I love gelatin printing.
The first time I did it was back in April 2011. I made my own plate with unflavored gelatin and printed papers for days on end.
I had another epic session last fall, covering every surface in my studio with beautiful papers.
But it's kind of a pain to make gelatin.
It's not that it's hard, it's that it takes planning and I'm not much of a planner.
So I sucked it up, dropped the cash and bought a Gelli plate.
I quickly found that even though it's pretty great, I don't like it as much as an actual gelatin plate.
The biggest disadvantages are that it's too firm, and the paint dries too quickly.
With real gelatin, the plate is somewhat moist so the paint stays wet a little longer, giving you more time to work, and more prints per single paint application. I also didn't realize how important the wiggly-ness of the gelatin is to me. It has more give, so the objects I lay on the plate get sort of embedded in the paint, which makes for a much more detailed print.
Check this out. This is a piece of cheesecloth laid on top of black paint, on top of the gelatin. I first rubbed paper on top to remove most of the black paint from around the cheesecloth, then I pulled off the cheesecloth and took another print:
This just blows me away. It's almost like a photograph.
I did some side by side testing with the gelatin and the Gelli plate and I couldn't get this level of detail on the Gelli plate.
The gelatin gives crisp detailed images of delicate objects like plants, flowers, feathers, etc.
Of course it being winter right now, I didn't have much plant life to choose from, but here's a print of some pine needles.
Now, I'm not knocking the Gelli plate.
It's pretty awesome to be able to pull it off the shelf any time the print-making mood strikes.
And I certainly got some wonderful papers from it.
(stacks, and stacks, and stacks....)
I'm not sorry I bought it, and I know I will continue to use it for background and collage papers, but I will continue to use real gelatin when I want the print to be the focal image.
Here's my summary of both types of plates:
cold/moist – paint doesn’t dry as fast, can get
gives more detailed ghost prints
paint rolls more smoothly
easier to wipe clean
inexpensive – my grocery store sells boxes of
unflavored gelatin for $1.79. I used
three boxes to make my 8x 10 plate and it was weeks of fun for under six bucks
since you are pouring a liquid into a container
of your choice, you can make virtually any size or shape plate
planning ahead – you need to buy the gelatin,
mix it with the boiling water, and let it sit for several hours to get firm
It has to be refrigerated after use, so it hogs
a fair amount of refrigerator space
after a while it starts to break down/crack/pit,
but I probably made over 100 papers off a single block before it really became
Gelli plate advantages:
it’s always ready, there’s no prep time, I can print
on a whim, I don’t feel compelled to print a million sheets in one sitting
since I know it will always be there when I need it
the residual paint that doesn’t lift off can
make very interesting layers on subsequent prints.
Gelli plate disadvantages:
it’s too firm
paint dries too fast
it has a weird smell (am I the only one who
the cost of plate (the bigger the plate the more
limited size (they come in
a few different sizes, but you can’t customize the size to your project
If you've been dying to try this technique but find the Gelli plate too expensive, go make your own gelatin. If you absolutely love it and become addicted the way so many of us have, you might want to start saving your pennies for Gelli plate.
Want more info on how to make and use gelatin plates? Linda Germain has a wonderful website called printmaking without a press, and she's got a lot of excellent information as well as her wonderful art. Her video on making a gelatin plate is here. (or the written instructions here)
I leave you with collage number 44/365, made entirely from pieces of various gelatin/gelli prints: