Everything You Need to do Gelli Plate Printing, here's what's inside the box.

Everything You Need to do Gelli Plate Printing, here’s what’s inside the box.

I’m relatively new to Gelli Plate printing, but it’s so fun that I want to share it with you here! Gelli Plates are a monoprinting surface inspired by gelatin printing. That’s right, artists use actual gelatin (very firm) to make art! And in fact, gelatin printing has also been used to print text in the past.

The inventor of the Gelli Plates loved gelatin printing but wanted a way to do so that didn’t involve having to keep the plates in the fridge.

So, what is it, how do you do it, what do you need to get start?

Gelli Plates are a polymer that contains mineral oil, you apply paint or ink, impress objects or draw designs, then put a piece of paper or fabric on top and take a print. It’s that easy!

What’s in the box?

I boxed up all the basic supplies to show that you don’t need a lot of space to store and do Gelli Plate printing. In the box I have:

• a generic monoprinting pad
• a hard brayer (soft is actually recommended, but this is what I have)
• some Golden Open paints
• paper, cut to size
• some Tyvek stencils
• a foam stamp
• baby wipes

Here’s an image of a paper printed with Golden Open paint and that same foam stamp.

Sample Gelli Print, glued down to sketchbook, by Elaine Luther

Sample monoprint pad print, glued down to sketchbook, by Elaine Luther

Oh! You’ll also need baby wipes, for quick and easy clean up. Here’s what your whole set up looks like:

Everything you need to do Gelli Plate Printing

Everything you need to do Gelli Plate Printing

Or you could fit everything, including the baby wipes, into one plastic shoebox.

By now you’re wondering how this process works, so here’s a short video I found for you:

You can also use the Gelli Plate to print on fabric, using either straight acrylic paint, acrylic paint mixed with textile medium, or fabric paint or silkscreen ink for fabric.

Sample Gelli Print on Fabric

Sample Gelli Print on Fabric, printed with acrylic paint.

Speaking of paint, let’s look at what type of paint works best. Though many people will tell you “any acrylic paint will work,” this was not my experience.

Here’s how my prints turned out with inexpensive acrylic paint:

Sample Gelli Prints, wrong paint

Sample Gelli Prints, wrong paint.

They’re very light, I wasn’t happy with these at all.

You can also use block printing ink; I have some of these and I gave them a try. They work, but seemed to dry kind of quickly, which made clean up harder.

Here’s what works best for me: Golden Open Acrylics. Yes, it’s a pricey paint, but a little goes a long way and the vibrant colors are worth it. “Open” means they have a longer “open” or working time; they dry more slowly, that’s perfect for us.

Sample Gelli Prints, made with Golden Open Acrylics.

Sample Gelli Prints, made with Golden Open Acrylics.

In the photos above, the prints on the left are waiting to dry, then I’ll put a second color and design on top of the teal. Layers and transparent paints, especially, are where things get really interesting!

Though I’ve done silkscreening, Pronto-Plates and other types of printmaking before, I’ve never done monoprinting because I always thought it seemed silly.
Why make a print if it’s like making a painting and then making a single print? Also, if I could draw, I would just draw. (Everyone can draw, I just haven’t practiced enough.)

The thing I didn’t realize about monoprinting with Gelli Printing Plates (or the generic alternative) is that you don’t have to draw, and you can still make terrific prints!

Here are some of the objects you can use to create a pattern for your print:

Sample objects to use for Gelli Printing.

Sample objects to use for Gelli Printing.

What do you do with all these prints, once you see how fun and addictive it is?

I’m using them in my sketchbooks, as in the photo above. Less successful prints can be cut up and used as collage material, which I’ve also done in my sketchbooks.

In this recent artwork, Little Houses, I collaged the little house with Gelli Plate prints made on colored tissue paper as the first layer:

Little Houses by Elaine Luther, Copyright 2017

Little Houses by Elaine Luther, Copyright 2017. The photos are from the Rogers Park Historical Society, part of a show with Roman Susan Gallery in Chicago.

Here’s a t-shirt a teen student made in a recent class of mine, she came up with a creative solution in her design, coming up with something that worked for a shirt using only a 4″ x 4″ monoprinting plate!

Student Tshirt

Student T-shirt. Shirt printed with Speedball Silkscreen inks for fabric.

If you’re ready to get started, what do you need?

• a Gelli Arts Printing plate, available online or from your favorite craft store. They come in all kinds of sizes and shapes! A relatively small size, say 6″ x 6″ or under is nice to start with, it’s not too expensive and it’s manageable in terms of creating a composition.

• a soft brayer, if your craft store doesn’t have one, try Blick or online. If you happen to have one, a hard brayer also works. I did a side by side test and a soft brayer does seem to work better.

• paper. absorbent paper, such as drawing or sketch paper works well I’ve even printed on paper from a child’s drawing pad from the dollar store and it worked fine. Newsprint, tissue paper, unwaxed deli paper work too.

• paints. I recommend Golden Open Acrylics. Available at Blick or online. Be sure to get some transparents/translucents for interesting layering effects.

• baby wipes! Costco’s brand are the best. Just wipe down your Gelli Plate in between paint colors. Or don’t! Colors mixing on the plate can create unexpected cool effects.

• stuff to make designs with. Cotton swabs, found objects, plastic lids, glass jars, plastic stencils, paper stencils or masks, dried plants, shapes cut of of magazines, Tyvek stencils or masks, anything you can find or create!

More information. Here are some books and blogs to go to for more information.

Linda Germain’s blog

I should mention that Linda’s using an actual gelatin plate, but all of her tips and instruction work for Gelli Plates as well. Her site is a wealth of information and inspiration.

Gelli Plate Printing: Mixed Media Monoprinting Without a Press by Joan Bess

I’ll take more photos of the terrific prints I made yesterday and update this post.

Good luck and have fun! I hope you try it!

Like this creativity tip? There will be 100! See them all HERE.

100-creativity-tips from Elaine Luther Art.com