Learning to Risograph @ Libreria


Ever walked past somewhere so many times whilst thinking ‘That looks like a cool place, I need to pop in soon…’ but never actually getting around to it? Me too. But last weekend I said enough is enough and opened the door of Libreria, a super cool but cosy book shop just off Brick Lane in East London.

I will hold my hands up and admit that I definitely don’t read as much as I should/would like to – when I was younger I read the whole of the Young Persons section in my local library and started to order books in from across the county. These days I struggle to find time to sit down with a physical book though. But stepping into Libreria was so exciting and refreshing – it’s like an Aladdin’s cave of books, all with super interesting topics. In 15 mins I discovered books on the history of London Overground (the ginger line), the cyber affect, the power of networking and the psychology of being a modern day artist. All super interesting to me and it made me realise that I do really need to get back into reading!

But anyway, that wasn’t the main reason for my trip to Libreria. I headed downstairs to the workshop area to meet Jess, our host, and the other workshop attendees – 5 lovely ladies. Like the main shop upstairs, the workshop space was a visual treat with so many cool things on display, waiting for your eyes to discover them; books, magazines and print experiments. (Although it was kinda dark and I’ll be honest, in my headed I was worried about the photo opps… #bloggerproblems)

We gathered around what seemed like a photocopier that I’m sure many people will have seen in a typical office set up – usually followed by people photocopying their bums in films! ha

But this was no standard office printer – this was a Risograph machine capable of simple but super cool printing to a creative mind. Regular readers will know that I love me some screen printing, but it was time to test out a new print method and I was super excited! Our print technician Jess explained a bit about the history of Risograph as well as the possibilities, limitations and similarities to other printing techniques e.g. screen printing. Top tip to remember: you can’t Risograph onto coated paper.

Using magazines and the scanner, Jess did some tests to show us how different image types (e.g. patterns, photographs, words) come out. She also talked us through some examples of how different colours react to each other, and encouraged us to try out some two colour combination tests. Our choices included: orange, yellow, pink, blue, teal and black. I was keen to test some pink as it’s usually nice and bright (almost fluorescent).

We paired up and each created something random which would come together to create a two colour test print. I worked with Rhian to test a pink and teal colour combo of bold shapes (me) with hand drawn illustrative elements (Rhian).

After our tests, it was time to get started on the real deal: our run of 15 two colour A3 posters. With a selection of cool magazines (think Vice, People of Print and The Gourmand), coloured paper, a variety of half tone patterns and pens we began to experiment and create.

Regular readers will know that I love a good collage (I made a Youtube tutorial last year) and so it felt natural for me to scour through magazines looking for striking imagery. I didn’t have any ideas in my head but when I came across a distorted pastel ombre keyboard image and an article about why people support print in a digital age, something clicked.

Recently I’ve been having conversations about blogging; the ‘weird’ things we do to get that Instagram shot, clicking with strangers on the internet and why we spend so much time writing about our feelings and thoughts without any idea about who might read them. When I read the Print isn’t Dead article, I couldn’t help but see (ironic) similarities and thought that it might be cool to use snippets:

‘It can take us to places we have never been and present us to people we may never meet.’

‘The more niche, specific or strange that common idea, the tighter the ties that bind you together.’

‘Keep putting yourself into the medium and the medium will keep putting itself back into you.’

‘This is your membership card: this is our tribe.’

Usually when I’m looking for things to collage I’m waiting a while before I have a eureka moment, but this tongue in cheek twist on words about print turned into words about the internet just seemed to click and so I set to work:

Alongside the text, I wanted to include a bold statement to tie everything together. I recently noticed that after meeting with other internet people, when it comes to saying goodbye I will end with; ‘See you on the internet.’ It’s not been a conscious decision to make this like my trademark, as it just seems like the right thing to say, but my friends have started to pick up on it so obviously I’m saying it a lot!

I asked Jess, our workshop host, to print it out for me and she said that when she came back from the printer she passed a colleague who was a bit freaked out by the statement. I guess that because I’m so used to saying it with a friendly kind of context, that I didn’t see the creepy side! But just to clarify, usually if I want to see you on the internet it’s because I’m interested in what you’re doing/saying and want to stay connected, so take it as a compliment.

Anyway, to add an edge I decided to trace the crisp digitalised letters onto tracing paper for a bit of texture and to bring a hand made element to the poster – I didn’t want it to be too perfect! As the bold statement, I knew that I wanted ‘see you on the internet’ to overlap and be a different colour to the rest of the words and so that became my second layer on its own.

And with my design complete, I was ready to print!

I was really pleased that the workshop had a hands on approach – after Jess showed us how to do it once, we changed the ink drums ourselves. It wasn’t just about creating our posters, but learning about the Riso printer so that in the future we would be able to operate one without assistance.

After changing the ink drum to the correct colour, the Riso machine makes a master on the banana leaf paper (a bit like making a screen when screen printing, but all inside the machine) and then you’re ready to hit the button and print!

Once it gets going it can really spit the prints out fast, but sometimes it gets a bit carried away & misses a few pages, oops!

And voila; my declaration of love for people of the internet was complete:

P.S. I also made a little video, so watch for more action 🙂 & don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel for more creative videos.

P.P.S. I’ve listed the posters in my Etsy shop so if you wanna get your hands on one, you can!

Although I was obviously quite focused on creating my own poster (yay I did it within the timeframe – take that, procrastination!) it was also really great to see what the other ladies were producing. Discussions on colour combinations and image placements; it was a collaborative atmosphere which I really enjoyed (#freelanceproblems).

So if you couldn’t already tell, I was so glad to have attended the workshop. I loved learning about Riso, creating a cool poster and having a great time with Jess and the other ladies. And don’t forget, you can get your own copy of my Blogger’s Manifesto in my Etsy Shop.

Definitely recommend a trip to Libreria for any creatives/bookworms. You could probably spend hours in there discovering new books and they also run a book club and lots of other talks and workshops too (including more printing and also zine making) so check them out.

Would love to hear your thoughts on my posters, Libreria and Risograph – what would you create? Sadly I know I don’t have space in my life for a Riso machine at the moment, so I guess I will just have to visit Libreria again to get my Riso fix…


    • Natasha Nuttall

      26/03/2017 at 10:44 am

      Thanks Charley 🙂 Yeah I was kinda surprised about the irony but I guess words are only words and they can be twisted to whatever we need them to communicate ha

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© Natasha Nuttall | January 2022

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