View Full Version : Gelatin Monotype

01-28-2005, 11:22 PM
Hey All:

Here's a monotype technique not many printmakers use - gelatin printing. I started doing some gelatin printing as my press was not available for a few years after I moved up here. Water based inks take some getting used to after working mostly with oil inks and intaglio methods. I used speedball inks and Diane, I can't remember the type of paper, it is a silk-screen paper, smooth surface.



Diane Cutter
01-29-2005, 09:14 AM
Nice print, B ... I enjoy your recurring theme of the scallop. I've done a few of these. They are a lot of fun. Since they have such a flexible base, I really like how the edges turn out. Your finished result is much more creative than my first ones: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=225579&page=1&pp=15&highlight=gelatin

I was very surprised that the monotypes I did wound up selling quickly (the 3 elephant ears). I'm giving a 3 hour demo at the local art center the end of February which might generate a few more interesting prints. It seems to have a lot of appeal since all the 'ingredients' are so readily available...


01-29-2005, 11:30 AM
Thanks for showing me your prints, Diane. Nice! Some artists I know have said the technique is a kid's technique. I guess I am not such a purist.

I haven't had much luck with painting on my monotypes, but I haven't done much painting as I am more of a texture person. I have tried intaglio sort of with the geletin, that is interesting - cutting fine lines and letting ink settle in. I don't have a good print of that method.

I have the same book but haven't tried the dye-reduction method, where you ink up the paper with dye then let the dye soak into an uninked geletin plate.

Oh for those without a press, one of the benefits is that you can make very big plates if you wish. But you end up having to print fast. In the book Nancy M said you can use oils, haven't tried those but I tried Daniel Smith's water-based inks - the ones that don't dry for 24 hrs - and they didn't release from the plate very well. I only tried once and didn't try varying the medium (extenders etc).


Diane Cutter
01-29-2005, 11:39 AM
...I have tried intaglio sort of with the geletin, that is interesting - cutting fine lines and letting ink settle in. I don't have a good print of that method.....

....the dye-reduction method, where you ink up the paper with dye then let the dye soak into an uninked geletin plate.
Well, that makes two of us non-purists. I rather like the gelatin plates. I normally use a press but, of course, that's not possible here. I rather enjoyed feeling the coolness of the gel through the paper.

I used Akua-Kolors for them... That allowed me to paint in a very watercolory fashion with a decent sable brush. I think next time I want to use a mulberry paper or something a little thinner.

You make me want to try the intaglio... and I'd forgotten all about the dye method... Hmmm.... I've got 6 packets of Knox in the kitchen... Hmmm....


Ari Sutton
01-29-2005, 12:36 PM
Please tell me about the process some more. What kind of gelatin do you use? Is it available in art stores? I like the result above.


01-29-2005, 01:07 PM
Thank you Ari.

There is a good book on this technique, "Making Monotypes Using a Gelatin Plate" by Nancy Marculewicz.

You can get Knox unflavored gelatin in the supermarket, or in bulk at restaurant supply houses. In the supermarket it is about $10 for a box that will make quite a few plates.

1. Take a glass or plexiglass plate -- clean!

2. Build Dam: Take kids' plasticine clay and make an inch high dam on the glass. The dam has to hold the fluid in until it gels, and the gelatin is watery so make sure you get a good seal on the glass. You can make any shape you want.

3. Test Dam: Test the dam with water from the tap to make sure you have no leaks.

4. Cook: 2 tablespoons gelatin to one cup water. This is twice as much gelatin to water as the box says for normal gelatin cooking. Put the water in a pot on the stove, on low to medium heat. sprinkle gelatin SLOWLY into the water, stopping to stir when you can see the film on the top. Going slowly is critical or you will have lumps. Stir with a spoon, don't beat or you will have bubbles.

Dissolved gelatin is transparent and fluid. The change in viscosity can be dramatic, and happen quickly, so watch the pot, stirring all the time.

When gelatin is dissolved, remove from heat and pour into dam.

1 cup of fluid will make a 6x8 or even bigger plate depanding upon the height you build up.

5. Let Gel: Cool plate till it gels. You may have to put in fridge, but be careful to keep level so you don't spill. I usually make the plate the night before.

6. Finish Plate: Take clay off from around gelatin. Be careful and go slowly so as to not tear the gelatin plate. The gelatin is best if it sticks to the glass or plexi, it is harder to print when it comes off.

