Everything you need to know about making Riso prints.

Riso printing is a stencil printing method similar to silkscreen that was originally created for use in offices and schools for high quantity duplication. These machines were never intended to print artwork but have been repurposed by artists due to their their affordability and unique look. Like silkscreen, Riso uses spot color inks and is not limited to a CMYK color space.

How it works

A digital color separation is sent to the Riso, and burned into a stencil called a "master." The master is wrapped around one of the color drums and then flooded with ink. Paper is pulled into the machine, and forced between the drum and a pressure roller, forcing ink onto the page. Each color layer is printed one at a time.

Spot Color Inks

We currently stock 16 ink colors:

Black, Light Gray, Orchid, Blue, Aqua, Mint, Light Teal, Kelly Green, Light Lime, Yellow, Sunflower, Fluorescent Orange, Orange, Scarlet, Bubble Gum, Fluorescent Pink

Pantone Adobe Library


We print almost exclusively on 11x17" paper stock, and use other standard sizes for some projects. The Riso cannot print full bleed, the maximum printable area is 10.5"x16.25" however, we suggest having a border of 1/2" on all sides for the best results. We offer in house trimming for projects requiring full bleed or a custom size. We only print on uncoated paper, Riso ink dries by absorption.

For white paper consider:

French Pop Tone, French Construction, Mohawk Opaque, Domtar Cougar White or Natural, Neenah Exact Vellum Bristol

For colored paper consider:

French Pop Tone, Domtar Earthchoice Colors, Neenah Astrobrights

If you need help picking out a stock for your project we are happy to make suggestions!

It usually takes 2-4 business days for us to receive paper orders.

File Setup

ALL FILES MUST BE 300-600ppi

For files with photos or fine details 600ppi is best.

There are two methods of setting up files for the Riso

1. Channels

2. Grayscale copy

Working with spot color channels is the best way to set up your files so you can see the results in color while the separations will automatically be in grayscale. You can easily convert your existing artwork to channels. The Riso will apply a graintouch or halftone screen to produce tints of a spot color, there is no need to bitmap files prior to printing. For information on setting tints of Pantone colors please refer to this link

For creating a grayscale version:

If you’d like 100% density please set your object in pure black (#000000). To produce tints we suggest setting artwork at varying shades of gray by changing the brightness percentage in the color picker. First set the color picker to pure black, then enter percentages in the brightness field. Changing all objects of a certain color can be easily done by using the recolor artwork tool in Illustrator. For example, if you’d like all pink objects to print at a 80% density, you’d set the color picker at pure black, and then set the brightness at 20%.It is best to avoid setting tints by using opacity or in shades of K.

We ask that larger dark areas of solid color do not exceed 95%, this can lead to uneven coverage and make the prints messier. Often using 100% black is not visibly different from 95% and ends up being extra ink on the page. To create a noticeable variation in tone we suggest separating them by 15-20% The ideal range to stay in is 10-95%, anything above 95% is not visibly darker and anything below 10% is generally too light for the Riso to print.

Faux CMYK 

For faux-cmyk printing we either use: 

Aqua, Flo Pink, Yellow, Black

Aqua, Red, Yellow, Black

Yellow, Flo Pink, Blue

Yellow, Red, Blue

For some 2d artworks such as paintings we can use images or scans to create separations. We have profiles from ColorLibrary.CH which we use to create separations, which we will do for a small fee. If you’re interested in using any of their other riso profiles let us know and we can work something out. 

Very Important!

Please set all type in Illustrator or InDesign if possible. Text should be set in pure black (#000000) and MUST be outlined/converted to shapes. Do not flatten text and line art, Text can be set at a tint however that requires it to to be rasterized which can cause it to be less crisp.

No Transparency! Please include a white background in all documents you send us, but do not flatten files, especially files containing text.

Vector/Raster Artwork

The Riso will not print vector objects in graintouch, only with a halftone screen. If you’d like vector objects to be printed with graintouch they must be rasterized at 600 ppi. 

Please set up your artwork at final trim size, unless printing with bleed. We suggest using a .125” bleed. If working in Illustrator or Indesign use the bleed feature. In Photoshop please add .25" inches to the width and height of the file. If making an 8x10” print without bleed the files you send should be 8x10”. If possible we will double up prints on a single 11x17 sheet to be as cost effective as possible.

Please do not include crop marks or registration marks!

Please do not double up artwork!

Publication Setup

When printing zines or books, export as pages not spreads, you should also include a full color pdf of the final project set up as spreads for reference.

PDF Specs

If you’re sending us grayscale pdfs please be sure they are exported as compatible with Acrobat 7.0 and change all compression to .ZIP compression. Do not include profiles.

Riso Quirks

As you may already know, Riso printing is not perfect, we do our best to mitigate these issues but they will still occur to some extent;


Roller marks

Wet ink offset


Uneven coverage in areas of solid color

Please let us know if you have any questions regarding file setup, we will charge a fee for files set up improperly