Gelatin Printing

I’ve been wanting to try this technique since I saw it on Quilting Arts TV last summer. I knew we’d be snowed in today so I got all of my stuff together yesterday so I could start playing this morning.

We first need to make the gelatin plate.

Here it what you need to make this plate:

  • pan to use as mold for the gelatin
  • 4 packages of unflavored gelatin
  • plastic wrap
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 1 cup of cold water
  • spoon or stir
  • bowl to mix gelatin and water

Other things you will need:

  • paper or fabric (washed) cut to size
  • stamps, string, packing bubbles – anything for texture
  • gloves (optional)
  • paper towels or cloth to wipe hands and paint jars
  • brayer or paint brush to spread paint
  • covered work surface and area for finished prints to dry

Cover the bottom of the mold with plastic wrap leaving wrap hanging over all sides to serve as handles when you get ready to pull the gelatin plate out of the mold. Mix the cold water with the gelatin until it is dissolved. Add the hot water, stir and then pour into the wrap-lined mold.

Pouring gelatin into mold
Pouring gelatin into mold

Put the gelatin pan into the refrigerator until set. It should set up in a couple hours, but I let it set overnight since I wasn’t planning on using it until today.

When ready, remove gelatin “plate” from pan by grabbing plastic wrap.

Pulling wrap and "plate" out of mold
Pulling wrap and "plate" out of mold

Move the plate with the plastic wrap to your prepared workspace. I cover my workspace with freezer paper. Also, make sure to have a space to place your finished pieces to dry.

Now it’s time to play. Cover the plate with paints, inks, or dyes. I used Claudine Hellmuth Studio acrylic paints and Jacquard Lumieres, which both act nice on fabric. I purchased some fabric reactive dyes, but didn’t want to deal with them today. You don’t have to use fabric – use paper and any type of ink, paint, and even watercolors.

Spreading paint over gelatin plate
Spreading paint over gelatin plate

Now it’s time to get creative. I started by placing a doily and some branches from our Norfolk Pine on the plate. When you have the everything in place like you like, cover it all with the fabric or paper and press down. I used my hands to smooth it out. This is where the gloves come in handy. However, if you don’t mind getting paint on your hands (I don’t), then don’t worry with gloves.

Pine and doily on printing plate
Pine and doily on printing plate

When you pull up your sheet you will have your print.  It was nice but boring.

But we’re just getting started. I bought some old wood fabric stamps on ebay many years ago and never had an occasion to use them. So I used one of them to stamp into the plate. Instead of getting the texture from the items you cover the plate with, with this technique you are putting the texture on the plate.

wood fabric stamp and gelatin printing plate
wood fabric stamp and gelatin printing plate

Now I put the fabric over the plate, rubbed and got this. I really love the texture.

Print from wood fabric stamp
Print from wood fabric stamp

Then I placed other things – sequin waste, paper circles, and string. Some of the prints I didn’t like so I kept over printing them. I really liked the impressions the pine branches made and the texture I got from the fabric stamp which I used in many of the backgrounds.

This following one I over printed several times.

Then I thought I’d try black fabric and see what effect I could get.

You will notice that the print is smaller than my piece of cloth. You can make the print plate as large as you want to, but be sure to adjust the gelatin and water. Also, after working with the plate for an hour or so, it may start to crack which I thought added more interest. Cracks can be seen in the above piece.

This was really fun. If you have any interest in this process, I really encourage you to do it. It’s not expensive and is really fun. As I mentioned before, you could make beautiful paper this way too. I know that I’ll be playing with this technique again.