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. Our print guidelines below should give you all the information you need to set up your files for the best possible results using riso.


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.

-Get a Quote
-Risograph Classes
-Assisted Access
-Zine Guidelines

Got a question? Email us.

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. This stencil is called a master. Each colour in a design requires its own master.


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 through the master, 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, and the next layer is printed, adding an additional colour to your print.

ink Colours

Riso colours don't conform to any colour coding system but approximations can be seen here. We currently have ten colours for our risograph. These are:


Pantone Black U
RGB 0, 0, 0
CMYK 0, 0, 0, 100

Medium Blue

Pantone 286 U
RGB 50, 85, 164
CMYK 87, 59, 0, 0


Pantone 3005 U
RGB 0, 120, 191
CMYK 99, 22, 0, 1


Pantone 637 U
RGB 94, 200, 229
CMYK 49, 0, 11, 0


Pantone 354 U
RGB 0, 169, 92
CMYK 87, 59, 0, 0


Pantone Yellow U
RGB 255, 232, 0
CMYK 0, 9, 100, 0

Fluorescent Orange

Pantone 805 U
RGB 255, 116, 119
CMYK 0, 55, 53, 0

Fluorescent Pink

Pantone 806 U
RGB 255, 72, 176
CMYK 0, 73, 31, 0

bright red

Pantone 185 U
RGB 241, 80, 96
CMYK 0, 67, 60, 5

metallic gold

Pantone 872 U

RGB 172, 147, 110
CMYK 22, 33, 68, 8

Colour information obtained from Stencil Wiki.


Risograph inks are different to ordinary digiital printing inks. Risograph inks are soy-based, and transparent, meaning they appear different when printed, dry differently, and produce unique visuals and textures.

- Risograph inks use their own colour system different to CMYK or RGB colours, allowing you to produce unique print results. Pantone references provided are close approximations for reference. More info can be read on these at stencil.wiki/colors

-Risograph inks can only be printed on uncoated (non-glossy) paper as they dry by absorbing into the paper. Drying time is required between layers when printing designs with more than two colours.

- Risograph inks are wet when they are printed. This means that they can smudge when handled, and if large areas of dark colour (100% tint) are printed, ink can transfer onto the back of your prints as they stack up while exiting the machine, marking the back of your prints. Large areas of dark colour can also cause prints to stick to the drum while printing and cause paper jams and smudges.

As Risograph inks are transparent, inks can be printed on top of one another to create new colour 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.

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.

Metallic Gold appears opaque when printed on black or coloured paper.

Metallic Ink Qualities

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.

This is not the case with other inks, which are transparent.


In order to print your image, we need to receive a separate file for each colour in the print. Please read the following section for more information on how this process works.


Though risograph is known for its bright colours, all files are sent to the printer in greyscale. The colour of your image is added by the printer, and is determined by which drum is in the machine.

To print solid colours, the colour in your file should be black. To print a lighter shade of this colour, your file should be a lighter shade of grey. Your file can contain a mix of black and grey, to achieve different shades of the same colour, in one layer.

For images with more than one colour, a different file is needed for each colour. There are a number of ways this can be done. The most common ways are working in layers, and toggling visibility on/off for each layer, saving a separate file each time.

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.

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, or tints, of grey in your files. See above for the results of printing different tints 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%.

Max. Print Sizes

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

Max. Print Area
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.

For full information on book and zine printing, view our Riso Zine Guidelines.


When printing photographic images in risograph, there are a number of options available to reproduce your images. As risograph does not print full-colour images, a number of different techniques are available as alternatives or experimental substitutes.

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 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.

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 Kendo
A white recycled stock with grey fibres running throughout. A less yellow alternative to context birch.
Available in: 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 imperfections


Riso's soy-based inks behave slightly differently to other printing inks. Because of this, risograph printing is prone to certain unique imperfections. We do our best to avoid any major unsightly marks that affect the appearance of your finished print, but these are not always avoidable, and are part of the risograph proces. 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%.

Please be aware of these imperfections when designing your files, and accept that we do our very best to ensure the best possible results based on the files you have provided.

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. Please note, if files need to be edited after printing has begun, this will incur a cost of €15 due to added material cost.


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.




As mentioned previously in the Riso Guidelines, riso ink is soy based ink. It contains a small amount of oil and as a result, it requires some drying time between layers to assure the best possible result. Ink can smudge and transfer onto other prints if prints are not given sufficient drying time.

Below is our typical turnaround time for Risograph commissions:

  • 1-2 COLOURS: Approx 1 day from when we receive the files.

  • 3-4 COLOURS: Approx 2 days from when we receive the files.

  • 4+ COLOURS: Approx 2-3 days from when we receive the files.

  • DOUBLE SIDED PRINTING: Prints will need to dry overnight for double sided printing. Turnaround time is approx 2-4 days from when we receive the files, depending on how many colours are on each side.

  • TRIMMING: If your job requires trimming we will need to allow the prints to dry overnight so that they can be trimmed the following day. An extra half day to a day will be added to the turnaround time for trimming, depending on the size of the job and how many cuts need to be made.

*Please note, turnaround time can vary based on how busy we are in the studio at the time.

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Any questions? Just email us.

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