separate digital file for each colour you'll be using. The title of each file should be the name of the ink colour.
It's much easier to set up artwork on individual layers at the start of a project, as it may be quite difficult to separate out if you've already flattened an image. Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator & Indesign layers are easy to keep track of and rename as you go. We personally love creating artwork with Procreate on an iPad, as this works in a similar way and artwork can be exported in layers.
Digital files should be PDFs set to A3 size (297 x 420mm) at 300dpi. You can save your artwork layers as PDFs when using any Adobe program. We require a full colour reference file so we know how you'd like artwork to look - this can be jpg, png, pdf etc.
A 10mm blank margin should be left around artwork as the Riso can't print A3 full bleed. We print everything onto A3 sheets and trim down as necessary, so you'll need to provide artwork laid up onto A3 spreads. For full bleed prints, crop marks and 3.5mm bleed should be set inside the 10mm blank border - we have Adobe templates available here.
Text should be flattened or outlined and set to 6pt or larger - vector files are best for crisp results.
The Risograph 'reads' levels of black and cuts stencils based on how opaque the black is. For example, 100% black in your digital file will print at 100% ink colour and 50% black will print at 50% ink colour. The lightest level in your artwork should be 20% or above, as the printer cannot correctly read opacities below this. Black should be set to HEX #00000 or 100% K.
All files are printed exactly as received and we cannot be held responsible for any mistakes, although we will flag any obvious errors if we spot them! Our studio time is charged at £25ph for any file amendments required.
Photographs can be printed with Risograph by separating the colour channels of the image and printing them one at a time, in the same way as other artwork. We digitally add a halftone effect to the layers before printing, to help the colours 'mix' to the eye - very similar to colour newspaper images. Photographs with high contrast work best for Risograph printing.
You're welcome to split the colour channels yourself and send us separate digital files to print from, or we can prepare them for you and send over a digital proof prior to printing. We use free open-source Photoshop colour profiles from colorshift.theretherenow.com and substitute inks for the colours we have in stock. We can process a photograph in 3 different colour profiles of your choice within one hour of studio time (£25 ph).
This separation method can also be used to print full colour paintings or illustrations which have been digitally photographed or scanned.
We print, trim and bind publications in house and have staple, sewing machine stitch and coil binding options available. We print everything onto A3 paper and trim down accordingly, so artworks should be laid out correctly for your page order, taking the double sided pagination into account. We have artwork templates available here (including A4, A5 & A6 layouts). If you need assistance with laying out artwork for a publication, our studio time is charged at £25ph.
The largest publication size possible would be portrait A4 (with a 10mm blank border around artwork), or we can trim to any custom sizes smaller than this. We can also supply flat trimmed prints ready for other types of binding if you'd like to source this elsewhere (perfect binding, for example).
Binding services we currently offer - silver flat staples, silver loop staples, sewing machine stitching (any thread colour) and plastic coil binding (black / white / clear / aqua / yellow / orange / pink coils).
We offer a range of finishing services in house to cater for all types of print projects - a custom quote can be requested for these.