If you tear the edges, just cut away with a knife till you have the shape you want.

7. Ink: Ink up with a roller or brush. You can experiment placing various items down on the plate. I found that speedball extender and transparent media are very useful to use.

8. Print: Use a dry paper. Thinner picks up ink better as does less texture but of course you can experiment. Rub your palm lightly over the back of the paper to transfer the ink. You don't need much pressure.

9. Clean plate: you can use a piece of newspaper to pick up extra ink left behind, or use a SLIGHTLY damp sponge. The plate may look colored but you can print other colors (yes even lighter ones) on it after cleaning.

10. Storage: Cover with plastic-wrap and store in fridge. Plates can last a few days, depending upon humidity. If you leave too long you will end up with a dried old carcass of your former plate on a slab. It smells after a while, too, so plan on printing no more than a few days after making the plate.

11. Reuse: If your plate breaks, you can still use the left-overs to print so be creative and go for it!

12: Dual & more Color: You can overprint other colors. Transparent medium is fun for this.

OK Ari, go to it - we expect great things!

Ari Sutton
01-29-2005, 01:40 PM
Wow, sounds like an interesting process. It seems like it takes a lot of time though. Maybe I'll try one after this semester. :)


01-29-2005, 01:45 PM
Thank you so much for explaining your process. I may want to give this a try sometime myself. I like how your print turned out. It reminds me of a patchwork quilt.

01-29-2005, 01:52 PM
Ari, it is quite easy - just go to the supermarket and toy store, get one item at each then stir up a brew tonight - you will be printing tomorrow!

I just wrote the steps so you learn from my mistakes, also, since you asked about gelatin I figured you have never cooked it, not being female & all. :D <grin>.

Sassy, that is just my style on this you can make anything of course that the techniques let you - see Diane's post for another more painterly style.


Ari Sutton
01-29-2005, 02:25 PM
Thanks B,

I actually do most of the cooking in my house, even make gelatine at times. The difficulty would be having the space in the refrigerator while we are all (six of us and a 7th on the way) in the trailer while the house is rebuilt.

I was imagining that somehow the gelatin became the ink for the print rather than the plate. It seems easier for me to just use a plexiglass plate to print from.

Thanks for the info. I will save it for when I have more space to work. I'd like to try it to see the different effects one can get from it.


Diane Cutter
01-29-2005, 03:40 PM
Hey, Ari... I actually didn't put my plate in the fridge. I just made sure (with a level) that the area was flat and let the gelatin set over night in the studio. Our night time temperature here is in the mid-70s (degrees).

I will admit to starting the printing in the morning because the first time I did it I had visions of melting jello... But it's pretty tough stuff, just like those Jello blocks kids like to eat...


Ari Sutton
01-29-2005, 06:37 PM
Thanks Diane,

It sounds interesting. I guess what I am not understanding is the benefit of using the gelatin plate over using some plexiglass. It is mearly for ease of transfer of the ink to paper? Does the print look different? Do you carve an image in the plate or use a mold of some sort to shape the plate or make images in the plate? If you are carving something into the plate, then how is it a monotype? These are the things that aren't really clear to me.


01-29-2005, 08:40 PM
Ari, the most common method is to paint onto the gelatin as with a plexiglass monotype. It is not quite the same, but can be similar depending upon your style. I have done some where I carved into the gelatin. I guess I still consider this a monotype instead of a monoprint as it degrades and changes shape quite fast, also it is impossible (for me) to ink it the same way each time. Perhaps others would call the carving method monoprint but just a really small edition!

The big difference in the painterly method is that you don't have to use a press.


01-30-2005, 07:31 PM
I was just thinking, after Ari's comments abut molds, has any one tried putting leaves and or plants on the gelatin , then pulling the leaf up when it is solid, to get a leaf texture on the plate. I wonder if that would work? maybe dip the plant in olive oil before so it will come out easy without tearing the gelatin.

01-30-2005, 08:23 PM

I haven't tried that but would worry about tearing the plate. You can get a good effect by inking the plate with a brayer, pressing a leaf into it with your palm, and pulling up prior to printing. The ink pools along the leaf outline & veins and makes quite a nice pic.


