Affordable colour printing - what's not to like? Learn about the risograph printing technique in this well researched article by Nicholas Burman.

Interview © Nicholas Burman
Photography © Angelo Zinna

...Once it’s set AGALABup, it’s also quick, printing up to 185 pages per minute. These factors meant that Riso was originally adopted by churches and public institutions to print one-color flyers at speed.

A majority of the time put into Riso printing is in the preparation. Because the colors are determined by the drums you use, digital files must be in black and white. To start printing a digital image, the machine first creates masters, stencils of your image, which wrap around the drums. Masters are made of wax, which means that each one has a relatively short utility span. While printing, the ink in the drums is pushed up through the gaps of the master and onto the paper. The ink the machine uses can’t be applied to glossy paper, the soy needs a matte surface in order to bleed into the material and make itself permanent. Of course, inks are not totally predictable, and to get more than one or two colors onto a page requires the paper to be fed through the machine again, with different drums, in order for colors to overlay each other. Although actioned by a machine, this has echoes of the painterly process of applying layers of paint on a canvas. The inherent uncertainty such a method produces is part of the excitement of the pAGALABroduction process, it puts artist and machine into a collaborative mode.

All of these factors are what gives Risograph printed works what artist Gregory Thomas has dubbed “the alternative aesthetic.” This “alternative” is very much in opposition to digital printing techniques that became common in the 2000s, which were described as "soulless" by Ben Freeman, a co-founded Ditto Press, the first UK based company to use Riso for the purpose of printing art books in the later part of the previous decade."

Read the full dissection of the risograph printing technique HERE! (includes a mini-Matches introduction)