EWU Design a Hub for Creating Riso Prints

January 31, 2024

A machine that resembles a funky 1980s copier is inspiring a wave of artistic print-making collaboration led by the EWU Department of Design.

The Risograph, a “digital duplicator” built by Japan’s Riso Kagaku Corporation, does something akin to digital screen printing, its manufacturer says. It uses scanned images to create stencils that are attached to drums of soy-based ink that imprint onto rice-based paper. The Risograph was purchased a year ago with the help of funding from Gemini, a company that specializes in made-to-order dimensional signage and other branded materials.

After more than a year of exploring creative techniques on the Risograph, the EWU design team is preparing to welcome four visiting creatives who will hold rotating, month-long residences offered every quarter through 2024.

Because access to Risograph technology is rare, and EWU is one of the only universities in the region to have one, there were plenty of applicants for the residencies.

“We had applicants from all over/across the country. It kind of speaks toward the allure of the printer and how popular it is among the print communities,” says Jamin Kuhn, a design department lecturer who manages the program’s 4D Lab, which is located inside the Catalyst in Spokane and includes the Risograph.

The four residents, selected by a jury for their diverse skills and community project ideas, include two regional designers, one from Hawaii and another from Wisconsin.

Kuhn says part of the Risograph’s appeal is that artists and designers have discovered they can scan prints through multiple times to layer colors on top of colors.

“So, you get a really interesting mix of something that looks very digital but feels very handmade,” Kuhn explains.

The Risograph can create prints that look nostalgic.
The Risograph can create prints that look nostalgic.

A $10,000 Spokane Arts Grant Award covered the cost of purchasing barrels of ink and other materials to be used by the residents and students. In addition, each featured artist will receive a $250 stipend and another $250 to purchase supplies.

Risograph residents will do a range of create projects, while also contributing to the creative fiber of the community by collaborating with students, leading workshops and participating in community events.

Ginelle Hustrulid, associate professor of design, says that EWU students taking “Typography,” “Zine and Publication,” and “Intro to Animation” courses are already benefitting from the printer, which now has seven colors of ink to experiment with.

Risograph users can change the opacity of colors and add another color over the first to create a third color, explains Hustrulid, adding, “You actually use real-time spot coloring, is what it’s called, and color-mixing, as well. So, it’s a really beautiful tool for educating how real-life color mixing works.”

The Risograph is an excellent tool for teaching color-mixing to students, says Ginelle Hustrulid, associate professor of design.

Because the ink and paper is composed of environmentally friendly ingredients, the “RISO” prints tend to fade over time, Kuhn says, adding to the nostalgic feel.

Projects do burn through large amounts of paper, so the team figured out creative ways to recycle by making fun notebooks and even using it for block printing.

Hustrulid and Kuhn hope to eventually get book binding equipment, build out their supply of ink and even bid out projects to the larger community.

The department is eager for students to use the machine. To take advantage of this unique opportunity, students can simply bring their printed design to the 4D Lab during its regular hours. The 4D Lab operates a webpage with information with hours and availability and people can also reach out to Kuhn at jkuhn87@edu.edu to learn more.

Risograph residents include these artists and designers:

Brianna Miller (Winter) Brianna Miller is a Filipino-American illustrator and designer based out of Spokane, Washington. In 2014, she graduated from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon with a degree in communication design. Brianna’s work has focused on memories, consciousness and shared human experience. Read more…

Alex Sensiba (Spring) Alex Sensiba is a “comic-riso-printing-drawing-painting-ceramic-etc., artist.” Alex is inspired by medieval tapestries, haunted houses, horses, and magic spells. Alex graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, 2023.

Mykola Haleta (Summer) Mykola Haleta is an artist, educator, graphic designer, pattern designer, and sound and image researcher based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Haleta is an assistant professor of graphic design at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Read more…

Kevin Haas (Fall) Kevin Haas is an artist based in the Inland Northwest who works across printmaking, drawing, artist books, installations and design. He earned his BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Indiana University where he studied printmaking and digital media. Read more…

**You can make a difference for students in the Department of Design by making a gift online.


Ginelle Hustrulid, pictured left, and Jamin Kuhn, on the right, show the barrels that hold the stencils and ink.