Monday, 12 January 2015

Printing with Gelatin

One of my online students introduced Gelli Plate printing to me last year. 

The Gelli plates are not very large and quite expensive so I didn't follow it up at the time. 
I don't really know what made me think of them again, but I have an imminent deadline that requires me to work quickly (successfully) and colourfully and I thought the best way for me to tackle this was through print. I have for over a week been making a gelli plate trying to perfect the recipe. 
Therefore the plate has had many incarnations to get it to its current condition. I used it and then reboiled and more gelatine added to stop it ripping at the sides or when handled. Also I started by pouring it into shallow plastic trays but they tend to distort and so I have resorted to a baking tray about 1cm deep.

The Recipe for a Basic Gelatine Plate:

Mix 12 tablespoons of gelatin into 1/2 pt (1 litre) of cold water then add 1/2 pint of boiling water. 
Pour this slowly into a biscuit tray and leave to cool and set. The mixture should be the colour of weak tea or light honey. 
If you want to make a vegetarian equivalent you can substitute the gelatine with Agar agar but it is unfortunately more expensive and brittle/ fragile

Plasticised Gelatine Plate:

I was intrigued to find you can make a 'plasticised' permanent plate and so that is what I have been endeavouring to do. To 'plasticise' the mixture so it doesn't go moldy you need to add one tablespoon of glycerin and two tablespoons of surgical spirit or rubbing alcohol to the mixture.

It is an incredibly sensitive medium and you can achieve beautiful results, the images above are details from some of my initial experiments. 
You then use a printing roller or paint onto the plate with water based paints or ink. I used my usual favourite emulsion, but you can use acrylics and even water colours. Then remove some of the base layer of paint/ ink by gently pressing textures and objects onto it ( I used plastic packaging, poppy seed heads, star anise, scraps of fabric and anything else that I thought would work). You can use stencils, and of course layer the print pulls and it is handy to have a water spray to moisten the print block to prevent the paint/ ink drying while you are working.

There are many examples and videos of people using this technique available, and hopefully I will be able to share more examples over the coming weeks.


  1. Thankyou for this I think I might have a go.

  2. thank you for the explainations

  3. Great examples and thanks for sharing the recipe.

  4. I've been thinking about experimenting with one of these, thanks for the recipe, love your results