Friday, July 15, 2016

Printing with a Gelli Plate

Prints from a Gel Printing Plate
from Gelli Arts

These paper prints were some of the very first pulls I took from a new gel plate. For someone without any background in acrylics or painting, it was a very exciting moment in the studio. My whole world stopped until I could watch and read nearly everything out there about gel printing, and get more background on acrylics. I could see the potential to change the way I was approaching surface decoration.

Monoprinting with a Gel Plate

If you're not familiar with printing, this is a method to make a single, unrepeatable print. So, mono- meaning one. In the past, actual clear gelatin was used--think finger jello consistency, but the problem with it breaking down over several uses was an issue. Also, mold. This reusable product holds up much longer, and doesn't need refrigeratation. 

*The 8" x 10" plate comes sandwiched between 2 pieces of acetate-like plastic sheets. They must be peeled off very slowly and carefully. One side came off perfectly, but the other had a tear at the edge, and small chunk further in. Be forewarned.

The Process

Referring to the photo above, you can see that I already had some acrylic paint on the plate, and had used a brayer to roll it out thinly. I was added some white drops to the surface, and then again, rolled it out. 

This is shot of using a piece of fabric ironed onto freezer paper as a stabilizer. I simply wanted to show you here that the surface you are printing on goes face down on your gel plate, and then rub gently over the entire surface with either the palm of your hand or a brayer to even transfer the paint.

The acrylic paint can be carefully marked to add surface design to the print. Any tool which wouldn't puncture the gel surface is ideal. I used a plastic jar lid, the edge of a popsicle stick, and a wood graining tool here. To reveal, start at one corner, and lift gently. (The blue you can see is a piece of painter's tape which I've used to help anchor the gel plate with plastic backing still on it to a plexiglass sheet. You don't want it moving around while you print.)

I set that sheet aside to dry, and proceeded to print with some different colors. When I saw there was still some paint attached to the gel plate, I flipped the black print on it to pick some up. The gel does not have to be entirely covered to pull a print from it.

I think it added quite a bit of interest with just a touch of red.

You can see what happens when I applied the paint thickly. Opaque paint can entirely cover your previous work. Also, consider whether or not you are looking to add texture. If you are, it can be left as is, or use another tool and shape it how ever you'd like now. Waiting a minute or two is beneficial to have the paint get just the slightest bit tacky enough to hold the impression or texture.

Using a Medium with Acrylic Paint

Adding a medium to your paint is helpful if you are just beginning. It extends the span of time before your paint dries, and if you aren't quite sure what you're doing, that's helpful. Slo-Dri, matte or gloss medium, etc. all work. READ the labels to see what proportion it recommends! 

Here I started by adding some locust tree fronds to the top of the plate as a stencil or resist. Then I rolled out red, yellow, and brown. I rolled a bit of color on top of others, and took a print. Because the colors were rolled out thinly, there is some beautiful aquamarine showing through the print that was unexpected. It was left on the plate from a previous print, and I like leaving those colors there for little pops of color.

If you don't like a print, wait until it's dry. Acrylic color changes a bit. You may be surprised.

Your Scrap Paper Is Valuable, Too!

Rolling different colors across the gel plate means you need to keep your brayer and tools cleaned off if you don't want muddied tones. I keep a stack of cheap copy paper beside me, and roll the brayer onto it until it is cleaned. This print above was nothing more than a cleaning paper until I went after it with a Micron pen. I think it's quite lovely as a scrap!

Keep Records!

Keep a mixed media journal nearby to record some of your prints. This was a nice mix of the colors I was using one day, and I had a piece of bubble wrap with which I had removed color from the plate. I printed it over the first layer. 

Heart to Heart

Some days I sit here and think about whether or not you, dear Reader, are still interested in what I'm doing. I question if I've gotten so far away from my beginning that I've lost you. I hope not! This is an exciting journey, and though it's full of bunny trails and tangents, it all comes around to fabric. We like fabric because of the color and print on it. I want to know everything I can about those two things. It's simple.

This week is full of new things. I'll show you my fabric prints, some bee blocks, a new quilt, and the list goes on. Pop back, and we'll have us a cup of tea or coffee, and chat. Today I'm off on an adventure with a friend. We're going off together to do some fresh air sketching, and hopefully will find some shade to watch the dragonflies dance across the pond.

