Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gelatin Printmaking 303

Mexican Sycamore leaf on cardstock

Why can an artist sometimes be like a fretful dog, pacing around and around, until finally settling down? That's what I felt last Sunday wanting to play with my new Gelli Arts plate--I kept putting it off even though I wanted to experiment.

Mexican sycamore leaf and other small leaf inside, on 140 lb. HP Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper

Finally, I cleared space. Got out some paints, papers, fresh leaves, stencils and masks, brayers, spray bottle. And just started. Although I have done printing on gelatin before (here and here), this time I didn't have to destroy the gelatin.

Mexican sycamore leaf, BFK Rives tan paper

Working on this new re-usable plate is much different than working on unflavored gelatin. Here are some positive things I found from my first experiments with it:

  • I could make monoprints with great results by not lifting the paper completely off the plate (I’d be hopeless trying to put the paper back in the exact same location or register
  • I could take the plate out anytime you want to play and not have to make the gelatin hours or even the night before
  • I was surprised and pleased fluid acrylics worked well (if done quickly and in small areas)
  • I could make prints on watercolor paper pages in my handmade and bound journal

Oak leaves, Coventry rag paper
There are also some negative results from the plate:  
  • I couldn’t pull multiple prints as I could with regular gelatin; the plate seems to suck in paint and transfer it all on the first print
  • I found my acrylics dried very fast on the plate (I used artists heavy body Liquitex in tube form and Golden fluid acrylics in small bottles); I know this often depends on weather conditions
  • I had to stop and clean the plate more frequently because ghost prints on computer paper with a spritz of water did not lift off already-dried acrylics
  • I found any ghost prints quite abysmal to non-existent
leaves, triple spiral handmade stamp, BFK Rives paper

Trying several types of paper, of course, yielded different results. I used 104 lb. BFK Rives printingmaking paper in a tan color, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico Hot Press watercolor paper, and regular 65 lb. white cardstock.

These are just a few links to more information (some with YouTube videos) about playing with either gelatin or the Gelli Arts plate: 

Do a Google search and I’m sure you can find a bunch more.

leaves, triple spiral handmade stamp, fluid acrylics, 140 lb. HP Fabriano Artistico w/c paper

So, I’m wondering if using an acrylic retarder--in either a medium or paint form--would help with the very quick drying I experienced.

leaves, triple spiral handmade stamp, fluid acrylics on cardstock

mountain and figure masks, BFK Rives

mountain and figure masks, 140 lb. HP Fabriano Artistico

Even with prints that didn't quite work, I see possibilities for re-working later. With a new tool, you can never know how things are going to turn out. But, that's also the fun of experimenting.

ghost print, 140 lb. HP Fabriano Artistico

ghost print on cardstock
note excess paint from figure mask that stuck


  1. These are beautiful...good for you, jumping in! I have been using a reg.gelatin plate printing fabrics and that has been interesting. I didn't know about these ready made plates until recently and I appreciate reading your these come in varied sizes!

  2. Thanks!
    No, they just have 2 sizes: 6" x 6" and 8" x 10".

  3. I've never tried gelatin prints. You make me want to try it! I understand about trying something new. Often I'll buy a new tool or new materials and even though I'm excited about them, somehow there is a barrier to just getting started.

  4. Michelle, I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in taking time to finally settle down at the art table.
    Making gelatin prints is such fun. It also carries an element of surprise; you never really know what you'll get.