Risograph at damn fine print

As well as specialising in screen printing, at Damn Fine Print we offer a range of services in risograph printing.


Risograph is a print process that combines elements of screen printing and photocopying, printing one colour at a time and building up layers of colour to create your finished artwork.

The risograph itself is a machine that looks similar to a photocopier, however rather than using regular printing ink or toner, it uses a large drum of ink to print your image. (pictured)

Each risograph drum has a unique colour ink, and printing in multiple colours is achieved by swapping drums in and out of the machine and printing layers on top of one another. A separate file is required for each colour of your print, as a result. These colours are unique to risograph printing, producing results different to regular digital printing, with a number of options such as fluorescents and metallics available.

We can print posters, flyers, zines, books and more. Risograph printing is suited to printing in multiples. As most of the cost of printing is in the set-up, printing is more cost effective when printing with fewer colours, and printing in larger quantities. We can print individual prints, but recommend printing at least ten copies for prints, or 50 copies for books and zines. Read our print guidelines below for more details on Riso's capabilities.

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The Risograph process


Your file is sent to print from a computer connected to the riso. After we press print, a stencil of your image is created on the drum of ink inside the machine.


The colour of your print is determined by which colour ink drum is in the machine. The drum rotates as paper is fed through the machine, printing your image on to the paper and creating the first layer of your print.


To make prints with multiple colours, we repeat this process. The drum in the machine is swapped for a different drum of a different colour, adding an additional colour to your print.


We currently have nine colours for our risograph. These are:


As Riso inks are transparent, inks can be printed on top of one another to create new combinations. This can be an effective way to reduce the number of colours required in your design, and reduce cost.

This also means that printing on coloured paper effects the colour of your inks. For example, printing pink ink on yellow paper will make it appear orange.

special inks

Due to risograph inks having their own colour system and not being limited to regular printing colours, we can print in special tones not normally achievable. Our current special inks include fluorescent pink, fluorescent orange, and metallic gold.

Metallic ink: Our metallic gold has a very different finish to some of our other inks. It has a glittery finish and is opaque, unlike other riso inks, meaning it can be used on coloured papers and still appear as gold.

Setting up your files for riso

correct set-up

A different file is required for each colour of your design. We ask for a separate PDF for each colour layer in your file, and a colour reference as an example for how you want your finished piece to look.

To get the best results, we need high-res files, between 300 and 600dpi. Anything lower than this can make your prints look pixelated.

There is no limit on what software you can use to produce these, as long as you can provide print-ready PDFs for each layer.

Above: Three separate files, and their resulting print. Files should not be sent in colour, but in greyscale.

Colour Percentages

Though risograph printing is limited by the colours of ink drums, lighter shades of all of these colours can be achieved by using ligher shades of grey in your files. See above for the results of printing different shades of grey in pink ink.

Large areas of 100% black can cause issues such as smudging, jamming, marking the backs of prints, and roller marks, so we recommend that large areas of colour be no darker than 75% grey in your file. When overlaying two colours, it is best not to have them both at 100%, and have one of them at least as light as 75%.

paper sizes


Max Print Sizes
The largest paper size we can print on is A3 (297mm x 420mm).

At this size, there will always be a slight border of 5mm on your prints (shown above in red), as the risograph does not print edge-to-edge. For borderless printing, the maximum size is 287mm x 410mm. To achieve this, we print on A3 and trim down, so A3 sized files should still be provided.

Max Book Sizes
For printing books, rather than standard sizes like A4 or A5, we recommend slightly smaller sizes which allow us to trim down your book and leave no borders.

Instead of A4(210 x 297mm) we recommend 195 x 282mm.

Instead of A5(148 x 210mm) we recommend 133 x 195mm. Printing at these sizes or smaller make for the most cost-effective book printing.


basic images

We print from greyscale PDF files. Different tones of the same colour can be created on the same master, by varying the shade of grey in your file. This is a useful tool to reduce the number of colours in your file, or to print photographic images.

duotone images

Duotone images are created by reducing an image down to two colour layers. This is an economic way to express a range of colours using only two inks. We can apply this in either Medium Blue & Fluorescent Pink inks (pictured) or in Green and FLuorescent Orange inks.

CMYK Images

We can replicate full colour printing by substituting the ordinary CMYK layers of a full colour image, for our riso inks. The most common way we do this is using Aqua, Fluorescent Pink, Yellow and Black inks.

These layers will not align perfectly, and colours can vary slightly from print to print.


