Breaking in a Gelli Plate


Oooh! Isn’t that pretty! Today I am going to start walking you through the world of gelli plates. At least a little of what I know. There are so many ways you can make prints and so many ways to use the prints you make. But the most important point to remember is each print is unique. You will never make the exact same print twice. That is why this process is also called mono printing. It’s a one shot deal. Over and over and over. Plenty of one shot deals. For as long as your arms don’t fall off. Hahahahahaha!

Gelli plates come in all shapes and sizes. I think I have about 14 or 15 altogether. All different sizes and shapes but the one that I did not have was the one big enough to make an 8.5″ x 11″ print and have it cover the entire page. So I recently purchased this 9″ x 12″ plate straight from Gelli Arts. Brand new it comes inside what they call a clamshell. It is a protective plastic case that opens and you remove the plate. Typically there will also be a thick plastic sheet on each side of the actual gelli plate itself – to protect the gell.

To use the plate, remove one of the plastic protectors and place the other side face down on a clean surface. I use my craft mat because it doesn’t matter if I get some paint on the craft mat. It cleans off. I’ve seen people use cookie sheets or counter tops or old plastic table cloths – just be sure it is something you can remove paint from if you need to. Once your plate is down it shouldn’t move around. That Gell grabs the surface and should stay put. Then remove the second plastic protector sheet and you are ready to roll. That was set-up in a nutshell. Hahahaha! So. I had this brand new plate that I wanted to break in. Normally I would start with acrylic paints (I will show that in a minute) but I had been itching to try out my pan pastels. So I started with those. I took a stencil and placed it directly onto the gelli plate. Once stuck down it won’t go anywhere. I promise. Until you pick it up with your fingernail. I also had my pan pastels sitting on the desktop and I had a couple blending tools ready to go.

I used the blending tool (I’ll put a link at the end), picked up some color from one of the pans and just rubbed it onto the plate over the stencil in circular motions. Think putting on a matte cheek color with a brush.

I think I used 4 or 5 colors until the entire stencil was covered. For this one I didn’t cover the entire surface of the plate with the pan pastels. I was getting the feel for it.

I slid one fingernail under a corner of the stencil and removed it. Then placed a sheet of mixed media paper over the stenciled area, pressed down firmly with my hand – slide your hand all across the surface of the paper – and lifted the paper away.

I lifted a small amount of design away. Almost like a soft ghost print. And I sat it to the side.

I won’t show you the paint for every page but I am for this one. Acrylic paints work great and that is what I mostly use. They don’t need to be expensive. The cheap FolkArt bottles you can purchase at Walmart work just fine. For this piece I used Dina Wakley’s lime acrylic paint. Cause it’s bright and I love it!

I used one decent size squirt of color and a brayer to cover the entire surface of the gelli plate – even the parts the stencil didn’t cover. Just roll your brayer back and forth and side to side until the whole thing is covered. You don’t want to push down too hard or it will disturb the underlying pan pastel and design.

I took that first ghost print and put it face down onto the surface, pressed it down all over with my hand (you could even use your brayer – I do sometimes) and lifted the paper away. You can see anywhere the stencil originally covered the gel plate was now filled with a light shade of that green and some of the yellow from the pastel residuals. I love this pull! That’s what they call it when you pull the paper off the plate and go awesome!!! that is so beautiful!!! In fact, you will be seeing this particular page again one day in the next Tangle Starts Volume 2 of full color backgrounds.

As you can see there was still plenty of color on the plate. And you will notice I did not clean off the plate. I never do. I let the paper do the work for me when I am ready for that to happen. I wanted to add back in some more colors, so I squeezed a bit of pink acrylic onto the plate. That little bit of pink will cover this entire 9″ x 12″ area. I brayered it on all around and took a sheet of printmaking paper (you can use card stock, watercolor paper, mixed media paper, computer paper, I’ve even used sales fliers before) pressed it down and made a pull. See what I did there? Pulled it off the plate?

And I was like oh my word!!! this is amazing and beautiful and I love it!!!! and I do! And I put it to a different side so nothing could get on it and mess it up. Cause . . . butterfingers.

But I still had color and design on the plate so I added more color. My go-to color of turquoise. You know how I am about color. Hahahaha! And brayered it on. I am going to teach this computer how to spell brayer and card stock one day. If it kills me.

Once brayered . . .

. . . and after I lifted or pulled the print. Almost all that color and design is gone. Almost. As we go along you will see these little bits and remnants pop up in other pulls. Let’s do one more.

