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What is Riso?

Risography is a printing method somewhere between analog and digital that is both eco-friendly and cost-effective for many projects: one spot color at a time. The inks are semi-translucent which means they blend incredibly well, so the opportunities are many when it comes to producing unique printed images.

Starting in the 1980s, the RISO Kagaku Corporation of Japan began producing ideal printers that would print fast and cheap. How ideal? The ink, for example, is based on soybeans and is biodegradable. There is even a solar powered model for use in countries with limited access to reliable electricity.

At first, these machines were marketed to offices due to their ability to efficiently print large quantities of documents. In their original golden age, Risographs enjoyed popularity among schools, churches and political parties. However, some users were put off by the machine's quirks such as relatively long drying times for the ink and the occasional less than perfect registration. Eventually, Risographs were phased out in these contexts as other printing technologies emerged and were refined.

Fast forward some years to a magical time (circa 2010) when it was possible to obtain used machines on the cheap if one was willing to put in a little work and fix them up. Before long, artists and designers all over the world became entranced by the Riso's signature qualities and embraced the finicky machines. There's even a rumor that the A2 machine, which was released in 2016, came about due to the Russian newspaper industry and their interest in the technique.

Colors available on Norwgian machines (updated 6/2019)

Close-up of a 3-color print (red, yellow, blue)

Example color separation of a 6-color print courtesy of &soWalter