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GELATIN PLATE PRINTING 101     Tutorial: How to make a gelatin plate

Making a gel plate is a simple magic. The basic materials are inexpensive, non-toxic, and clean up with water. The process is extremely versatile and is equally well suited for professional printmakers, home enthusiasts, professional artists, and young children.

No two prints are alike. The appeal lies in the unique translucency that creates a quality of light very different from a painting or screen print, and the beauty of this media is also in its spontaneity and its combination of printmaking, painting and drawing mediums.

 

You may find it helpful to keep a collection box of objects for printing. Feathers, leaves, washers, cut-outs or stencils, plant fibers and string .... delightful!

Kit Supplies
available here

~ The BASICS ~ Briefly ~ Sorta-Kinda briefly .~

Step 1: Make the Plate 

 You will need:

  • 2 T. HighBloom Gelatin per cup of water
  • measured cups of water - first mix cold, second mix HOT  
  • Mixing Bowl and stirring spoon  
  • Pour Tray

  Measure the cold water into a large bowl, then sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. Stir gently to mix thoroughly and let it sit for one or two minutes to pre-saturate the grains before adding the hot water.
When you mix the hot water in, DO not use a beater! Stir gently with a large flat spoon to avoid creating froth or bubbles. It will become more and more clear.
Pour gently into the tray and let it sit until set. Set time depends on room temp if you don't refrigerate it. Allow an hour min. in the fridge.

    * Figure the amounts for your tray by  filling it with water and measuring the amount. For each cup, you need 2T of gelatin.  Our 6"x9"x1" trays take 6 cups to fill to the brim, so this needs 12 T. gelatin. An 8" cake pan with 2 c. of water, 4 T of gelatin gives a 1/2" thick plate.
Voice of Experience:  The liquid plate may have some froth or bubble on the surface which is easy to remove by dragging a strip of newspaper lightly across the surface.
NOTE NOTE NOTE: A full tray of liquid is next to impossible to move without spills!!! If you want to refrigerate it for a faster set, place the tray level in the refrigerator first, then pour it full.   Or be prepared to peel dried gelatin film flakes from floor and fridge for a week.
If you use a baking pan too small for your paper to fit, you will need to release the plate from the pan for printing. We think this take quite a lot of practice! Maybe you'll be instantly good at it? heeere's HOW : Run a warm wet thin blade around the edge of the pan and try to slide it out onto your printing workspace.  If the pour plate is textured on the bottom, you need to flip it again so that the smooth top surface is up. We place a smooth sheet of plastic over a board, place the board over the tray, and invert it so that the large smooth surface is again on top.
  We obviously prefer the foam plate pour! Edges can be trimmed if needed to make the plate higher than the sides. This has the added advantage of providing more support for the plate and makes it easy to wrap and store. To release the plate from this mold, free the edges with a plastic knife and allow a little water to run under it then gently bend to release the plate, and reverse it as above. ,

Step 2.   Ink the plate 

 You will need:

  • Ink or paint  
  • A brayer  
  • A clean flat surface for rolling the ink out     
  • optional - fine mister, newsprint stack

 

Scoop some printing ink onto your palate (this can be a piece of wax paper taped to a smooth table, a piece of glass, a platter. We recommend our craft sheet - heat proof, glass smooth, easy-clean)
Roll it out evenly with the brayer until you have a nice thin coating on the roller. Brayer the ink onto the gelatin plate gently and evenly.

  Voice of Experience: It's helpful to keep a stack of newsprint next to the print area for rolling the brayer clean between colors. A fine mister is also useful if you are using waterbased print inks. Acrylic paint will dry quickly. You may add retarder or spritz it with the mister as needed to keep it open. Our fabric paints are waterbased and do not dry as quickly but the mister will be handy for these too. Oil based inks stay open longer, but require more cleanup work. 

Step 3.  Pull some Prints!

 You will need:

  • Objects from your collection - feathers, string, leaves, lace, stencils cut from paper or thin plastic, etc. 
  • Soft tip brush pen or Qtip for making marks
  • material to print on, fabric or paper
  • A place to hang or lay your many prints as you work

1.  Place a textured object on top of the inked plate.
Gently press the object down to be sure it has made good contact with the surface of the plate.
Be gentle; you don't want to tear, gouge, or damage the sensitive gelatin.

2. Leave the object in place on the plate and lay a piece of paper down on top of it, pressing gently to ensure that the paper makes good contact with the exposed gelatin plate. Peel the paper off.
The resulting print is called a negative image.

 3. Continue by gently lifting the textured object off the gelatin. Try not to move it across the gelatin. Lay a second piece of paper down on the gelatin plate and rub gently and evenly to ensure good contact between the paper and the gelatin. Slowly peel the paper off. This print is called a positive image.

 Voice of Experience:   ~ The gelatin plate is quite cold when it comes out of the refrigerator and moisture may condense on it initially for up to 20 minutes. Use a blank sheet of newsprint to blot this excess moisture before inking again...or accept that your first prints may be little bit runnier than your later prints.
  ~ At room temperature, a chilled plate can become wetter and softer after 2 or 3 hours of use. Refrigerate to restore it to print quality.

Step 4.  Clean & Store Your Plate:  
  You will need:    water for water based inks, soap and water for oil-based.  Rinse it under a gentle flow of cool water, and use a soft brush or sponge to assist. DO not use a hard spray! If using soap, rinse well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.You may keep the plate covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 week for re-use. If it cracks or dries too much for use, re-heat it and re-poured several times.
Voice of Experience:  ~ If you have small imperfections in the surface, try running a heat gun gently over the entire area for a quick remelt & smoothing.      ~ NEVER dispose of gelatin down your drains. It will re-gel down there in your pipes, and is quite a bother. Dump into compost or trash bin.


Many useful tools and toys for printmaking can be found scattered through our website. For those of you inclined to browse, please click the links below. 
To view specific things (& special pricing) for gel plate printing, click here.

Size:

 Hi-Bloom Gelatin for Printmaking
A particularly  strong and clear gelatin perfect for platemaking. Foodsafe, exceptional value ~ half the price of Knox, and no bothering with those tiny 1/2 oz packets.  Long shelf life at room temp or refrigerator when dry. Allow 2 Tablespoons per cup of water for best result

 
Ink  Brayer


Fine Mist
Sprayer


Non-stick Heat
Proof Inking Sheet

 
RISO Oil -Based
printing inks


Permaset Water Based
Printing Inks

 
Heat Gun

Stencil symbols
Re-usable stencils


card drying racks

 
Paper trimmer

STARTER KITS

from $10.75