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  • Writer's pictureBertrand Mougel

Sustainable Design Practice: RISO

Updated: May 19, 2020

RISO or risograph is a print process invented in the Eighties in Japan as a duplicator for schools and offices. It is low cost, eco-friendly and has a special aesthetic that is becoming popular again amongst graphic designer, illustrators and artists.

Image from Risotto Studio, Glasgow

Comment ça marche?

It looks like a photocopy machine! but is more some kind of mechanical screen printer. The machine photocopies your artwork and then makes a master stencil out of it and wraps it around the ink drum. The ink drums rotates at very high speed and pushes ink through the stencil onto the paper. It prints one colour at a time. If you wanted a two colour print, you would have to change the ink drum, make a new master for the second colour layer and then puts the same paper through the machine.

A master can be used to reproduce thousands of copy very quickly. The main cost being the making of the master. It is best for a design to print for at least 50 exemplars. It is perfect for poster, flyers, comics, booklets, zines, programmes, etc.

Why is it so eco friendly?

Energy: The RISO machine uses less electricity than most other printers in its class. It is a device with about 100Wh to 300Wh for A3 printing while a printer of the same capacity would use minimum of 450Wh.

Plant based: The ink used in risograph are plant based. They can be rice bran oil based or soybean oil based which are all non-toxic. Also the master are made of plant fibre (someone said banana leaves once to me, I need to check).

Ozone: Traditional toner printer and photocopier emit tiny particles of ozone into the air when in use. Those particles can be cause of irritation to the eyes and respiratory tract but it is also harmful to the environment. RISO' s inkjet printers do not produce harmful ozone and toner emissions.

Less waste: It only takes a single print for the stencil to be fully inked and ready to print. Compared to a typical mid-size printer it does not need 100,000 litres of water and 10,000 litres of alcohol to operate.

It is therefore super ethical and I would definitely consider this option for clients that would look into an eco-friendly solution for their stationery, posters and flyers.

Why is it so cool?

Besides being ethical, the risograph are prints of radiant colour, so many available, with even metallic shines. It allows you to compose your design on the computer but also you can do all the design away from the computer, and go full on ANALOGUE. and the results are baffling and always stick out amongst conventional prints. The value of a riso print is just so much more and can be a very nice product when applied on nice textured and toned paper.


I first discovered risograph printing through a friend invite to participate to a risography workshop with RISOTTO studio. I also had the change to learn with french artists from the Atelier BINGO.

Image from

Then my college bought a machine! Incredibly exciting to be able to learn using the machine while at school, for a much reduced cost. I was able to design posters, business cards and fanzines through my studies. See below:

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