Exploring other options (gelli printing), and the next lesson…

I said I would write about this, so here it goes….

While I was working on the Tending Your Dreams (Garden Fairy) lesson in Life Book 2018, I saw posts in the Life Book 2018 group that one of the lessons posted involved using a gelli plate. It isn’t the first time I heard about gelli plate printing. I’ve seen numerous videos on it and considered trying it. I haven’t done so until now because of the following issues:

Issue 1: gelli plates are not inexpensive. At this time buying a commercially created gelli plate is out of my budget, so it was time to consider other options.

Issue 2: I read about using other alternative methods, of the ones I had the materials for, they just didn’t work sufficiently for my expectations.

Issue 3: everyone I watch who does gelli plate printing mostly uses deli paper. I can’t find any deli paper locally, and I put a halt to buying online, at least for now.

Issue 4: creating a homemade gelli plate. The only supply I had to create one was some unflavored gelatin and I wasn’t sure I had enough of that. It depends on the size I planned on making. I also heard of people having issues when making one but to be fair I also heard of a lot of people being successful at making one and some have said their plate has lasted so far a year or more. The plus for making my own is hearing they can be melted down and allowed to set up again, so being able to recycle them was a definite plus.

Issue 5: acquiring the supplies. Unflavored gelatin wasn’t hard to find, the local grocery store carries it. Finding the glycerin posed to be a bit more difficult until I finally found a local drug store that carries it. The only problem is they only carry 250 ml bottles which is approximately 1 cup and costs about CA$7 or $8. I read on one blog a person who made an 11″ x 17″ gelli plate. She needed 4 cups of glycerin. I estimate the cost to be about $45 which includes about an $8 pan for setting and storing the gelli plate. This doesn’t seem to be a huge cost when compared to what a commercially marketed gelli plate costs. It is however high enough that I decided to make a much smaller plate first just to make sure I would be successful at creating a gelli plate and to see if its versatility is as I have read about on other artist’s blogs. Also, to see if it would be a technique I would love doing.

I purchased one bottle of glycerin. I already had enough unflavored gelatin. I needed a small container I could use as a mold and for storage. Others recommended using plexiglass or glass as a cover and a surface to put the gelli plate on when doing the gelli printing. I thought I would need to purchase some but had an idea to try an extra ceramic tile I had. It had a smooth glazed surface and I hoped it would work like the glass others recommended.

I found a 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ plastic container at the local Dollar Store. It was perfect size for the ceramic tile I had. I bought 1 bottle of glycerin. When I got home I put water in the container to the level for how thick I wanted the gelli plate. Then poured the water into a measuring cup to measure how much liquid I would need. I only needed 1 cup of liquid. I measured out 1/2 cup glycerine and 2 tablespoons of gelatin (about 3 pkgs), poured the gelatin on top of the glycerin and let it sit will I heated up the water.

Once the water was boiling I measured out 1/2 cup of water and poured it into the bowl with the glycerin and gelatin. I stirred it until it was dissolved. Then poured it into the plastic container and set it in the fridge to set up.

What I noticed: I used a glass mixing bowl, and some of the mixture set up on the sides of the bowl.

I let the mixture setup in the fridge over night and then took it out. I used a knife along the sides of the container to help loosen the gelli plate. When it came out the top, the part that was on the bottom of the container had a bit of a rough surface and the other side was completely smooth. The top was also a bit more firm than the smooth side.

Issue 1: I tried using the gelli plate first on the rougher side but it didn’t work well. The paint didn’t roll out smoothly on the surface and the surface left a texture when printing. Though the texture wasn’t bad, it wasn’t something I wanted to appear on all my prints. The surface was also difficult to clean due to the texture. I flipped the gelli plate over and tried using the other side.

Issue 2: the rougher side wouldn’t stick to the ceramic tile like the smooth side did, so when rolling the paint out, the gelli plate would lift and shift. However, the paint rolled out smoothly on the smooth side and printing looked a lot better. At this point I thought I was going to have to splurge and buy a gelli plate.

I put it aside and walked away from it for a bit. I thought about all the things I noticed when I had created the plate and wondered if using the glass bowl, which even at room temperature feels cooler than room temperature, might have caused the liquid to set unevenly, making it lumpy and then the lumps settled to the bottom of the container before it setup in the fridge. I decided to cut up the gelli plate and melt it in the microwave. This would also help me see if homemade gelli plates are indeed able to be melted and setup again.

