If you can make jello you can make a gel printing plate

How to make a DIY gelatin printing plate

Materials for Printing Plate:

Unflavored gelatin, water, container {details below}.

Materials for Printing:

  • There are many options for adding color to make your prints. These are just two! But really, try anything you like!

    • Speedball Water-Based Block Printing Inks. {the tubes in the photo}There are pros & cons to these inks. They stain your fingers but the stain does come off after a bit of scrubbing. You can wear thin gloves if you wish. The magenta and yellow are gorgeous. The dark green, not so yummy. The inks stay wet longer and are fairly inexpensive. My inks lasted about 3 years before separating in the tube. Prints made with these inks {which act like acrylics} have a matte feel.
    • Golden Heavy Body Acrylics. Significantly more intense & saturated color. Does not stain the fingers and will scrub off. More colors available. Totally mixable. Much more expensive. Prints made with these paints have a ever-so-slightly glossy feel.
  • Heavy card stock or bristol paper
  • Soft rubber brayer. I use a 2" Speedball soft rubber brayer. It's useful to have 2-3 brayers; you can have two colors of paint going and still keep another dry to rub the back of the paper.
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Pulling up a print from the surface of the gelatin plate.

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This is what the surface of the plate looks like after the page is lifted. I had painted orange paint with a brayer and then placed circles cut out from index cards on the plate. You can see echoes of the circles that I removed and you can see that the paint is fairly thin in many areas because it's been taken up with the print. However, paint and outlines of shapes remain after the first print. And if you're lucky... after the second print as well. You can make another print at this point, and it's even groovier than the first!

Made the following prints with golden heavy body acrylics...

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While reading Issue #3 of FEATURING Magazine I stumbled upon a tip to make your own from an article about artist Linda Germain. So I made my own plate and played and experimented to see what I could create.

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How to make a gel printing plate? Make jello. Yes. That's it. 

 

Instructions for making the gelatin printing plate:

Get a few boxes of unflavored gelatin. Simply make double strength jello (use 1/2 the water that is recommended on the box}. In a large, flat container, something larger than the paper you'll be printing, pour in the powdered gelatin. Boil water. Pour it into the gelatin. Gently mix for a few minutes with a wooden spoon until gelatin dissolves. As for your container, look for something with edges at least an inch or two high. i.e. a jelly roll pan.  If it's too shallow it's tricky to carry to the fridge. Put the container in fridge for 2-3 hours, or until cold. The consistency will be that of firm jell-o.

I made my printing plate in a baking pan and the day after I photographed the plate, above, I took it OUT of the baking pan and it was much easier to access the edges. After working with it twice, I dropped it on the floor of the kitchen and it broke apart.

The gelatin printing plate should be kept in the refrigerator when not in use and will keep for about a month. In my experience, it is helpful to return it to the fridge every hour {if you are doing a massive printing session} for a refresh for 20 minutes.

You can microwave the plate if it falls apart and place it back in a baking sheet to harden again. But... that there are bits of paint on the printing plate and I don't know what chemical reaction occurs when it is microwaved. So I do not bother with this. The re-meltified gelatin has bits of paint in it, and well, ugh. It's so easy to start fresh that I just make a new plate. I usually make a plate, use it for a few days to a week and then pitch. The printmaking part is so addictive that you will literally spend HOURS making prints and not even notice that a moment went by. One plate provides gelatin print journal fodder for me for half a year! Not kidding!

How to make prints with a gel plate?

Instructions for making a print!

  1. Roll out paint onto the printing plate with a brayer. The plate works best when it is cold and moist right out of the fridge! This is a unique characteristic of a homemade plate and where it outshines a pre-packaged plate!
  2. Add something flat with an interesting shape, this acts as a mask. You can cut little shapes from index cards or use fern leaves, straw, grass, thread, rubber bands, etc. Nothing with sharp edges, as it will go right through your plate. The places you've masked will not print onto your paper.
  3. Place a sheet of card stock or bristol paper gently on top of the plate.
  4. Press gently with the palms of your hands or roll a dry brayer on the back of the paper to get an imprint.
  5. Delicately lift the card stock starting with one corner and "peel" it off the plate. Check out your print!
  6. Print a second time; the print will be much lighter.
  7. Carefully remove the little pieces of card stock, threads, petals, etc. that you used to mask shapes.
  8. Wait! One more important print. Before you roll out more paint, place a new sheet of card stock or a page that already contains a print and make another imprint. Those echoes of the remaining shapes create a different type of print. A rumor of the image. {Linda calls this the ghost}.
  9. When you want to change colors, clean your brayer with warm soap and water. Dry the brayer. This keeps paint from building up and keeps the brayer dry so that paint/ink adheres.
  10. Keep printing until a) you run out of paper, b) you run out of time.

More details and gelatin print-making galore ☞ Gelatin + Acrylic Printing Therapy