How to Fake a Riso Print Effect in Illustrator

In a previous post, I showed you my best techniques for creating a riso print effect in Adobe Photoshop.

And today I’m showing you how to make a riso print effect in Adobe Illustrator! That’s right. Illustrator lovers, rejoice.

I’m super curious: do you prefer designing in Photoshop or in Illustrator? They certainly have their different/specific uses, but then there are times that you could choose one or the other and get similar results.

I honestly love them both equally. So annoying, I know. ๐Ÿ™„

Before we get started, remember: this tutorial is not intended to show you how to set up your artwork for an actual risograph printer, but to imitate the effect we get printing from a risograph.

What is a Risograph Print?

If you didn’t see my Photoshop Tutorial on this topic, you may be wondering what a risograph print is. Here’s a definition:

“The Risograph is a stencil duplicator. Think of it as a cross between screen printing and photocopying. The Riso prints one color at a time in bright, vibrant colors. It is ideal for posters, graphic prints, zines, comics, and other graphic arts.”

The University of Illinois

I also encourage you to check out this awesome PDF pamphlet from the University of Illinois with more detailed explanation:

What I love most about riso prints is 1) they’re imperfect and textured, and 2) the overprint effect – where the colors overlap to create new, unique colors. Like this:

And finally, here are some photos from a Pinterest Search to help give you an idea of what Riso Prints looks like:

riso print pinterest

How to Create a Riso Print Effect in Illustrator

So now that we’ve covered what a riso print is, let’s fire up Adobe Illustrator and get started.

In my Photoshop tutorial, I did something a bit annoying and imported some artwork I made in Procreate. Today I’m just going to use some basic shapes to demonstrate this process.

Step 1: Create Your Art in Illustrator

One nice thing about Illustrator compared to Photoshop is we don’t have to worry so much about maintaining separate layers. And therefore we don’t have to worry about renaming them or keeping them straight. Win/Win.

To start making this riso effect, create a new canvas in Illustrator. It can be any size. If you intend to use it digitally, 72ppi and RGB Color Mode is fine. If you intend to use it for print, a higher resolution of 300ppi and CMYK Color Mode is recommended.

Here are my canvas settings:

  • 500 x 500 px (until I inevitably change them during the course of this tutorial ๐Ÿ˜‰)
  • RGB Color Mode
  • 72 ppi

Next, I’m going to add 4 ellipses to my canvas and fill them with CMYK colors. By CMYK colors, I’m referring to the first five colors in your Swatches Panel: CMYK Red, CMYK Yellow, CMYK Green, CMYK Cyan, CMYK Blue, and CMYK Magenta.

CMYK Colors Illustrator Riso Effect

You don’t have to strictly stick to these 5 colors, but I think they produce some of the most riso-like effects.

Step 2: Change the Blending Mode in the Appearance Menu

Step 2 is where the real magic happens! Just like we did in Photoshop, we’re going to play with the Blending Mode of these shapes. Each shape has its own blending mode versus changing the blending mode per layer (like in Photoshop).

To access Blending Mode, bring up the Appearance panel. If you don’t see it, go to Window > Appearance.

Riso Effect Color Burn Blending Mode Illustrator

Select one of your shapes, and in the Appearance Panel, click on the dropdown arrow next to Fill to bring up the Opacity options. An additional menu pops up where you’ll be able to cycle through all the different blending modes.

The two best blending modes for achieving the overprint look of a riso print are Color Burn and Hard Light.

Hard Light Blending Mode creates Riso Effect in Illustrator

Step 3: Order of Layers Matters

It’s also worth mentioning that the order of your shapes matters a lot when it comes to making a realistic riso effect in Illustrator!

For example, a red circle on top of a yellow circle with hard light as the blending mode produces a different result than a yellow circle on top of a red circle with hard light blending mode.

To see this in action, check out the differences in the images below:

CMYK Riso Settings
CMYK Riso Settings

You can easily change which shape is on top of another by right-clicking with your mouse on a shape and selecting Arrange > Bring to Front or Arrange > Send to Back.

Step 4: Optional: Add Texture

For the final step, you can add some texture to your art to produce more of that fuzzy, imperfect effect of a real risograph printer.

However, a warning: Illustrator’s built-in textures kind of suck. Or maybe it’s not that bad and it’s just me. My stomach turns when I see raster effects happen in vector software.

Here’s an example where I applied a Grain texture to the magenta ellipse by first selecting the shape, then going up to Effect > Texture > Grain:

Grain Texture Riso Effect Illustrator

And that’s all there is to it! Keep trying out different color combinations with the CMYK swatches, and then try other colors to see what you like best.

Save this Tutorial for Later

If you enjoyed this tutorial, would you pin the image below? When you do, two things happen: 1. You’ll save it to come back to later, and 2. You’ll be able to share it with your lovely Pinterest followers. I would appreciate it if you do!

Create a Riso Effect in Illustrator with Blending Modes

You might also be interested in some of my other design tutorials:

That’s all, folks!

Hoping one day we all get to print real risographs,


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