What’s a Riso and why are we using it?

Nov 2017

At Studiomade we’ve had an ominous looking printer sitting in the corner of the studio for over a year. Only recently we decided to learn more about what it’s capable of, and to try and include and encourage print-making within our studio culture.

The Risograph (or Riso) is a relatively cheap to use printer, originally designed for high-volume printing or copying. Similar to the screen printing process you can only print a single colour at a time, but instead of using silk-screens, it uses a stencil which spins around an ink drum and transfers the ink to the paper. With only one ink able to be loaded into the Riso at a time, artwork must be split into colour separated files to achieve a print with more than one colour.

The only problem with multi-colour printing is the drying time—it takes so long for the ink to dry and if not properly dried, the ink smears as it runs through the Riso again. So they usually end up sitting in the drying rack for a few days which slows down the process.

It takes seconds for the Riso to output a print, this makes the process energy efficient and the reason it’s able to print around a thousand copies in 10 minutes.The print itself is quite lo-fi, which in my opinion adds to the aesthetic of the process and makes it desirable—it’s definitely a craft.

Why are we using a Riso?

At Studiomade we have just launched an online store, selling art that has been created in-house in addition to collaborations with other artists. The Riso seemed like a constructive way to put our illustration skills to good use in a process that isn’t wildly recognised.

Working at a studio that encourages creativity and provides you with something to channel it is a great thing. If you’re like me and carry around a sketchbook and iPad that’s filled with million dollar ideas and crude doodles, then the Riso is a great tool as an illustrator to get your ideas onto paper, and put them out there for people to see and buy.

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