This time I went with a stencil that covered the entire gelli plate and hung over the sides. And you will see the previous design and color still on the plate. I never clean my plates other than sticking a piece of computer paper on it, smooshing it all down, letting it sit for a minute and pulling away as much color as adheres to that sheet of paper. That’s all the cleaning I do. And the reason for that is – those little bits of color and design will continue to show up in your prints giving them beautiful, wonderful texture that can not be created by any other method.

I used the pan pastels again with a couple clean blending tools. I don’t get too picky about that either, hahaha! I tried to make sure some pastel covered the entire plate. Some areas are darker than others and that is A-OK.

Then I removed the stencil. Crazy. Right? You can still see that first stenciled citrus design.

I have always greatly disliked this blushing color in the past, but yesterday it just yelled at me to please use it. That I wouldn’t be sorry. So I used it and covered the whole plate.

The brayer is going to be your friend so get one you like. I used another sheet of printmaking paper and pulled a print. Look at it closely. A good bit of the citrus design did not show up but some of it did. And the crazy geometrics of the second stencil show the pan pastel colors. I like it but I thought the blush was still a little thick for my tastes. But it is useable and I know some of you will love it!

Without adding any more acrylic paint, I took two smaller pieces of paper – because they are what I had on hand – and put them in place for a couple pulls.

And this is how they looked. Not much of that blushing color was left on the plate. I still got a good geometric look and a little of that citrus on both sheets. I sat these two pieces off to the side so I could use them to add more color to as I went along. Think layers of color and texture.

I have a hot pink Pebeo Iridescent acrylic paint that I added to the plate and made this pull. Even though the pink is clearly the star here – you can still see the geometric and the citrus design.

OK. I am going to stop here for today. I’ll leave you with some product links. Tomorrow we will take this a few steps further and you will see how these designs and the new stencils and layers I add build together to make even more incredible backgrounds that you can then use for art journaling, for tangling, for collage work, for card making, for ATC bases – really you are only limited by your imagination. There are so many ways to use these mono prints and even if there wasn’t – this is just so much fun to do!

Gelli Plate
Printmaking Paper
Dina Wakley Acrylic Paint
Walmart FolkArt Craft Paint
Blending Tools
Pan Pastels
Orange Slices Stencil
Geometric Retro Stencil

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13 thoughts on “Breaking in a Gelli Plate

  1. Such a useful post and beautiful too. I’ve been interested in Gelli prints for a long time, since a swapper sent me some incredible tiles she’d printed. I didn’t know if it was something that would work for me to do. Still not sure… but fascinated to watch you working wonders with it. I love the sense of no waste – just letting those layers build up and surprise you.

    • be sure the read the next two days as I show you some other ideas with gelli plates and stencils <3 it is addicting for sure

  2. Alice, great post. Do you have a link for the stencils you can share, in particular the geometric one? Thank you

  3. Loved reading this. So I have a few questions…
    How long does a Gelli plate last for?
    Is thee an alternative for Gelli plates?
    Where can I get the stencils you used here from?
    Really enjoy your blog… Xx

    • great questions! and I know a few of the answers 🙂 I’ve been using some of my gelli plates for 7 or 8 years and they are in fine shape. I know you can make your own gelli plate instead of buying one. there are plenty of youtube videos. here is a link to one but I have not tried it myself: I just searched for ‘homemade gelli plate’ and found a bunch of videos. most all the stencils I have, I purchased from here is a link to their stencil section: scroll down and look at Hero Arts and at the Joggles stencils that they make themselves. and thank you so much for following my posts – I really appreciate it <3

      • Thank you so much for getting back. These websites give little info on postage to the UK. Would you know anything about it at all? It’s OK if you don’t know… But I have been after some of these stencils for like forever. And I love these posts on your blog. Must take up a lot fo your time… Coming up with innovative ideas and write ups…. Tha k you for all this hard work… Xx

  4. Interesting to see you trying those Pan Pastels – I did a workshop at a craft show some years ago & discovered I couldn’t cope with the feel of them, a bit like chalk on a blackboard – it’s very odd & just the thought sets my teeth on edge. That first stencil reminds me a bit of ‘Nzeppel. That second pull with the residual pattern beneath the lime green is definitely my favourite. Fascinating to see how you use these backgrounds with tangling.

    • tangling will be fun with these. but many times I cut them down into ATCs and use them for swaps. some of these will go towards a new book of color backgrounds because I love them. hahaha! I tend to use the ones I don’t like so much for the ATCs because I cover them up with more product.

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