I’ve been meaning to make another neon-colored illustration to be a companion for this other one. I didn’t have any ideas that felt the right amount of related-but-different, for a while. Then, a friend of mine sent me a photo of a veiled mushroom, and I knew it would be perfect and a bit maddening!
I did a few thumbnails and then an initial drawing at scale in pencil. Then, I used my glass-top kitchen table and a lamp as a light table to do the illustration on a fresh piece of paper. Fun, a little crazy-making, and occasionally a real puzzler.
I’ve been meaning to write a little post explaining how I create my faux-risograph illustrations in Photoshop. My buddy Anika asked me about it the other day and I figured it was time to finally do it! So, here we go- a little tutorial on how to fake some delicious printing textures. I am not an expert and I don’t have all the answers! But this is a method that works for me, so here it is.
You’ll need to start with a color-separated image, with a grayscale layer for each color you want to print. There are a lot of ways to do this, from processing an existing image to literally drawing on different physical layers of paper. It’s too meaty to explain in this post, but you can (as always) find good resources online.
For my mushroom illustration, here are my three layers:
So, a Riso printer doesn’t do grayscale. It will automatically convert grey areas to halftones when you print it. So to fake that, I’m going to use Photoshop to make a halftone myself. I start by opening one of my layers. It happens to be in RGB mode, I need to get it to Bitmap in order to make my halftone, but it won’t do that unless I make the color space Grayscale first.
To do this, I hit Image > Mode > Grayscale. It might prompt me to discard color information, that’s fine. Then I hit Image > Mode > Bitmap.
I’m now greeted by these options:
I haven’t messed with this too much, but I do have some options to change how it does the conversion. I just match my resolution and pick halftone. (Sometimes I do a lower dpi for web images to better show off the texture.)
This next one is where the meat of this is:
So let’s step back a bit: an important thing to note with halftones is screen angle. Essentially, in order to get the best color-mixing results and avoid a possible moiré pattern, you need to set your halftone dots to specific angles. Photoshop is giving you an option to do that. I use this handy-dandy chart from wikipedia– even when I’m not doing CMYK, I can adapt it to what I’m looking at. I’ve played around with using each of these 4 ratios, but not in depth enough to give you much of an opinion. (Not an expert!) I’m going to use the top right this time.
I’m looking at my blue layer here, and that’s my darkest color. So, I’m going to use the screen angle for black: 15°. I’m changing my frequency down to 150 here to show the texture off better for web. You also have options for what shape the “dots” will be – experiment! See what you like! I’ll leave it on “round” this time.
Here’s the result at 100%:
Now for my red layer! I’m going to do the same things:
Image > Mode > Grayscale
Image > Mode > Bitmap
This time, I’m setting my screen angle to 75°, because red is my midtone.
And one more time, for the yellow layer.
Image > Mode > Grayscale
Image > Mode > Bitmap
Screen angle: 90°
Now I have 3 truly black and white weird pixelly layers! Time for the magic.
I create a new RGB document and paste in each of these 3 layers so they’re stacked on top of each other. They all have white backgrounds that we need to take out so we have isolated black layers to re-color. I grab the magic wand and set tolerance to 0, uncheck anti-alias, uncheck contiguous, and uncheck sample all layers.
I select the white area and delete it, then repeat this for the remaining layers.
It ends up with a weird, dark grayscale version of the image, but that’s ok!
Now we add the color back in! I lock transparent pixels (press / or the button on the layers panel) and use the paint bucket to recolor my layers, one by one.
Set the layers to multiply to mimic the translucent ink, and voila! Your image!
Step 8a (Optional)
This isn’t quite enough texture for me, so I do two more things to rough things up a little.
Firstly, part of the charm of riso, to me, is the imperfect registration. So I’m just going to nudge & rotate my layers around a little bit.
Step 8b (Optional)
And lastly, my secret weapon. I’m going to add a texture mask to each layer, to simulate some imperfections. (I’m not going too in depth here, if you’re unfamiliar with layer masks here’s a good place to start.)
I made a gritty screenprinted paper texture that I’ve been using for this purpose for years. You can find a good texture various places online (be ethical!) or make & scan something yourself.
I open up my texture in its own file:
Select all > Copy to get it onto my clipboard.
Then I go back to my document and pick a layer. I’ll start with blue. I hit the “add layer mask” button down at the bottom to create the mask. Then I need to click the visibility checkbox next to this new mask on my channels pallet, before I can paste into it. (I don’t know why this is! But it is!)
From here, I fiddle with the contrast, scale, and placement of my texture until it looks pretty good.
Repeat with the other 2 layers (try NOT to line up your textures – place them a bit differently each time) and you’re done!
Here’s a comparison at 100%, from the original version to my faked riso version:
And my final image:
It’s not a huge difference, but I like how it brings warmth and life and imperfection to the image. It can really transform a piece!
Here’s a piece I’ve been chipping away at for the last few weeks. It started as just meditative little straight-to-ink sketchbook doodle. I really liked how it turned out, so I thought I’d try coloring it up as if it were a riso print. Because that means color separations, it’s always a bit of a puzzle, but that keeps things new!
Here’s what the original drawing looked like:
And for fun, here are a few extra colorways:
Hopefully before too long I’ll have a chance to get it printed up for real!
Lately when I’ve been drawing, I’ve just been wanting to get lost in the details. I’ve been doing these complex ink drawings of shelves and shelves of plants.
This one started as a pencil drawing (increasingly rare for me – I’m impatient and likely to go straight-to-ink in personal work) and I wound up inking it with a fountain pen. I liked the drawing enough to want to color it, but the paper wasn’t strong enough for watercolor. I decided to bust out my old copic markers (it’s been years) and I’m so happy with how they worked out! It was a really fun challenge to mix up some interesting colors with a very limited palette- I only used peaches, pink, greens, and one sky blue.
A few WIP shots from Instagram:
We had the prettiest snow here a few weeks ago – big fat flakes drifting down, just enough to cover the grass in a soft white blanket. I took a long drive in the country to visit a friend and just feasted my eyes on the beautiful Breugel-esque rolling hills. It’s been in my mind ever since, so here’s a little drawing to get it out onto paper.
14×7, colored pencils
My sister moved from my hometown in Wisconsin to Colorado Springs this year. For Christmas, I wanted to make her something that would celebrate her new home & remind her of other home. So, I made two pieces- one (above) of Pike’s Peak, the iconic mountain she can see from her new apartment, along with some other local Colorado sights and flora. I included The Garden of the Gods, some Rocky Mountain Columbine (gosh, what a beautiful flower) and some sage.
The other painting, below, is of a corner of my parent’s backyard- something so specific to us that it makes my heart ache a little bit looking at it. (In a good way!) Our crooked little trees, the beautiful ponds, the golden yellow fields, my mother’s favorite flower, and our steadfast great blue heron pal.
It was really lovely to return, in a way, to the landscape series I’d been creating before. I’ve enjoyed these types of pieces more and more as they’ve gotten more personal (and I can think of few places more personal to me than the backyard of the home I grew up in!)
Looking forward to falling in love with more places and drawing them, too.
I realized I should get some practice drawing interior spaces, so I dreamed up this little illo of some siblings embroiled in a fierce game of pretend. I do think I started to find fun in the background elements – I liked the storytelling I could accomplish by adding toys/clutter/etc.
It’s based on a watercolor piece I did a few months back:
Bit of ink & watercolor silliness. I find that when I try to do pieces for my portfolio, I always overthink & make them so much more complex than they need to be. I’m wondering if maybe I explore some ideas with traditional media, where I usually keep things pared down anyway, maybe I can keep that looseness if/when I do a “real” (digital) version for my portfolio.
Hilariously I write in that caption that I sometimes overthink/overcomplicate things when I go digital, which I’m pretty sure is exactly what happened here anyway! At least I know myself!
I’m continuing my explorations of some of my Inktober pieces. One sequence I found particularly fun to draw were these little patterns of plants, drawn with a brush pen and felt tip pen. (Originals available for purchase, by the way!)
I scanned them in and took them apart into 80-something little individual icons. Photoshop did NOT enjoy that particular export-to-layers, but we survived! I then took them into Illustrator and I’ve been playing around with making different repeats. I’ve really only dabbled in this before, but it’s always interesting to me.
I’m really enjoying seeing how much I can stretch & transform one set of little plants! I’m also finding myself looking around my house, visualizing patterns on every surface trying to think of what might look good where..