Tuesday, 16 September 2014

What is ...Riso Printing?

What is ...Number 9
Regular followers of this blog will know that in the middle of the month, I publish a "What is ....? post. The article covers various aspects of paper, printing and finishing in greater depth. However, many of these subjects are complex, so these posts are only intended to be a brief introduction to the topic.

What is ...Riso Printing?
Riso or Risograph printing is one of the earliest forms of 'electronic' printing (as opposed to digital). Neither a photocopier or a duplicator, Risography was launched in the mid 1980's and provided a cheap method of colour printing that was cheaper than photocopying for short to medium runs and cheaper than short run offset litho. It was particularly aimed at educational establishments and offices.
Riso EZ200 model
Picture showing the master around the drums
The technology is an evolution of the old 'spirit duplicators' which worked on a typed or drawn wax 'master' through which ink is forced through and onto the paper.
The Riso machine scans an original (or today a digital interface is used) and a 'master' or stencil, which is similar to and can be described as printing plate is produced - through a heat process. From then on the process is similar to a cylindrical screen printer! The master/stencil (plate) is wrapped around a drum (which contains the ink). The drum revolves and the ink is forced through the master, printing the ink directly onto the paper that is fed past it through each revolution, one colour per drum, at a time. Each drum is charged with ink and is a particular colour, of which there are about 20 colours currently available. Inks come from the manufacturer ready mixed and only standard colours are possible. It is possible to crudely register colours although 'process' colours and registering four colours isn't feasible.
To illustrate this post, here is a project which has been printed Riso and a great example of what can be achieved. Open Books is designed by Sophie Demay and Lola Halifa-Legrand. It's a sub A5 format, wiro bound with a variety of different text papers and printed is a blue, green and red.
Cover, above is printed blue, on Colorset Suede 270gsm.Below shows double page spread printed in green...
Below is an example of solid red (looks pretty good)
 Below is an example of solid blue (not so great!) ...but as all printers will say, if you're going to have a problem with any colour, it'll be blue!
Invitation, below, printed Riso in two colours, yellow and blue on white:
Open Books is Riso printed by Hato Press, also based in London.

So what else should you know about Riso printing?
Some of the machines are A4, oversize A4 or A3, so it depends on the size that the printer has. Riso printers only print on uncoated papers and ideally paper which has a slightly rougher, more 'open' surface. Riso machines don't like lightweight or heavyweight papers, so the acceptable weights tend to be from 100gsm up to 270gsm.

There are now quite a few independent Riso printing companies or studios around, some of whom have been established for a few years. It is an increasingly popular printing method for independent publishers and designers wishing to experiment with printing. It is considerably cheaper than offset litho printing and HP Indigo print, although the quality is unique and characterful, but won't be appreciated by everyone!

You can read more here:

This is a very good resource: http://stencil.wiki/atlas

...and here is a list of a few Riso printers that I know of:
...and now in Glasgow (Updated 2016): https://www.risottostudio.com/
...and another one in London (Updated Sept 2017) www.beforebreakfast.london
...and another one in London (Updated Sept 2018) https://jumbo-press.com/
Posted by Justin Hobson 16.09.2014

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