02-26-2011, 01:14 PM
Hmmmm....no one has posted here in a while but I'll add my two cents in case anyone is still interested.
You can definitely put leaves, paper stencils, all sorts of interesting bits....just don't press down too hard. The gelatin can take a bit of mild abuse. I don't have anything to show right now and I am still learning but I have a friend who makes fabulous monoprints using all sorts of things, including fruits and veggies, cut up. Eventually the gelatin gets worn down but it lasts quite a while.
It is quite simple to make the gelatin, really.


03-03-2011, 03:05 PM
Wow. this is very cool. I saw the mono-print technique with Gel Mediums, but this looks very cool. I can see how it would work well with organic matter. I dig the organic thing, but I'm more abstract so I'd keep my eye out for flattish non-metallic objects (to avoid damaging gelatin plate).

hmm... I'll need a BIGGER TABLE!
this is actually a pretty cool vid of the print process
GADS! All sorts of good tips for this process (from mixing to printing) at

winking cat press
03-03-2011, 06:26 PM
If I am not mistaken, and I often am, this is the same technique used by William Blake (the poet, writer, printmaker of the 1800's) to illustrate his books. If this is the case, the prints are not as much monotypes as they are just-a-few-types..... since the process lends itself to multiple copies without a lot of extra effort.

I'd like to see more of your work. It looks fascinating.

Diane Cutter
03-04-2011, 07:57 AM
Try it... It's lots of fun. We should set up a challenge so more people can run through it with a bit of help...


03-04-2011, 10:11 AM
I agree, Diane, a challenge would be great, just don't have time right now to monitor one....anyone???

B, did you just press the shell into the jello?

I checked your prints out, Diane, lovely painterly effects......hmmmm, we did a monoprint 'workshop' when I was camping this summer, from plastic plates prepared with gum arabic and dried....was a lot of fun. I wonder if we could do a jello one this year :rolleyes:

03-04-2011, 01:37 PM
Beautiful print, love the subdued colours, and abstract composition.
As for why gelatin, well the softness allows for one to press textures into it, as shown. This is my favourite printmaking medium.

03-05-2011, 11:08 PM
One of the first things I was taught about gelatin plate printmaking was not to dispose of the gelatin plate by trying to flush it down a drain. It will clog your pipes and cause an awful mess.

03-06-2011, 10:31 AM
Bandbox, very good warning and not exactly intuitive either. I put mine in the freezer until garbage day, and then it goes to the municipal compost (green bin).
Melted gelatin poured down the drain will cool and congeal on the inside of the pipes.

04-14-2011, 11:07 PM
I recently discovered gelatin plate printmaking and I really like the process and possibility of making interesting prints without a press. I have been having fun exploring the the medium and have made quite a few prints to date.

Is there anyone else out there exploring gelatin plate printmaking too?

I'd love to be involved in a dialog to share and learn.



04-15-2011, 06:54 AM
That's a fascinating idea. And lovely delicate finish. Perhaps there is a synthetic alternative to the gelatin, which would produce a 'tougher' plate, same effect but allowing more proofs?


Diane Cutter
04-15-2011, 07:27 AM
I got to reading this again and the you-tube videos and came across this one where Linda Germain re-uses her gelatin (http://www.youtube.com/user/lgcreate#p/u/0/JjSSX_gHyno). Certainly worth doing given the cost of the unflavored stuff. I'd always thrown mine out but won't any more!


04-15-2011, 06:51 PM
Eventually the gelatin plates fall apart and start to mold. I think the blender-reusing of the plates is only useful if the plate breaks or cracks. Then yes, they can be blended and reused. But when they start to mold, they need to be thrown away. But I have had good luck by adding a bit of bleach to the gelatin to prevent molding too early. Mine have lasted well over a week.

04-16-2011, 01:18 PM
The comment about Blake reminded me that when I was a kid in the late 1960s we used gelatin with spirit duplicator supplies to make a hectograph. The idea was similar: a bed of gelatin that held the ink. But we used the spirit duplicator supplies to make multiple prints. One could use spirit masters or there were color hectograph pencils available. The colors are no longer available except for blue -- blue hecto pencils are sometimes used for temporary tattoos!

Here is a video of someone using a gelatin bed for multiple copies, but using water-based transparency markers instead of hecto pencils: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVzrX0NI_-4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVzrX0NI_-4)