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Risographs in East Oxford Community Centre


I just visited my neighbours at Oxford Green Print to find out more about Riso Printing, Risographs (digital duplicator presses) are designed for short run work. This usually means between 50 and 10,000 copies. They work by squeezing ink through a paper ‘master’, a bit like screen-printing. Whilst this produces a pixillated finish, it is environmentally friendly as it uses a very small quantity of soya ink. In fact requires 98% less energy than photocopying and uses soya inks which are completely free of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds, the polluting chemicals used in most conventional printing).

Risograph is a high-speed digital printing system manufactured by the Riso Kagaku Corporation in 1980’s Japan. The underlying technology is very similar to a mimeograph. It brings together several processes which were previously carried out manually, for example using the Riso Print Gocco system or the Gestetner system.

I spoke with Beth at Oxford Green Print who talked me through the process from setting up the artwork to loading in the ‘drums’ and papers. We spoke about the dying relationship between designers and printers and it reminded me of something I read in CR some time ago on designer Stuart Geddes‘ A Small Press in Melbourne. His studio Chase and Galley produce small run Riso publications for some of Australia and New Zealand’s best known creative enterprises, such as Architecture Australia and New Zealand’s Design Journal The National Grid. I am sad to say I have strong working relationships with only a limited number of printers up and down the country. This mainly comes down to cost, which is why Riso is an attractive proposal for small run work. It can be very cost effective.

In the UK for now, it appears Riso printing is popular with activist zines and the graphic art fraternity… however, watch this space.


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