I cut the gelli plate up, put it in a microwaveable bowl, yes another glass one but I knew it would warm up in the microwave so if the issue was caused by the cool glass, that wouldn’t be an issue this time. In fact, the gelli plate melted in no time. I used a fine strainer to get any bits of paint out of the liquid that was left from my test printing. The liquid this time looked wonderfully clear of any lumps and setup beautifully in the fridge.

Once it was setup again, I took it out of the fridge. This time I just used some gentle pressure with my fingers to pull the sides away from the container which worked great and the plate came out beautifully. All sides were wonderfully smooth and adhered well to the ceramic tile.

The above pictures are of the gelli plate after I melted it down and set it back up again. In the second picture you can get an idea of the plastic container I used. What I love about this container is it has ridges on the outside so I was able to see if it was sitting level in the fridge and also it helped me determine how much liquid to put into it. The sides also slant slightly outward which means the bottom of the gelli plate is slightly wider than the top. I think this helps keep it firmly planted on the ceramic tile. This picture is after I used the gelli plate to make the below prints. I store the gelli plate on the tile and use the container as a sort of cover over it, protecting the plate for having anything accidentally sit on top of it.

I did some test prints after cutting down some lightweight cardstock to about the size of the gelli plate. This time the printing worked wonderfully. Here are pictures of what I created:

I had a blast creating these prints. The homemade gelli plate worked wonderfully. These are my first prints and I know I took some of them a bit too far and some of the layers aren’t that great but I was successful at creating a few really nice prints. Plus, I now have a better idea of when to stop layering.

This definitely gave me the desire to have a larger gelli plate. I just need to find somewhere I can buy some deli paper. 😦 If I want to use the prints for collage. To make a large plate, I’ll have to buy a container the size I want and possibly get a larger ceramic tile or plexiglass for a cover and for when I use the plate. I want one large enough for a 9″ x 11″ piece of watercolor paper. It would be nice to have a 12″ x 12″ plate but I haven’t had much luck at finding a container in those dimensions. But then I tend to want to go BIG when I find something I really love.

I am now looking forward to doing the lesson involving a gelli plate, especially since I found out I won’t have to spend so much money on a commercially made gelli plate. The homemade gelli plate is as versatile as I have read online, and knowing I can make my own means I can make whatever size and shape I want.

If you are curious as to the recipe I used, it is very simple: 2 tablespoons of unflavored gelatin for every cup of liquid. The liquid needs to be half glycerin and half hot water. For my 5″ x 5″ plate, I needed a total of 1 cup of liquid so I used 1/2 cup glycerin, 1/2 cup boiling water and 2 tablespoons of gelatin. If you plan on using a glass bowl, maybe warm it a bit before putting the glycerin in it. If you end up with lumps, just cut it up and melt it down again, maybe strain it if it looks like it has any lumps or debris in it.

The only thing I’m not sure of at this time is how well this plate will keep. It has been a week or so since I made it. I keep it at room temperature on the ceramic tile with the plastic container over top of it to keep dust off of it. I have no idea if it will get moldy or not. Only time will tell. Some use alcohol in the mixture. I didn’t. So far it is fine.

This was a great project to work on in between the drying of the various layers for the Garden Fairy.

After completing the Garden Fairy, I moved on to the next lesson, Week 2, Colorful Intentions with Andrea Gomoll. Here is what I created:


I went a bit too heavy with the black which is fine. I’m learning and next time I’ll apply the black a bit differently. Otherwise, I LOVED this lesson. This is one of the reasons I love watercolor SO MUCH. Watching it blend and bleed into each other when using colors that compliment each other just makes my heart sing. I definitely plan on using this technique in my watercolor art journal when wanting to express myself or even get things out.

Andrea is so good at how she applies watercolor, she makes it look so easy. It isn’t as easy as it looks. In abstract art, that really doesn’t matter. You can let the paint and water do most of the work. I’ll definitely be playing around with this more.

This was also a great exercise to do after taking so long with the Garden Fairy. It was quick and easy, something that could be done in a short period of time. I think I only had two drying periods, one after the first layer was put on and then one at the end before using the stamps and texture paste. And of course the final drying after it was complete. It was done in one day but I had the day off and could work on it, then take a break and do some chores or run errands and come back and do some more.

Next lesson will be the Compassionate Bear with Tamara Laporte in Life Book 2018, Week 2. I did one last year and look forward to creating another one.