Remixing old riso ink

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since my last blog post, but now it is time. This one is going to be on the issue that messed up my black drum for a good while – I first got it serviced for about a month ago.

Essentially the story started with ordering 2 tubes of black ink from eBay which turned out to be way too old – in one of them shaking the tube produced a happy sloshing sound. The other one made no sound, so I thought it was all right to use. As it turned out, I was wrong. The ink in that one had separated just as well, and enough water managed to seep out to clog the ink pump and get behind the drum screen before I discovered it.

However, this meant that I had two tubes of old ink for experimenting and I remembered that someone in the Facebook riso group had successfully remixed old ink so it could be used for printing (will try to find a reference to the post later). They had used electric drill and paint mixer and added some distilled water. In case you are wondering what an electric paint mixer looks like, there are many versions:

drill mixer comp

I don’t have an electric drill at home, so I took the low-tech approach of straining the ink to regain the original or near-original consistency. The first challenge was to figure out how to open the ink tube and after some examination I did figure it out (in case it’s absolutely obvious for some, no need to judge). I used a can opener and a pair of tongs from my Ikea tool box.

can opener comp

Firstly one needs to pry off the black ring. Then proceed to pull out the lid slowly.

opening comp

As you can see the ink has become a thick gunk. For the next step, I recommend covering your immediate surroundings with as much plastic as possible and arming yourself with a pair of good rubber gloves, as it’s going to get MESSY.

I covered a one-liter empty yoghurt bowl with a loose gauze cloth, fastened it with a couple of clips at the edges and scraped/poured the ink onto the gauze cloth. It couldn’t be there all at once as it didn’t seep through fast enough, so I squeezed some through into the bowl and filled then more onto the gauze. Once the all the ink had been strained through the gauze, I took a second yogurt bowl, a new piece of gauze and repeated the whole gooey process once more, poured it back into the ink tube and mixed through with a stick.

straining comp

As you can see from the middle photo, straining leaves the ink with the consistency of a latex paint, which I believe is still too liquid. (I couldn’t test at first as the drum was messed up and I didn’t want to test later when it had been fixed, in case it would mess it up again. So take it as a theoretical experiment.)

The importance of rubber gloves cannot be stressed enough as riso ink is unbelievably difficult to clean off. (Mine crumbled a bit during the straining). This was the result after a mixture of dishwashing liquid, Ajax and white spirit. It took about a week to wear off completely.


The final part of closing the ink tube again is tricky in its own way. As the lid is designed to fit very tightly (for obvious reasons), every failed attempt chips the edges a bit and makes it harder to fit in. After about ten failed attempts, I discovered that the method that works is somewhat contrary to logic.


riso ink tube closing

Slide one side of the cover quite deep into the tube and then press down the other side. It shouldn’t go in too deep either, because that creates pressure between the air under the lid and the ink, so it’ll start pressing out from the opening on the other end.


All in all, I reckon that the electric drill mixer or straining and a round with the mixer in the end could get the ink back to usable consistency. Straining only leaves it too liquid and doesn’t provide the slight foaminess it needs to have.

Adjusting a hand-drawn psychedelic poster to riso printing – Part 1

Well, it’s been a good while since the last riso experiment blog post and hence high time to do something about it. And this was simple enough – as I’m organizing open live drawing sessions, I also make a new poster every Sunday to advertise it on Facebook. (Still not sure how well it works, but never mind that right now.)

Anyhow, with the last one I decided to ditch the ‘modern’ poster aesthetic and go with the style I actually love and make it look like the flat colorful psychedelic 60’s posters that couldn’t care less whether the viewers can read them or not.

So, first I made a sketch, inked the lines, scanned it and colored it in Photoshop and was done with the poster for original purpose. Fine, fine. However, the original line drawing was still there, so I figured there can be no harm in coloring it a bit. Besides the super-multi-color psychedelic style, I’m a great fan of its Art Deco predecessor – mono- and duo-chromatic images, that are colored only with different tones of the same color or different tones of two different colors that form a mosaic instead of mixing or overlapping. Having in the back of my mind that this technique is in many way perfect for riso printing AND that my only usable drum at this moment is fluo orange, I went ahead and colored the poster with three different orange markers (and black, which I intended to add to riso print later with stencil).

