Print Methods We Love: Risographs

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There are more ways to print a photo than there are to leave your lover. So, according to Paul Simon, at least 50.

The newest way we just can’t get enough of is the Risograph Machine … and hopping on the bus, Gus.

But, it turns out Risographs are not all that new. The Risograph was invented in Japan in the 80’s. While not initially intended for printing photos, we really like what photographers with Risos have been printing up in recent years. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

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What’s a Risograph?
Let’s talk about the machine itself. The insides of a RISO printer-duplicator are really cool.

They can print from either an existing print (like a photocopier) or a digital file. First the Riso uses heat to burn holes into a thin plastic sheet, where the image has color. This negative image is called the master and it get wrapped around a drum full of ink. Then, the drum rolls over paper while ink is squeezed through the master and there you have it, prints come flying out of the Riso; they’re quite fast at what they do.

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Where Did This Wonder Come From?
In late 1940’s Japan emulsion ink was hard to come by. So, Noboru Hayama hung a sign reading RISO outside of his home and started a soy-based ink business to offer affordable ink.

Decades later the Riso machine was also born out of frugality. Since its ink is cheaper than toner and doesn’t require as much heat and electricity to set it, Riso machines were first marketed to schools and small businesses as the economical alternative to photocopiers.

So, risograph machines got their start printing meeting fliers and worksheets for school kids. But, they didn’t stay all business for long.

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What Are They Up to Now?
These days Risograph machines are making their homes in design workshops and art studios.

The main draw for artists are Riso inks. They are available in bright, even neon, colors, and are a bit translucent. So, the inks can be layered to make new colors, or used solo for dramatic monochrome prints.

Since any uncoated paper can be run through a Riso machine, artists can experiment with the way the inks look on different textures.

The risograph is a comfortable middle ground between the clinical perfection of a photocopier or inkjet, and the steep learning curve (not to mention giant mess) involved with screen printing.

And if you are looking to leave a lover we recommend you don’t look them in the eyes tho, Riso.

Thanks for the photos nothingmajor and ditto press