A Risograph is digital duplicator from Japan manufactured by the Riso Kagaku Corporation. They were launched in Japan in 1986 and was designed for high-volume photocopying and printing but in recent years has become a medium in its own right.
The technology used is similar to a mimeograph and automates several processes that were normally carried out manually such as the Gestetner system or the Riso Print Gocco system which was an incredibly popular method for home greeting card printing in Japan. So popular that at one time it was thought that one third of Japanese households had one.
The process used by the Risograph is that the original image is either scanned through the machine (or sent to it via computer) and a master is made. This is achieved by a thermal plate with tiny heat spots burning voids (corresponding to the image areas) on a thermal, rice based paper master sheet. This process is very similar to the one used when making a stencil within screenprinting but requires a lot less preparation. Because of this Risograph machines are sometimes described as halfway between screenprinting and photocopying. Once the stencil is on the drum and the ink has been applied, the paper is then fed flat through the machine whilst the drum itself rotates at high speed to apply ink to the image.
The inks used in Risograph printing are made from a vegetable soybean oil making them more environmentally friendly than petroleum based inks. The pigments used in them however aren’t quite 100% biodegradable as they are the same ones used in petroleum based inks. They are however easier to recycle as the soy based ink can be more easily removed during the paper de-inking process used in recycling.
Since the process uses ink similar to that of offset printing and doesn’t need heat to fix the image to the paper it can be treated like any offset-printed material. For example, Riso printed sheets can be fed through a laser printer or screenprinted on once printed.
The machine used by us can print two colours at once up to a maximum size of A3 and has interchangeable drums for each colour. There are around 20 official Risograph colours with an array of custom ones available too. We currently have 9 ink colours: Aqua, Black, Blue, Bright Red, Fluorescent Orange, Fluorescent Pink, Green, Teal and Yellow. We have 11 different recycled paper stocks available in various weights and colours, the maximum weight the Risograph can process is 250gsm. Due to the nature of soy based inks only uncoated papers can be used for Riso printing and take a while to dry.
Pricing (including VAT):
• Session Fee – £6
• Masters – £1.20 each
• Ink – £1.20 each
• A3 paper (80gsm) – 30p
• A3 paper (90 – 250gsm) – 60p
Risograph illustration by Erin Brogan