Making riso zines with scanner – Part 1

One of the main reasons why I bought a riso printer in the first place was to print my own zines and save the trouble of looking for a print shop with a decent price/quality balance every time. Naturally it didn’t turn out to be as straightforward a process as I had imagined. However, now after having printed 3-4 different zines, it’s probably a good time to make a summary of the lessons learned.

I’ll divide it into three parts: grand failure, accidental success and expected success. And in order to set the expectation level low, let’s start with the epic fail.

This zine is actually the last one I’ve printed, so the traditional learning curve does not look like it’s working. So anyway, what was wrong with it?

First of all, the panels turned out to be way too detailed. Registration errors which otherwise can turn out to be a good surprise (just wait until part 2), here simply threw off the whole panel.

Secondly, the original technique – watercolour + graphite pencil – did not help. It is generally a difficult combo for a riso to handle, mainly due to colour separation issues. Riso loves even tones or gradations and watercolour as well as graphite pencil are anything but.

BID page 2 colour

So, here the plan was to work around the Photoshop colour separation headache and use extra pages (“riso sheets”) with coloured spots filled in with marker or graphite pencil. It’s a method I’ve used before and it can yield nice results. Just not this time.

The”riso sheet” for this page looks like this. Two pages from the dummy zine taped together on the back and the orange parts in black or grey depending on the intensity of colour I was aiming for.

BID worklayer 4

The pencil layer for orange turned out to be too light. The black parts worked fine, but as the registration was so imprecise and the image itself small, on some pages the boy’s T-shirt and its colour have only about 50% overlap.

BID page 7 colour

Using several different media for black (ink/graphite pencil/fineliner) didn’t give good results either. Smudgy pencil line next to clear black did not soften the image, as hoped, but simply made it look dirty.

Just to give an example, registration of the blue layer was no better. Occasionally it seemed to shift during the same print run, which I found perplexing. I normally tape the “riso sheets” on the scanner with paper tape to prevent them from moving, but even this was not enough this time around.

So, this was the failed zine. As it was so bad I didn’t even bother making a cover and stapling it together. Now in aftermath I reckon that it might have worked in monochrome (only black and white) and a much more simplified and clear line in drawing. Perhaps one day I’ll make a redo.

And that’s all for Part 1. Part 2 will follow soon!

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