Have you ever wanted to try your hand at printmaking but been intimidated by the equipment needed for some types, like screenprinting? That’s where monoprinting— making a one-off print—with Gelli Plates comes in. 

What is Gelli Plate printing? This medium is much simpler and cheaper than some more advanced forms of printmaking, yet still allows you to express your creativity. Here’s a comprehensive introduction to gelli plate printing, including information on how to make your own Gelli Plate.

green and pink print
Student work by Alec E. for Monoprinting with the Gelli Plate

What Is a Gelli Plate?

geli plate
Wondering how to make a gelli plate? You don’t need to, as ready made ones are easily available from art stores.

Gelli Plates are reusable printing plates that let you make monoprints without a large, expensive press. They look and feel like gelatin plates but don’t use animal-based gelatin. Gelli Plates come in a variety of sizes, and they’re durable and long-lasting if cared for and stored properly. They’re slightly sticky, so keep them in the plastic casing that they come in when not in use to prevent the plate picking up debris. 

What Is a Gelli Plate Made of and Can You Make Your Own?

gelli package
Source: Gelliarts
You can learn how to make a gelli plate of your own, but the real thing is a brand name. 

A Gelli Plate is made from non-toxic synthetic gelatin, which is vegan friendly. You can also learn how to make your own gelli plate—there are plenty of recipes and tutorials online—but it would be a gelatin plate. Some of these gelli plate recipes use that name, but the real non-gelatin Gelli Plates are actually a brand name specific to Gelli Arts.

To make a gelatin plate that lasts a couple of weeks, simply mix gelatin with water (according to the instructions and quantities on the packet) and pour into a smooth container to set. To make a longer-lasting plate, add glycerine and hot water to the mix. 

How to Make a Monoprint? Gelli Printing in 6 Steps

supplies all spread out
A monoprint and some of the supplies needed to make it.

Wondering how to use a Gelli Plate? Ready to try your hand at Gelli Plate printing? Follow these steps to make your own monoprint with a Gelli Plate.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

acrylic paint, pleexiglaass, brayer, block printing ink
Some supplies needed to make gelli prints.
textured items
Textural objects to make patterns on your prints.

To make gelli prints, you’ll need: 

  • Acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Water-based block-printing ink
  • A surface to spread the ink on (such as plexiglass)
  • A brayer/ ink roller
  • Paper (watercolor paper works especially well)
  • Gelli Plates 
  • Items for making textures, such as stencils, string, leaves and flowers, etc.

Step 2: Add Paint or Ink to the Gelli Plate

spread paint
Paint directly onto the surface of the Gelli Plate.

It’s easy to learn how to use a Gelli Plate. Paint directly onto the surface of the Gelli Plate with acrylics and a brush, as you would when painting on paper. Acrylic paint dries quickly, so have all your materials ready for printing before you start this process.

Alternatively, if you’re working with water-based printing ink rather than acrylic paint, use the plexiglass and brayer. Squeeze a little bit of ink onto the center of the plexiglass and use the brayer to roll a thin, even coating. Then roll the brayer over the surface of the Gelli Plate to coat it with ink. You’ll likely need multiple layers to coat the surface fully.

Step 3: Draw Patterns on the Painted Surface

draw patterns
Draw patterns onto the surface of the plate.

You can now add more details and texture to the surface of the Gelli Plate by drawing onto it with the end of a paintbrush (don’t press too hard as you don’t want to damage the plate.)

Or, add textures with other materials, such as string, stencil cutouts, and organic materials gathered from the garden.

add textures
Add texture with string and paper doilies, among other items.

Step 4: Lay Paper on Top of the Plate

put plate on top
Make a print by placing paper on top of the plate.

Once you’re happy with the design on the plate, it’s time to make your print. Place a sheet of paper on top of the plate, taking care not to smudge the print. Some people gently place one end of the paper down first and slowly roll the other end down. Others place the middle down first, following gently with the outer edges. 

Step 5: Press the Paper to Get a Strong Imprint

apply pressure with brayer
Use the brayer or your hands to get a clear print.

Being careful not to move the paper once it’s lying on the plate, press it down with your hands or roll a clean brayer on top. Apply pressure firmly but evenly, and don’t neglect the edges and corners!

Step 6: Peel Up Your Print

take off the print
Lift the paper to see your print.

Peeling from one end, carefully lift the paper off the surface of the plate to reveal your finished print and leave it to dry.

Monoprints are, by definition, single prints. But if there’s ink remaining on your plate, you can also make a second print. You won’t get the same intensity of color with the second (or “ghost”) print, but you could use it in a layered piece later, or cut it up to use in a collage.

do second print that is lighter
An example of a “ghost” print from a second printing.

Make Gelli Plate Prints With Texture

Abstract Textures Using Gelli Plate Monotype Printmaking

Written By

Elen Turner

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