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Summer time, crafting time and family time!

As we are fast approaching school holidays there are lots of fun and rewarding Art and Craft projects that can be shared with all the family. We will start off by introducing Gelli plate printing with Liquitex fluid acrylic paints and Liquitex Professional Paint Markers. It is fun and easy and all the family can join in! In this article we will start off by explaining what a Gelli plate is then move on to the basic principles of printing. The more you print, the more the ideas will flow and all the family can enjoy the wonderful world of the Gelli plate printing to produce some exciting Art.

What is a Gelli plate, and what is Gelli printing?

A Gelatin (or Gelli) plate is a type of printing surface used in a printmaking technique called gelatin printing, monoprinting, or Gelli printing. It is a reusable surface that allows artists to create unique and spontaneous prints without the need for a traditional printing press.

The Gelatin plate is typically made from a mixture of gelatin, glycerine, and water, which is poured into a shallow tray or container and left to set. The resulting gelatinous plate becomes the printing plate. However, it's important to note that there are also synthetic gel plates available on the market that replicate the properties of gelatin plates without the use of animal-based products.

To create a print using a Gel plate, an artist applies a thin layer of fluid acrylic paint or water-based printing ink onto the plate's surface using a brayer or a paintbrush. They can then use various tools like stencils, textured objects, or their own mark-making tools to create patterns, textures, and designs on the inked surface. Once the desired design is achieved, a sheet of paper or fabric is carefully pressed onto the plate, and gentle pressure is applied to transfer the ink onto the paper, you can use a clean brayer or your hands. The paper is then peeled off to reveal a unique, one-of-a-kind print.

Gel plates offer a versatile and experimental printmaking experience as they allow for easy layering, blending, and subtractive techniques. They can be used with different types of inks, paints, and mixed media materials, making them popular among artists, crafters, and art educators. Additionally, gel plates are easily cleaned with water, which allows for quick and efficient printing sessions.

Overall, Gel plates provide an accessible and fun way to create prints without the need for specialised equipment, making them suitable for artists of all skill levels.

Exploring the joy of Gelli printing: a beginner's guide to using a Gelli Plate

In this beginner's guide, we will walk you through the basics of Gelli printing and provide you with tips and techniques to help you embark on your creative journey.

Understanding the Gelli Plate:

The Gelli plate is reusable, flexible, and sensitive to pressure, making it ideal for monoprinting.

Gathering your materials:

To get started with Gelli printing, you will need a few essential materials:

  • Optional: plastic or paper stencils, and mark-making equipment and materials for added creativity; anaglypta wall paper to add texture, leaves, flower petals, stalks, soft material such as lace for impressing patterns
  • Texture tools for creating interesting marks - Catalyst by Princeton Silicone Wedges
  • Baby wipes for cleaning your gel printing plates, or for mopping up any paint residue.
  • Bubble wrap to press into your gel printing plate to create an interesting all over pattern or just to use in certain areas of your composition.
  • Plastic wrap for pressing into your inked up gel plate to create texture or patterns
  • Stamps for stamping inks onto your plate or for stamping shapes and letters onto the inked gel plate before printing.
  • Any acrylic markers you may have such as Liquitex Paint Marker Set 6 x 15mm Classic Colours or Uni Posca Markers Bold PC-8K.

Preparing your Gelli plate:

Before you begin Gelli plate printing, it's crucial to prepare your Gelli plate properly:

  • Ensure your Gelli plate is clean and free of any debris.
  • If using a gelatin plate, store it in the refrigerator to keep it firm.
  • If using a synthetic gel plate, follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper care an use. always keep original packaging for storing your gel plate safely.

Applying ink and creating designs: Textures

Now comes the fun part! Here is a step-by-step process to create your Gelli prints:

  • Squeeze a small amount of ink or paint onto your Gelli plate. Soft body, fluid body, or heavy body acrylic paint will work well. Do not lay too much paint down as your print will turn out too blurry.
  • Use a brayer to spread the ink evenly across the plate, work the ink or acrylic paint with your brayer vertically and horizontally ensuring complete coverage.
  • Once the ink or paint has been spread evenly across the plate you can then experiment with different mark-making tools, stencils, and textures to create patterns and designs on the inked plate. remember not to use any sharp objects as the Gelli plate has an extremely sensitive surface.

Using a stencil

Stencils are a great way to engage our young creatives. Don't be afraid to play and explore! Gelli printing is all about embracing spontaneity and embracing happy accidents. When printing with children, let them collect fallen leaves off plants and trees and they can use them as simple stencils, or let them cut their own stencil out of paper. Here are a few ideas below to get you started.

  • Leaves make a great ready made stencil, collect all sorts of shapes and sizes.
  • Cut out paper shapes are great fun to use, or for the older creative cut out animal or insect shapes.
  • Found feathers all different shapes and sizes make great stencils.
  • Paper doilies or bits of lace make great textures in the paint.

