FAQ: Riso Wizard Sam

FAQ: Riso Wizard Sam
October 4, 2019 Calverts
USC poster printed Risograph print process

Leaflets for USC


FAQ: Riso Wizard Sam


Since we started operating our Riso printer in 2016, we have produced a plethora of exciting printed matter using this process. These jobs vary from personal artistic projects, posters, zines and comic books to labels, business cards and gallery catalogues.


The Riso finish has a unique look, and therefore can be used to elevate your project and make it look like no other print process. Most people tend to love the screenprint-like look, the playfulness and brightness of Riso prints; and we love it too. Sometimes we suggest it to customers that are unaware of the technique, in order to improve their projects. Sometimes, however, we advise people to choose another printing process.


So we thought it would be good to elaborate on which projects can benefit from Riso and why, and which projects would look better printed digitally or using our Heidelberg Offset Litho press. Sam, the so-called “Riso wizard” of Calverts, has a vast experience of everything Riso-related. Therefore, we decided to do a quick Q&A with him, where he could share his knowledge on this matter.


What is your personal experience with Riso, how did you start using this print process?


The first time I used Risograph printing was for a show I was involved in as a member of illustration group Puck Collective, for art fair ‘Pick Me Up’ at Somerset House, back in 2010. All 5 members at that time decided to get a series of Riso prints made. Fresh out of University (and not having had any experience with Riso before) I was quite surprised with the results, both in a good and bad way. What I later realised was that my artwork wasn’t set up correctly for Riso printing, hence the surprising outcome. Since then I’ve done many more print editions with the Riso, both whilst working at what used to be Ditto Press, as part of Puck Collective, and for my own personal projects. Despite printing countless works, commercially and privately, I’m sometimes still surprised by the results!


Why did you feel drawn to this process?

There is just nothing like the print finish you get with Riso! The nearest I can compare it to is offset Litho (using spot colours) but the machine itself applies halftones/bitmaps to the image and thus creates a unique tactility and texture that I haven’t found anywhere else. Also, it’s a very economical method to use that lies between the arduous labour of screen-printing and the expensive set up of Offset Litho.


What are your favourite projects you have Riso-printed in Calverts?

The series of poster prints we did for the Life Rewired season at the Barbican were gorgeous and really took advantage of the vibrant colours the Riso has, as did some flyers we printed for USC. Another favourite is a little Zine we printed for the Open Data Institute, designed by Adrian Philpott, with three vibrant colours and a lot of nice overlays, graphics and photos. But there’s always a lot of interesting ideas being floated about.


Life Rewired posters for Barbican, designed by Catalina Velásquez


What projects you wouldn’t advise to print on Riso? Why?

Anything with large areas of block colour (that you want flat and consistent), flyers or booklets with a lot of ink coverage that are to be handled (as the Riso ink is Soya based and so takes a while to dry), and maybe stuff with very tight registration, as the Riso ink has a tolerance of a couple of mm when registering layers. But my advice would be talk to your local Riso wizard when still designing to find out the best route and how you can get the most out of the process.


What projects benefit the most from Riso in your opinion?

Medium run length editions, say 50-2000 run (depending on what the finished thing is!), things with a lot of vibrant colour, and something that would benefit to having some texture and rawness to it!


What’s your favourite colour combination/paper to use?

That’s hard to decide with colours, it changes from design to design. But I am fan of metallic gold and grey ink on black paper, like Colorplan Ebony, they both really pop off the sheet!


What would you like to experiment with more? Is there anything exciting you can achieve with Riso that the customers rarely take notice of?

I’d like to play around more with colour overlays, as the possibilities are almost endless with combining 2 or 3 colours at different opacities. The plan is to work on a Calvert’s swatch book with a few of these colour combos, but with the 20 different colours that we stock it might be quite the undertaking!


Open Data Institute, designed by Adrian Philpott


If you are curious about the technical requirements for Riso files, as well as our colour swatches, check out the Riso part of our Print section on Calverts website. We organise regular Riso workshops too, introducing the process to both beginners and professional designers. For more information or if you have any questions, give us a shout at sam@calverts.coop.



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