Gel Plate Tutorial

6 July 2021

This month’s Vlog is a practical tutorial, and we are showing off Gel Press Printing.
Head to our YouTube channel and check it out – this episode Creative Makes Gel Plate VLOG

We’re going to show you what the process is and what supplies you would use to print your own amazing Gel Press papers.

What is a Gel plate?
A synthetic gel-type material, (if you DYI and make your own, you need Glycerine, Gelatine, and Water, plus a mold for it to set in.) The Gel Press Plate is a firm, flexible material that you can use over and over. The Gel Plates we use are from Zart Art. Link here

Creative Note: 20 x 25 cm is the size we like to use because it is about the size of an A4 paper

How do we start?
What medium is used? Is it a special ink? No, acrylic paint is what works best on the Gel Press plates. We use Satin or Dimension acrylic paints.

Creative Note: printmaking ink, such as relief ink is an open style medium and isn’t tacky enough for the process of printing off the Gel press plates. Printmaking ink is also a slower drying medium, so you would have to wait at least a whole day before printing over the ink. Not what we want in this fast creative process.

Paper
What paper do we use? Our go-to paper is 110gsm Jazart from Officeworks. We use it in the studio as a multipurpose paper.
Why? This is a heavier weighted paper (heavy weight means feels/is thicker and firmer) It will also accommodate more layers of ink easily. We feel that 80 gsm office paper is too thin and will become floppy when heavy with ink. We prefer to use the heaviest paper we can access.

Creative Note: Use what you have access to and can accommodate in your budget. You can even reclaim paper! Using old music paper, atlas pages or pamphlets to print onto helps create an interesting layering of imagery and colour. Look around your home and office for paper to be reclaimed for Art!

Roller / Brayer
A hard rubber brayer is used to apply the paint onto the Gel plate. A firm roller will disperse the paint evenly. You can use a foam roller too or a brush. Basically, you can use anything that will transfer the paint onto the Gel plate surface.

Creative Note: Be mindful though, the surface of the Gel plate can abrade easily, so smooth and gently is advised. (Jade used Bubble wrap for a textured surface and it looked AMAZING!!)

Supplies
Creative Note: This is a suggested list of supplies that you would need to gather to begin your Gel plate printing session
Gel Press Plate. 
White paper to place under the Gell Press Plate.
Acrylic sheet or similar to roll paint on.
Selection of Paints.

Dimension Acrylic Primary Paint set 5pc x 75ml

Satin Acrylic Paint Set 6pc x 75ml

Brayer, roller, paint application tools/materials.
Paper to print on to, try to use at least 110gsm weighted paper.
Somewhere to dry your papers (a clothes airer can be a good resource for this)

Technique: Mixing on the Gel Press plate
Apply dots of paint across the plate. Less is best. Too much paint will make our paper heavy and wet. Using the brayer / roller, gently mix the colours into each other. You can roll back and forth until they are fully mixed to a solid colour, or leave some of the original colour showing. Experiment with the colours you like. Or if you prefer, determine your colour palette prior to beginning. When the paint is mixed to your preferred colour, lay your paper onto, and rub your hand over the whole plate to transfer the paint to the paper. Note: remove rings from fingers so you reduce the risk of denting your Gel plate.

Creative Note: No need to clean the plate, you can repeat the application process and go again.

Technique: Mixing off the plate.
We use an acrylic sheet to mix the paint on if we want to mix the colours off the Gel plate. This type of product can be purchased from your Art Supply store. A sheet of glass or a mirror are other surfaces you could use. (Tape up the edges if using a pane of glass) A similar process would be followed if mixing off the Gel plate. Apply small amounts of paint and use the Brayer/roller to roll the paint back and forth to combine. Then roll the paint onto the Gel Plate.
Creative Note: You don’t have to fill the whole of the Gel plate with paint. Experiment, do what looks good for you.

Play with the colours on the plate. Any residue left from a previous print can be lifted by another coat of paint, and if you keep practicing and experimenting you will see how the colours mix into effects that appeal to you.

What are the papers used for?
These prints are called Monoprints. Mono meaning one, so each print is individual and unique. Creating printed papers is about building a catalog of assets for your creative practice. Now that you have created a LOAD of gorgeous printed papers, what would you use them for??

Mel and Jade use their stash of printed papers for activities such as:

Collage – Mel creates amazing compositions of Australian Native Floral arrangements and Bird imagery.

Jade used some of hers in the first Life Drawing Extra class.

Hand-sewn journals for writing or drawing into.

Base papers for a Junk Journal.

 

Did you Know…?
Gel Press printing is a great introduction to Printmaking? By practicing Gel Plate printing you learn the process, workflow and techniques that are familiar to Relief Printing. The papers that are made are great backgrounds for printing over with linocut prints or even stamps.

Did you Know…?
Jade has been Printmaking for more than 2 decades!! It began with evening classes in 1994 to learn traditional printmaking. Jade decided to learn the craft of Printmaking because she had observed it when studying her Certificate of Art and Design way back in 1991/92, but hadn’t included it as a subject in her program. Returning to study a Diploma of Art in 2011, Jade chose Printmaking as her Major subject and refined her skills in Relief, Etching and Screen-printing techniques.

Did you Know…?
In the Creative Makes studio, we have an A4 size printing press, that is suitable for either relief or etching plates to be printed through. Printmaking is a fabulous kitchen table art form, as it is portable enough to be practiced in your home or in a studio.

Sharing our skills and ideas.

This tutorial has been created to show our community that being creative can be simple and fun. Gel Press printing is a wonderful introduction to the world of Printmaking. It is also a great activity for when you are feeling a little flat creatively, or a bit stuck for ideas, it is fun and playful and can help you lighten up and get the creative juices flowing again.

Coming up…

Watch out for Mel’s Australian Native Inspired Collage workshop

There will be a Printmaking Come and Try in studio for those interested in what Printmaking is all about.