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Learning How to Make a Risograph Print at the Compound Gallery

Posted by Michelle Chandra on

If you love all things print (like me!) then you probably have seen or heard about the risograph printing process. The easiest way to describe it is a photocopier that is kind-of like a screen printing machine. 

risograph print

Recently, I took a workshop on how to make a risograph print at the Compound Gallery in Emeryville. I had a blast, for so many reasons!

compound gallery in emeryville california

If you love thinking about color, and blending colors, then risograph prints are awesome. The ink options are beautiful, and all plant based. To make a multiple color print (we made 2-color prints, although it is possible to go up to 4-color prints), you print each individual layer with the risograph machine, and where your ink layers overlap, a third color will occur! For instance, overlapping blue and red ink layers would probably result in a pretty purple color.

For my riso project, I decided to make a limited run of generative riso prints as a Make 100 Kickstarter reward. 

risograph machine

The risograph machines we were working with at the workshop were older, and required a hard copy of our image layers. The risograph machine works just like a standard xerox photo copier. The first process is to create the stencil (called a Master in Riso-speak) by scanning the hard copy of our image. Like screen printing, the riso machine burns holes into the stencil layer where the ink would pass through to print the image.

Once the stencil is created, and you are happy with how it looks (there are a number of settings you can adjust on the riso for different effects, although each adjustment would require making a new stencil!), it was time to print our first layers. It doesn't matter with a risograph so much which layer you print first, so I printed the dark blue mandala layer first.

riso ink and riso print in riso federal blue

After waiting for the prints to dry for about an hour, I printed my second layer with a flourescent orange ink.

My design didn't have as much overlap as I would have wanted, so there isn't as much of that cool third purpley color. Definitely a riso goal for the next time I make a riso print!

These fun prints will be part of my Make 100 Kickstarter campaign, which I will launch in January of 2020. 

riso print in fluorescent orange and federal blue

Happy riso-printing!

About Dirt Alley Design

michelle chandra dirt alley design


Dirt Alley Design was founded just off a dirt alley in San Francisco in December of 2016 by artist Michelle Chandra. Inspired by the beauty of street grids, Michelle invented maze maps in which she transforms street grids into mazes. In 2019, she began a new project - generative prints created with code and drawn with a pen plotter. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @dirtalleydesign where she posts new spirograph designs daily.


artist process printmaking

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