How to use your stencil

  • Using your stencil is a very easy process; simply lay down the ink/paint onto your gel plate. Then lay your stencil over the ink/paint and whilst still wet lay your paper on top and take a print.
  • Alternatively, you can create a base layer using a metallic or light coloured ink/paint first. When your first print on the paper is dry, ink up your plate again with a darker colour lay your feather or hand cut stencil on top then take your second print whilst the paint is wet.

Transferring your print:

Once you are satisfied with your design, it is time to transfer it onto paper or fabric:

  • Carefully place your chosen paper/material over the Gelli plate, ensuring good contact.
  • Peel off the paper/material to reveal your unique, one-of-a-kind print.

Exploring other techniques and variations:

As you gain confidence in Gelli printing, feel free to move from one pull printing which means layering paint down on your gel plate and taking a print, to multiple experimental printing, using different techniques:

  • Layering: Allow each layer to dry before adding more ink for multi-layered prints.
  • Masking: Use stencils or tape to cover specific areas and create crisp shapes.
  • Ghost Printing: After removing the first print, press another sheet onto the residual ink left on the plate for a secondary print, this will result in a negative image.
  • Mixed media printing - use ink or acrylic paints to create your first layer, then move onto creating patterns and shapes on your gel plate with your acrylic markers and pens to print the second layer of your Gelli print. Fine or Bullet point nibs will add crisp details on your printing plate before printing or afterwards on your actual print.
  • Using Acrylic markers - this is a fun way of printing and also very easy. Simply draw directly onto your Gelli plates with either Posca or Liquitex Paint Markers. Wait until the marker colours are dry, then for your second layer apply a coat of ink/ paint over your drawn motif and place your paper on top whilst wet and pull your print.

Cleaning and maintaining your Gelli Plate:

After each printing session, it is essential to clean and care for your Gelli plate:

  • Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe off excess ink or paint. (baby wipes can be used)
  • Avoid using solvents or harsh chemicals, as they may damage the plate.
  • Store your Gelli plate flat or in a protective case to prevent warping or damage.

Remember, the beauty of Gelli printing lies in its spontaneity and experimentation. Do not be afraid to let your creativity flow and embrace the unexpected results. With practice and exploration, you will unlock a world of endless possibilities and produce stunning prints.

What papers can I use for Gelli printing?

While there is not a specific set of papers exclusively designed for Gelli printing, there are certain characteristics you should consider when selecting papers for this Gelli plate printing technique. Here are some suggestions:

  • Smooth papers: Look for papers with a smooth surface to ensure easy release of the paint from the plate. Smooth Bristol board, printmaking paper, or lightweight drawing paper can work well.
  • Heavyweight papers: For multi printing techniques. Choose papers that are sturdy and thick enough to handle the paint and manipulation involved in the printing process. Papers with a weight between 90 to 140 lb (190 to 300 gsm) tend to work best.
  • Non-absorbent papers: Since Gelli printing involves using acrylic paint or other water-based inks, it is best to use papers that are less absorbent. This helps to keep the paint on the surface of the paper and allows for better transfer.
  • Experiment with different textures: Gelli printing offers the opportunity to explore various textures and effects. You can try using papers with different textures, such as watercolor paper, handmade paper, or even textured scrapbooking paper, to achieve unique results.
  • Test before committing: Before starting a full project, it is always a good idea to test your selected papers with your gel plate and paints. This allows you to assess how well they work together and make adjustments if needed.

Remember, the choice of paper ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the specific effects you want to achieve in your Gelli prints. Do not be afraid to experiment and try out different papers to discover the ones that suit your artistic style best.

Do's and Don'ts

  • Do - use a selection of different surface or coloured papers to gel print onto to add your unique style.
  • Do - use sponges, shapers, cotton buds, bubble wrap, rollers, stencils, rubber stamps, cardboard rolls, caps, lids off bottles for creating circles in various sizes to create patterns and textures.
  • Do - take care whilst pulling off your printing paper or fabric off the printing plate.
  • Do - store your Gelli plates in its original packaging and follow all guide lines given.
  • Do - always lay your plate on a flat non absorbent, and clean surface.
  • Don't - use very glossy photo paper to print onto, they will mess up your plate.
  • Don't - use any sharp objects or instruments which will leave an everlasting mark on your gel printing plates. Remember your gel printing plates is an extremely sensitive surface.
  • Don't - use in a very hot environment as your paints will dry too quickly and your paper may stick to the plate.
  • Don't - use direct heat on your plate to speed up drying time.

Gelli printing is a great way to engage in and connect with nature and is fun for the whole family. Hopefully we have given you a few ideas on how to get started this summer-fun-time!