Here they are – the original, the colorful and the monochrome version.


*The monochrome one is on peach-colored paper.

Now, the question arose – how to turn the monochrome version into a riso-printable one. Just converting the scanned image into grayscale is simple but does not print well, because the marker-colored parts are not evenly filled. Quality-wise it made better sense to use the monochrome version as a guide and color the ‘clean’ version again digitally for better quality. My original idea was to go for the Art-Deco style duo-chrome and print it on blue paper (as I had some). This way blue would act as the darker contrast to the fluo orange, lighter tones of fluo orange would overlap blue and soften the contrast. At least that was the idea.

In order to make the process easier, I started by filling in the original clean background areas with blue. The rest are different tones of the original “Live Drawing” text orange. (I use the super-handy site 0to255¬†for finding tone gradations.). I replaced all black parts with white (in my CS2 – Image -> Adjustments -> Replace color), as those I wanted to add with stencil later. Next step, I replaced the blue parts with white as well, because that was to be the color of paper and finally converted the image to grayscale.


And made a couple of test prints on different papers.

Test prints revealed a lot – mostly design mistakes. The blue paper was way too intense – I had underestimated the natural semi-transparency of riso ink. (After all it’s not acrylic or tempera.) All the softer tones were completely overpowered and even full coverage looked rather weak. Yellow and peach-colored papers produced delightful surprises. Yellow, that I had not even considered as viable option and only tried because it happened to be at hand, produced the best contrast and color combination of all. The scan unfortunately doesn’t do it justice. Peach-toned paper came in second, although the background tone blended at bit too well with the softer tones of fluo orange and hence the contrast was not the best.


The last test print was on white paper to allow for corrections. So, here’s what I’m going to change in round 2 (left is test print and right one with corrections) – get rid of most soft tones and go for maximum contrast (and fix the “shift to the right” that my printer tends to do…)


To be continued…

Riso printing on different paper stocks

Finally time to continue noting down my riso experiments thus far. One of my favourite features of risograph is that it can print on a much greater variety of paper stocks than a ‘normal’ printer. Uncoated paper types are the best, as they allow the ink to absorb into the paper.

RZ 570EP can according to its specs print on paper weighing between 46 g/m2 and 210 g/m2. Three of the samples I’ll show are within this range and the other two over the maximum limit.

These samples show orange ink printed on black Canson paper, uncoated, thickness I’d estimate about 140-160 g/m2.


This was originally a collage, and the print imitates the different textures rather well. Here is a closeup of one piece as well.


This one is riso print on Fabriano Elle Erre, a rather thick textured paper that is mostly used for charcoal drawings, thickness 220 g/m2. As the design (mistakenly) had a thick dark blue stripe on the top, this printed uniformly, but afterwards the paper got stuck and the coverage became uneven. I don’t even want to think about how much ink one of these prints takes, as it is A LOT.

A piece of image here:


And a closeup:


The following one is printed on “White Rose” (Russian brand) canvas-textured watercolour paper (unusual texture for that), 260 g/m2. Coverage was – as expected – uneven like on Elle Erre.


And a closeup:


Pastel paper stock, however, was a different story. Quite much thinner than the previous ones (estimated 100 g/m2), textured, uncoated – riso loved it. This particular paper was actually leftovers from book covers, but the texture reminds very closely that of Ingram pastel paper.


And closeup (the dots are back!):


The last one is “White Rose” watercolour paper, cold-pressed with a typical texture, 200g/m2. The image here is the same as on the black paper example. This type and thickness is great for riso art prints. (The unevenness of colour in the down right corner might speak against is, but the other images in the same print run did not have it.)


And a closeup again:


And that’s it for this time.