This month, I'm stretching myself creatively by trying some mono-printing with a Gelli Plate! Gelli art has become extremely popular, especially in Mixed Media circles and can result in beautifully unique art prints for home decor, for creating interesting background papers, art journals, and can also serve as a foundation for other collage art work.
Let me preface this month's article by stating that it is written from a beginner's (not an expert's!) perspective. And, please trust me when I say that it is not comprehensive--artists are experimenting with all kinds of techniques, pushing the art form well beyond what I will be sharing. My "baby steps" are intended to introduce the Gelli Plate and Mono-printing to those of you who are interested in trying something new that can further enhance your paper crafting and allow you to use a number of tools and supplies that cross-over from the realms of stamping, card-making, scrapbooking, etc. :)
It's also somewhat long, but there is also an accompanying video. And, you may find printing the following information out can make a handy reference if you are a beginner, like myself, to mono-printing. :)
Here's a list of basic items I found helpful for getting started:
- Gelli Plate (I'm using the 6x6" plate, but it also comes in an 8x10 as well as a 12x14)
- Acrylic Paints (Adirondack, Distress Paint*, Studio by Claudine Hellmuth)
- Rubber Brayer
- Non-Stick Craft Sheet
- Masks/Stencils for creating texture and pattern
- Stamps, also for creating texture and pattern--I found bold images worked the best for me
- Photocopy paper (it will print well, and is very economical for getting started and experimentation)
- Paper Towels and/or Baby Wipes
- Hand Sanitizer (for clean-up)
- Old magazines, scrap paper or blank newsprint (for rolling excess paint off the brayer/clean-up)
*Please note that my experimentation incorporated the paints I had on hand, which was primarily Distress Paint. Distress Paints are much thinner/more fluid than regular acrylic paint and while they did bead up on the plate when initially applied, with a little patience and allowing it to air out/dry while brayering, the beading seemed to disappear.
- Protect yourself with an apron, and your work table with newsprint or butcher paper
- Always keep your Gelli Plate on a non-porous surface, whether in storage or while working with it. Remove the Gelli Plate from the packaging, and remove a clear acetate sheet from the side you plan to apply paint to; leave the other on the back side of the plate
- Place the Plate (acetate side down) onto a non-stick craft sheet
- It can also help to place all of this onto a large cookie sheet to prevent the plate from sliding around as you are working
Alternatively, prior to removing the clear acetate sheets from the Plate, you could mark both of them with the word "outside" using a Sharpie marker, then remove them from from both sides of the Plate and tuck them, with the clean insides together, inside the clamshell, preventing any dirt or dust from getting on them.
Put your Gelli Plate onto a piece of Crystal Clear Plastic; it will give you an edge to hold onto while you are working with it, and also makes it easy to lift and carry the whole thing to the sink/hold under running water for clean up (You can also discard that piece of plastic when you're finished cleaning)
When you put your clean, dry Gelli Plate away, you can put the clear acetate sheets back into place, with the "outsides" facing away, and the "clean insides" against the surface of the Plate.
- Gather your tools: Rubber Brayer, Photocopy Paper, Stencils/Masks, Stamps, Paper Towels, Hand-sanitizer
- Place a few small dollops of acrylic paint onto the Gelli Plate; you will not need a lot
- Use the brayer to spread the paint across the plate in an even-fashion; you want to coat the plate with a thin layer of paint
- Add texture and pattern to the plate by placing a stencil onto the plate. You can also add texture by impressing a stamp to the plate, cleaning the stamp in between impressions; the clean stamp will lift/remove paint from the surface of the plate (be aware that word stamps will mono-print in reverse, however)
- You can use soft tools to draw your own patterns and images in the paint; Qtips, paint brushes and rubber combing tools work well. Avoid using anything sharp to draw with, as it can permanently damage your Gelli Plate
- When you are satisfied with your paint design, carefully lay a piece of paper over the top of the plate and smooth it against the paint, using the flat of your hands. You can also use the brayer to smooth out the paper, if you prefer
- Carefully pull (peel) the paper up and away from the plate and view the results! Set it aside to dry
- There is often enough paint still on the Gelli Plate that you can often get a second print or "pull", also referred to as a "ghost print" by placing another sheet of paper onto the plate and pulling again
Congratulations! You've just made your first mono-print! :)
I also have a two-part video, that shows you the process/steps I used to create the pieces for this article:
(After you hit the play button, click on the gear icon to select 720p,for best viewing quality)
- Stamping inks (dye-based) do not perform well for this technique because they bead up on the surface of the Gelli plate.
