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The Riso Show. (But, what exactly is a Risograph anyway?)

We are thrilled to have works by more than 30 UK artists in our latest show, with all of them working with the Risograph technique. But what exactly is a Risograph?

Some people describe it as the love child of a screen print and a photocopier, and it is certainly quite a niche machine, but those who love it, LOVE IT! And we do too.

We've been scratching around the internet and have borrowed some of the most east to understand descriptions we have found so far to put together this beginners guide to Riso.

First up, a description from Riso Pop, a small printing studio in Amsterdam run by Aafke Mertens. 

What is a Riso?

Risograph printing is a technique sometimes described as a ‘digital screen printing’. The process is similar to screen printing, but with the convenience of an office copier. It’s known for its vivid colours (that other printers can’t produce) and its specific textures. These machines deliver ‘perfect imperfections’ and provide a cheap and easy method for reproducing work at large quantities, like posters, prints and zines.

Riso is the name of both a printer and ink company from Japan. Noboru Hayama started his company in post-war Japan (in 1946), calling it Riso. The risograph and the development of soy-based ink was a response to the expensive import tax levied on emulsion ink following the end of World War II. The name Riso means ‘ideal’ in Japanese, a poetic name that Hayama chose as he found it important that people should not lose their ideals during this period of despair.

How does a Riso work?

  • When you scan or upload an image to the machine, it first makes a paper stencil and wraps this around the ink drum - these are called masters.

  • Paper is placed on the feeder and passed through one or two of the single colour ink drums.

  • The machine creates a ‘digital’ stamp of individual colours (which are incredibly vibrant!) and, layered together, they can create a colorful image.

Why is Riso so intertesting?

Any type of printing technique is like a puzzle - you need to think about what you are doing and how. You need to work in layers and with a limited amount of colours, this pushes you to experiment, embrace unexpected outcomes and try out new things.

The RISO, even though being a digital machine, does not guarantee perfection, which makes each piece unique. It doesn’t always do what you expect, but the more you use it the better you understand this machine.

Thanks, Aafke. And, in case you're still not sure, check out this handy short intro from The Experimental Methods & Media Lab, an initiative at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. 



It's fun, isn't it? Now come and visit the gallery to see how more than 30 artists have harnessed the technique to brilliant effect. You'll be amazed at the variety.

The Riso Show is open daily from 11am -5pm here at Atelier Beside the Sea until 19th May. If you can't isit in person, shop the show online.