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What is Risograph Printing? (With file preparation tutorial)

This month I will be talking about Risography, what it is, how it works and how to set up your files ready for print. By the end of this blog post you should have a better understanding about Risography and hopefully feel inspired to get some of your own artwork printed.

Above is an example of two risograph prints that have been printed with only 2 inks (Fluorescent orange and Blue)

How does Risography work?

The Risograph is a stencil duplicator. Think of it as a cross between screen printing and photocopying. The Riso prints one color at a time in bright, vibrant colours.

The Risograph machine works by creating a stencil that is etched on to a rice sheet, called ‘the Master Sheet’, the Master is automatically wrapped around an ink drum, ink is then pushed through the tiny holes that have been burned into the master sheet.

duplicating an impression of the image onto paper by rolling it over the drum and through the machine.

It prints one or two layers of colour at a time. The paper needs to be fed through the machine each time to build up each colour layer.

<< The Risograph printer (duplicator) looks very similar to a Photocopier, But they work very differently.

Risograph Inks and Drums

Many Risograph Inks are soy based and are held in ink containers like the one pictured below.

The inks are held within ink drums.

<<Ink containers

Ink drums >>

Your design is etched onto the master sheet. The Master sheet is wrapped around the drum.

How do I prepare my design for Risograph printing?

Note: (I will be using Adobe Illustrator for this tutorial and working on Apple Mac)

Spot Colours

You have to remember that each colour in your design will be printed on a separate 'Master sheet'.

So when you start creating your design it's important to use spot colours that match your Risograph print supplier stock colours.


<<< Here is an example of swatches I created that matched the colours of my supplier.

Colour Separations

<<< Select 'window' and click on 'separations preview'

Separations preview allows you to toggle the spot colours you are using in your design, and help you visually understand how the colours build up and how they might look printed.

Your Design

  • Choose two spot colours for your design - ( I'm using fluoro orange and blue spot colours)

  • Set each layer at 80% opacity maximum - ( any higher and it might mess with colour distribution and the print will become patchy and messy)

  • Set each layer to 'multiply' this makes the colours transparent and mimic how the inks behave when overlayed on paper,

  • Play around with the opacity of each spot colour you are using to change the tone of colour.

<<< Here is an Example of 2 spot colours used for a design

  • I have used 2 spot colours that have varied opacities, this gives deeper colours or pastel lighter colours

  • Orange and blue spot colours overlayed have created a purple appearance.

Colour Separations Preview

Below is what the design looks like when the colours are separated ( Remember you can view this by clicking window>separations preview>overprint view> (and then toggling each colour)

How to Export your design for Risograph printing

The artwork needs to have each spot colour exported as a grayscale/Black and white PDF document (as seen in the example below.)

The greyscale PDF should be named according to which colour it is intended for.

(This will help your print supplier out so much)

How do I export?

1. Click file>Print>

2. In the print window select:

Printer>Adobe postscript File

3. Select Media size> A4 borderless (or whatever print size you are using)

4. Select Scaling> Fit to page

5. Select Output>Mode> Separations (Host based)

6. Find Document ink and select the spot colours you wish to export

I'm using Orange (R=251 G=111 B=115) and blue (process Cyan) in this example)

7. Select save

8. A file will be saved as a postsript file ( .ps )

9. Open your postscript file to have a look.

There will be a PDF page for each colour you have exported.

10. Saving each PDF page separately from your postscript file.

  • In the opened postscript file select :

  • view>thumbnails

  • Drag each thumbnail to your desktop

  • Rename each dragged PDF according to which colour will be used for

<<<Rename each Dragged PDF

<<< Make sure you name them by the correct colour.

<<< I like to save colour versions just to double check I'm naming the grayscale PDF files correctly.


Your files are now ready for Risograph printing!


Any questions or ways I can improve this tutorial?

Get in touch, I would love to hear from you!

Every month I will be sharing with you my personal work-arounds, writing about my experiences, offering free downloadable material and Tutorials.


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