Gelatin monotype prints

Gelatin print layered colors in blue and green.I’ve been following the work of a fellow AEDM participant, Roberta Warshaw, for several months now. She’s been working on collages but this week posted some pictures of her gelatin prints. Gelatin prints? What the heck are gelatin prints? Well, thanks to Roberta’s kind assistance and our friend Google, I got an education.

Gelatin prints are a monotype printing process where you spread paint on a slab of gelatin, make designs in the paint or put down stencils, then press a piece of paper onto the paint-covered gelatin. When you “pull the print” off the gelatin you’ll see, hopefully, a cool design on the paper. What makes gelatin prints so great, though, is that you’re not done after the first print. You can often get a second print, though it will be paler. And if you then remove the stencils and print again, you’ll get what’s known as a “ghost image”. A good website to learn about gelatin printing is Linda Germain’s blog.

Monotype gelatin print in yellow, orange, and turquoise.

Because you can print both paper and fabric with this process, I got really excited and knew I had to try it. Right away! I have always loved fabric collage and this would give me a way to print fabric according to my tastes, with the colors and designs that I want. But that’s getting ahead of myself.

First I had to experiment and learn what I was doing. Today I bought gelatin and a brayer. I mixed up the gelatin and poured a slab in a cookie sheet. I used regular inexpensive craft paint and a lot of paper towels. And leaves. We have a lot of them at the moment after all!

Gelatin monoprint in tones of white and midnight blue with leaves

Well. It was tremendous fun! Right away I realized I had to re-think what order I do things in. I had to plan whether I wanted the primary print or the ghost image. I didn’t want secondary layers to cover up previous good layers. Soon I realized I didn’t have to use the whole surface of the gelatin. And I began to use my fingers. A lot.  It was like fingerpainting for grown-ups. Very fun!

Artist's hands with paint on fingertips.
Just like a kid, I got paint all over my hands.

After several dozen “pulls” of print, and a couple hours of excited oohs and aahs, the gelatin surface began to deteriorate and I figured it was time to stop. I can still use the other side of the gelatin slab, so it’s waiting in the fridge for a later date.

Gelatin monotype print in blue tones.

Not bad for a first try, eh? I am really pleased with how these turned out. Now that I understand the process I can start thinking about what I want to do. There is a lot of room for variation with this technique. Inexpensive craft paint worked well for a trial, but I would like to use more sophisticated paint if I work with fabric. And I also think I’d like something less opaque. And I wonder what fabric to use. I have some china silk I’ve been keeping around forever, so it will be sacrificed I think. This could get interesting.

As for today’s prints, though, my daughter wanted to know what I am going to do with them. I don’t know. They’re pretty. They were fun to make and they make me happy. And isn’t the really the whole purpose of creating art in the first place?

Gelatin monotype print with blues and browns and leaves


Read what happened when I tried to use the gelatin plate a second time. I got an entirely new set of pictures. Very easy and fun.

10 thoughts on “Gelatin monotype prints”

  1. Okay, do you see the alien on the folding chair floating in the lake in the last print? I do! With his arms flailing… how fun! You are exactly right that the process is even more important that the final result. We learn so much from the process that we carry forward to other projects. Have fun!

    1. LOL, well now that you mention it, yes! Silly guy really needs to stop flailing so he can swim outta that lake. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised I’m drawn to the process. That’s what I did for years with the polymer clay. It’s all about the process with that stuff.

  2. ooooo … I’m looking forward to your exploring this process on fabric! Especially if the fabric can be used for clothing. *drools*

    I giggled with your mention of “a couple hours of excited oohs and aahs” <— that would be me. Like a kid in a candy shop. I'm thinking about getting one of those Gelli Plates which, hopefully, I can find locally — I live in the Dallas area so I have pretty large "local."

    1. Ah, so you’re an art-to-wear fan, eh? I used to look through the pages of Belle Armoire and I thought it had the most beautiful things in the world. But it all seemed so out of reach. Not so much anymore! I have a fabric collage that I made years ago, it’s been on my wall. I keep meaning to make it into a coat, incorporating it into the back panel. But I just can’t make myself sew anymore for some reason. Think safety pinning it on would work? LOL.

      As for the Gelli Plate, I looked on their website to see what stores carry them and the only thing they show is to order direct. Dick Blick also carries them, a bit cheaper. I’m jealous of living near a large city, I miss Chicago for that reason, but for now The Ozarks will just have to do. Thank God for mail order and the internet!

  3. Your prints are so pretty. This looks like a really fun project. Especially like the secons picture from the bottom.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Chris. It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to do it again. It’s funny that you like that print because it’s my least favorite and I almost scrapped it. But my daughter loved it too and so I decided to include it. Sounds like I did the right thing!

  4. WOWIE! You dove right in didn’t you! Fantastic work and I am so impressed that you made your own gelatin. I am too impatient for that! Isn’t it fun to just keep going? I have to stop when all my clothespins are full:))

    1. I did! And I’m so glad, too. It was more fun…more centering if that makes sense…than the other artwork I do. I think because it’s less considered than the polymer clay. And yet there is planning or it would be just a mush of colors. I didn’t think to set up a clothesline, so I just laid the prints on the floor, the desk, the spare bed. Getzger (the cat) was comatose upside down on the bed and if he’d have gotten up things could have been interesting. Making the gelatin was pretty easy but it’s not terribly durable. The edges and corners of the paper end up slicing through it. I have my eye on that gelli plate now. That sounds wonderful. I wish they had it locally, but mail order will have to do.

        1. I’ve got one of those elastic ones with hooks on the ends that I can put up temporarily when I print, no problem. If I remember before I get all paint covered, that is!

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