Gelatin Monoprinting Makes a House a Home

I've been making gelatin monoprints off and on for about a year now, and I've collected quite a stack of prints waiting to become part of a piece of art.

gelatin monoprint
House monprint.
gelatin monoprinting collage
Home monoprint collage.

Some monprints can stand alone. But as I'm learning and experimenting, most of my printmaking endeavors yield a lot of prints-in-waiting, A lot of these are what I call "garbage prints," prints on top of ghost prints or prints I made when I pressed a piece of paper on top of the gelatin plate in order to pick up as much paint as possible before adding new colors. Some of those monoprints have actually turned out to be favorites.

I also use a lot of masks, particularly houses and hearts. This print here is a garbage print made over a ghost print, using a house mask. The ghost print had been too light and the plate full of paint had gotten very dark due to an overloaded brayer. So I put down the mask and pulled a print. The ghost print peeking out seemed lacy to me, and I liked the results a lot.

But, as it was, the print was just a house. I wanted to make it a home. I found an old photo of my maternal grandparents and their children (that's my mom standing, on the left). The photo was taken in what they referred to as "the big house," a turn-of-the-century farmhouse in Michigan.

I was never there; my grandparents moved before I was born and later it was torn down. But the stories my mom and her siblings have told over and over again over the years about the pranks they played, the Christmas gaffes, the family dinners–all accompanied by gales of laughter have brought the place to life for me so much that I actually feel like I have memories of being there.

This formal portrait seemed to fit perfectly inside the house I had created. The rooms all had heavy draperies and lace doilies so popular during the 1940s, so I added a lace border to one side and mounted some of the text on vintage fabric from that era. I have no idea why the reinforcement stickers are they, but they just seemed right.

Now this house is a home.

If you've never made a gelatin monoprint before, Jenn Mason gives a detailed tutorial on her Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video "Mixed-Media Collage: Working in Layers." But here are the basics:


  • Gelatin plate
  • Paints or inks
  • Brayer and palette
  • Paper or fabric
  • Found objects and tools for making designs in the paint
  • Paper cutouts to act as masks


1. Squirt  2-3 colors of paint or ink onto your palette and blend them slightly with your brayer. Analogous colors work well, to start with, but you can also go with complementary colors or add a color that has some metallic in it. Experiment!

2. Roll the paint or ink onto the plate.

3. Using your found objects or tools, lightly press into the paint. In my samples I used half a nutshell and the end of a wooden spool to make impressions and the tines of a plastic fork to make lines. You want to move the object slightly on the surface to displace the paint, but don't cut into the plate.

4. If you want to use a paper shape as a mask, now's the time to place it. If not, go ahead and lay your paper or fabric down on top of the plate and lightly rub over the back with your hands. Lift up the paper or fabric and see what you've got.

5. Before the paint dries, take another piece of paper or fabric and make a ghost print. I find sometimes I like the ghost print better than the original.

6. Repeat the process as often as you like, trying different combinations of found objects, masks, and paint colors.

Gelatin monoprinting is one of the fastest, economical, and fun ways I know to make prints. With Mixed-Media Collage: Working in Layers and other printmaking supplies in the Cloth Paper Scissors Shop, you can make gelatin prints and learn how to turn them into mixed-media collages.

P.S. Do you have print-in-waiting? What are you planning to do with them? Tell me in the comments section below.


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