Come on, Doxie girls.

Let's go do our thing.


Kathy said...

Oh, don't think about not posting what you are doing. Those of us who are on the same/similar path need to see what others are doing. We can learn so much from the experiments of others and this communication method is very valuable! This post alone is making me eager to get out the gelli plate and try some more printing!

Frances Moore said...

I have always wanted to try this. Thanks for the post.

Shannon said...

So cool to see your prints! I keep thinking I should try this, I've done some other forms of monoprinting and it's fun!

JoanG said...

Don't stop exploring. Even when you showcase techniques I might never try, I'm always interested. How can we learn if we don't try new things. Congrats for being brave enough to try all these different methods.

Irene MacWilliam said...

I find I do not need to iron fabric to freezer paper for placing fairly accurately. I love the orange and black piece with your micro pen additions

Gwyned Trefethen said...

Creative play is essential work. You've inspired me to set a play date for another round of gelli printing.

tink's mom said...

I am not interested in doing what you do myself but I am fascinated with what you do and am enjoying the journey tremendously. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Julie said...

Thank you, and I will keep posting. I think it will come full circle eventually. I, too, have blogs that I visit that I never have any intention of recreating their process, but it is interesting to see what they do.

Julie said...

Most recently I've been scanning YouTube for instructionals on all the ways to use the print plate. I also purchased one of the smaller sets to experiment with. Printing has become the most exciting process, and I reward myself by doing at least a few prints each day. It gets me excited to get a little ink or paint on my fingers, and is something that I find is calming and settling. After a short session, I'm ready to get on with my work. I think you'll see a lot more printing in my future posts.

Julie said...

Thank you, Joan. I like to try so many new things, and even if they don't find their way into my work at the moment, they eventually lead me in a new direction of some sort. It's all part of a huge web in the end.

Julie said...

Thank you, Irene. I had 3 pieces of fabric to play with there, and I did want to try one with the freezer paper ironed on. I think you're right that it works better without, though. I found the paint puddled on that one vs the others because of the waterproof backing. Ah, another post in the making.

Julie said...

There is a YouTube video that shows how to make your own plates at a much lower cost. I think that should be a feature soon. The cost of buying the plate is a hindrance for sure, but the wow factor of printing makes it worth it to me.

Julie said...

Frances, I think you should! It's a really mind blowing moment when you pull a good print--even a bad one because you know you can always print over it again. I will have some more ideas this week to share so stick around if you can.

Julie said...


I promise! And I agree with you on learning vicariously through others' experiments. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to get through all the links on Off the Wall Friday's link up, and been waylaid by something new I had to track down. I found the many bloggers posts about gel printing through it along with dyeing, printing, and so on. Other artists sharing their process has literally caused me to move from the general quilting and longarming to art quilts. So, let's all share as much as we're comfortable with.

Kate said...

I enjoy watching you play with color and textures. I probably will never print my own fabric, but it's fun to watch someone else play.

Myra @ Busy Hands Quilts said...

Such an interesting process! You said, "If you don't like a print, wait until it's dry." I've also heard that if you don't like a fabric you haven't cut it small enough!

Kaja said...

Certainly haven't lost interest - I love your explorations. I doubt I'll do much of this myself but I have learnt a couple of things I have used and you have sparked some interesting ideas too. Keep it up!

Christine Slaughter said...

I am completely interested in reading about your different printing methods! I will most likely not ever do them, but I find your process fascinating and especially how a print may start one way, but how adding other techniques can make it look completely different! I especially love your scrap piece and how brilliant it looks with your drawing on it with a micron pen.

Sandra Walker said...

Well, try again, last paragraph disappeared into the ether when I inadvertently swiped across the mousepad on this laptop grrr. I am dating myself and my little brother, but I clearly remember him printing the newsletter he wrote and delivered on his bike himself to sick kids in hospital...on that very homemade gelatin pad. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed when we saw it. Have to say WOW my eyes popped open when I saw what you did to your residue paper with a Micron pigma pen! You are so talented. :-) Looking forward to seeing what you sketched at the pond.