- I did experiment with two brands of pigment reinkers: Adirondack and Memento Luxe. Adirondack is thinner and more liquid-like; it beaded up on the plate considerably and no amount of brayering seemed to alleviate the issue. The Memento Luxe also beaded up initially as well but it is thicker and behaved more like acrylic paint as I continued to brayer; I did have to work much faster with this pigment ink, to avoid the beading issues... Given that, I am more inclined to work strictly with acrylic paints
- Distress paints* are an acrylic paint, but they are much thinner/more fluid than regular acrylic paints; I found that initially, this paint beaded up on the surface of the Gelli Plate, but as I continued to brayer it out, allowing the air to dry it, the beading diminished/disappeared and I achieved a smooth, thin layer of paint.
Note: It did take a little longer/required a little more patience to develop this thin layer, than it would have with regular acrylic paint; this extra time was edited out of the video. A little research on this told me it can also happen at times with regular acrylic paints... To alleviate the issue, it can help to wash the Gelli Plate with soapy water, rinse and pat it dry with a lint-free cloth
- If you've applied the paint too thickly, stencils/masks and papers applied to the plate will tend to slip and slide around
- If you are having trouble pulling the paper from the plate, you probably haven't used quite enough paint and/or it has dried too quickly; too much paint, and you'll have a goopy slick surface that stencils and paper both slip and slide on...
- Some paints, such as the Studio line, which work lovely for Gelli printing, may require the addition of "Extra Time" medium (or extender) to prevent them from drying too quickly on the Gelli Plate--next time, I intend to try applying a dollop of Extra Time, brayering it onto the plate, and then add my paint; they should mix together as I brayer across the plate, and keep the paint wet long enough to get a good print and get a 2nd pull. I do not recommend using water as an extender; it simply makes the paint watery
- To avoid "lines" in the paints and create a smooth, uniform coating, allow the weight of the brayer alone to smooth out the paint, as opposed to pressing down while rolling the brayer
- Keep a stack of old magazines, blank newsprint or typing paper and a damp rag or baby wipe handy for rolling paint off your brayer when you set it down; this will prevent paint from building up on the brayer, keep paint colors pure (unless you deliberately want to mix), and make clean up later on much easier
- You can use a spray bottle of water and a paper towel to clean/wipe paint off your Gelli Plate when needed or at the end of your creative session. I used hand-sanitizer and paper towels to clean paint from my Gelli Plate because I was using mostly Distress Paint and it was more difficult to remove/clean off
- You can use the same method(s) to clean paint from your rubber brayer
- Alternatively, you can also carry your Gelli Plate over to the sink and wash it with soapy water, rinsing it under the faucet
- You can allow the Gelli Plate to air-dry or pat it dry with a lint-free cloth
- Store your Gelli Plate by replacing the original clear acetate sheets it came packaged with (remember why I suggested those acetate sheets with a Sharpie prior to first use?) and putting it back in the hard plastic clamshell
This is just the tip of the iceberg with mono-printing and the Gelli Arts® Printing Plate!
FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION:
- Create own stencils/masks with your dies, or your digital die cutter, such as the eClips, to further expand patterns you can use with your Gelli Plate; you won't need to worry about cleaning up those cut from card stock as the acrylic paints will dry permanently them and actually give them more stability
- Use wedge (combing) tools to create a variety of patterns in the paint
- Try making your own texture tools--string/yarn, wadded up plastic wrap, bubble wrap, rags, or sponges can be pressed into the paint for interesting effects
- Stamp directly onto mono-prints you've created, to further enhance the designs
- Create even more layers, by using other paint colors and stencils to print again over previously made mono-prints. Mono-printing is indeed about layers of texure, imagery and color!
- Expand your paint colors by mixing your own colors, with these handy storage bottles
- Use your mono-prints in an art journal, as patterned paper for a scrapbook layout, or cut them apart for use on hand-made cards or tags
- Once you are confident in the process/steps to achieve the different looks you like, try mono-printing onto Smooth Bristol, which accepts mono-prints beautifully and makes for high quality prints that can be framed. You can also try printing onto (tightly woven) fabrics or canvases, pre-made tags, etc.!
The fascinating thing about mono-printing is that no two prints will ever be identical! You can find more tutorials and inspiration at the Gelli Arts blog--have fun experimenting with your plate!
- Gelli Arts Printing Plate, 6x6, 8 x 10, or 12 x 14
- Rubber Brayer
- Non-stick Craft Sheet
- Stencils/Templates: Wood/Woodgrain, Shattered Circles, (BalzerBits): Pomegranate Flower Bits , Two Leaves Bits
- Studio Acrylic Paints, Adirondack Acrylic Paints, Distress Paints,
- Extra Time Medium
- Savvy Brush Flower Head Stamp