Do not set text below 6pt in size. If you are printing white text on a coloured background (knockout text) do not set text below 8pt in size. Printing the same text in two colours to make a new colour (For example: Pink and Medium Blue to make Purple text) is not advised unless for large headings or display type. This is because the layers will not line up perfectly.

Text prints best when it has been set in Illustrator, and outlined before being sent to print.


If you’re printing more than two layers, it is unlikely that your layers will line up perfectly. Keep this in mind when designing your files. You can include trapping to compensate for this.

Registration is particularly tricky when printing double sided, so it is best to presume that your two sides will not line up perfectly.

roller marks

It is best to avoid heavy ink coverage on the feed edge of your design (The top edge of a portrait A3 image). The RISO feeds the paper into the machine using a set of rubber rollers, and these pick up heavy ink, and can mark your prints. We always print with this in mind and do our best to avoid these; however they are not always avoidable.


Plain papers

1. Munken Polar
Our go-to white paper
Available in:
Rough 120gsm, 170gsm.
Smooth 240gsm.

*OR* Freelife Vellum White
An alternative white stock in a lighter weight.
Available in:
Rough 120gsm.

2. Munken Pure
Our go-to off-white paper
Available in:
Smooth 100gsm, 240gsm.
Rough 120gsm, 170gsm.

3. Context Flint
A recycled stock with a similar warm grey tone to newsprint.
Available in: 80gsm, 140gsm

textured papers

4. Context Birch
An off-white recycled stock with natural fibres throughout.
Available in: 170gsm, 225gsm.

5. Cairn Straw
A more distressed recycled stock, with a rougher feel.
Available in: 120gsm.

6. Freelife Oikos White
A white recycled stock with grey/black fibres runnning throughout.
Available in: 120gsm, 150gsm.

coloured papers

7. Context Salmon
A pale pink stock with a slight grey tint.
Available in: 225gsm.

8. Context Pink
Available in: 170gsm.

9. Context Yellow
Available in: 170gsm.

10. Context Green
Available in: 170gsm.

11. Context Blue
Available in: 170gsm.

12. Black Card
Suitable when using aqua or gold inks, which are more opaque than our other colours.
Available in: 170gsm.

riso ink quirks

Riso's soy-based inks behave slightly differently to other printing inks. Because of this, risograph printing is prone to certain unique imperfections. These include:

Smudging: Risograph inks are wet when they are printed, which means that printing involves a risk of smudging when handling prints, or when printing multiple layers.

Uneven Coverage: Inks print with a slight texture and can vary in density across large areas of printed ink.

Registration: As layers are printed one colour at a time, passing your paper through the machine each time, it is unlikely that layers will line up perfectly. This is particularly unlikely when printing double sided.

Roller Marks: Pages are fed through the Riso by a series of rubber rollers that sit at the centre of your page. When printing multiple layers, these can pick up residual ink which can mark your prints. We do our best to avoid this by taking into account the order in which we print your layers.

Paper limitations: Risograph ink dries by soaking into the paper. As a result, we can only print on uncoated (matte/non-gloss) paper. The paper's thickness can be anywhere between 80gsm (ordinary copy paper) or 300gsm (thick card for business cards or greeting cards).

Large areas of ink: Printing large areas of heavy/dark ink coverage can cause paper to stick to the ink drum and jam. For this reason, large areas of ink coverage should be no darker than 75%.

Before you send your files

This list of tips we've picked up in our time printing with RISO will help you ensure your files are ready to print without any issues.


Sending flattened files will prevent the risograph from creating any unexpected errors in your print's appearance. These can be caused by issues such as transparency, effects, typefaces not being found.

To flatten in Photoshop:
When saving your PDF tick the “As a Copy” box.
To Flatten in Illustrator:
When saving your file untick “Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities” box.

Set resolution to 300dpi. Lower resolution will leave your images pixelated.
Files should be A3 (297 x 420mm) in size.

when working with text

Do not set text below 6pt in size. If you are printing white text on a coloured background (knockout text) do not set text below 8pt in size.

For best results, outline your text (Illustrator).
Do not make text any lighter than 30% ink density.

Do not set line weights at less than 0.5pt. Lines thinner than this can appear broken, especially in lighter tones.

when sending your files

To print, we need separate PDF files for each colour layer in your image, and a full colour JPEG for reference.


ready to print?

get a quote

Fill out our quote form and one of our technicians will get back to you as soon as possible with your quote. Alternatively check out our print bundles for fast pricing.

Any questions? Just email us.

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