Texture-Boosting Monoprinting Techniques

18 Feb 2013

If you read this blog regularly, you know I looooove gelatin printing, especially with my Gelli ArtsTM printing plate. But I have to say, I've been in a bit of a rut. I've used some basic masks. I've made marks with a few tools. But I am looking to go further and make my monoprints more complex, with layers of textures and colors.

collage monoprints by jodi ohl
Collage monoprints on blocks by Jodi Ohl.
So, I spent some time looking at the blogs of artists who create gelatin monoprints (with a purchased plate or one they made from scratch with gelatin) and also spent some time on the GelliArts blog (gelliarts.blogspot.com).

Here are some of the tips I learned:

  • Use a variety of tools and found objects to create texture on your plate, and overlap them. For example, after you ink your plate, lay a stencil on the plate and then lightly press a textured mat or plate on top of the stencil. When you remove them, the imprint from the mat will appear only through the cutouts on the stencil, making for more interesting texture.
  • Combine flat and slightly raised items on the plate together. For example, lay a piece of string over a sheet of sequin waste. Press your paper or fabric on top of both at the same time.
  • Wipe out the paint or ink. Use a comb, a rubber spatula, a pencil eraser, a plastic fork, or the end of a spool to remove some of the paint or ink before printing.
  • Use cut Tyvek® shapes as a mask. Tyvek is more durable than paper, so it's easier to use the shapes over again when pulling multiple similar prints.
  • Spritz. Keep a small spray bottle of water handy and spritz the inked plate to create a spatter effect.

But the best way to get complex gelatin monoprints is to layer them. Here is the basic tutorial from GelliArts:

gelatin plate ready for monprinting by geliiarts
gelatin monoprint by gelliarts
gelatin monoprint by gelli arts
The top image shows the plate prior to
pulling the first print. Several textures
and some masks have been laid down.
The second image shows the paper after
the second printing.
The third image is the last print.
(All images above courtesy of GelliArts.)
1. Ink your plate with a brayer, edge to edge, and use several different texturizing tools (gridded rubber mats, bubble wrap, sequin waste, etc.) to create a background texture.

2. Lay down some masks (such as Tyvek Os and artistically arranged string) and pull your print by pressing your paper over the top of the plate and smoothing your hands over it.

3. Lift your paper and put it aside to dry. Pull a ghost print on a new sheet of paper. Remove the masks and clean your plate.

4. Start the process over with a new color of ink or paint and laying down textures and your masks.  Take the first print you made and place it on top of the plate, smoothing over the back of the paper to create the print. Set it aside and make a ghost print (with the same paper you used for the first ghost print). Remove the masks and clean the plate.

5. Repeat the process a third time with a different color of ink.

Now, that's texture.

Experiment with different inks and paints to see what kinds of effects you can get. In the examples shown here from GelliArts, Joan Bess used Golden® Open Acrylics which are transparent and slow-drying. In Jodi Ohl's example, Jodi mixed Golden Artist Colors® Open Medium with acrylic paints to keep the paints from drying too fast.

In the March/April 2013 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, you'll find Jodi's tutorial for how to combine Gelli printmaking with collage, mounting the collaged monoprints on blocks of wood. If you subscribe to Cloth Paper Scissors, you should be receiving your copy of this issue in a few days. It's filled with texture ideas for printmaking, three-dimensional art, and painting.

P.S. Do you make gelatin monoprints? How do you create texture? Share your ideas and tips below.

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charmed4life wrote
on 18 Feb 2013 9:48 AM

Julie Fei-Fan Balzer has a great online Gelli printing class for a very affordable $15. Highly recommended!!!

Dara Lynn wrote
on 18 Feb 2013 10:35 AM

I always have 2 large journals nearby - great for cleaning off my brayer in one ...and after using my stencil for monoprinting - grab it and smash the stencil on a page and brayer over it. Makes a great base to play with Silhouettes and no waste in ink, and helps clean off the stencil.  I see this as a great opportunity to multi-task!  

Think I am going to take Julie's class $15 is a great deal !!

Ellie Knol wrote
on 18 Feb 2013 3:56 PM

I have done some mono prints, and I mean real mono, only one print per page. I think they turned out nice.. I don't use that much paint, and I must say that the lighter versions are the prettier ones. Also - use the ink underneath your masks to get multicolored prints, so subtile and also great for overstamping with all sorts of ink (and stamps of course)... I like the print to be transparent. My blog is: elliecreahoekje.blogspot.com

on 18 Feb 2013 4:26 PM

I found some interesting textures in the kitchen dept of Target, one a honey-comb patterned hot-pot holder and the other were consecutive rubber rings that were designed to be put under hot cups of coffee (mug rug).  I'm always on the prowl for new textures.  Asked permission to cut up an old car floor mat that had a fantastic pattern on it......easy to clean and sturdy!  Tear apart one of those nylon scrubbers for the bathtub....makes a nice texture but it sometimes crawls.  I don't spend alot of money creating masks, but cut out the thin cardboard shapes myself from old cereal boxes.  They could be laminated if you needed them to last a longer print series.  Thanks for keeping us "gelli" printers informed!!

on 18 Feb 2013 7:30 PM
on 18 Feb 2013 8:06 PM

Small bubble wrap makes a very interesting design; it's great for the "real" gelatin plates because it is soft and doesn't mar or cut the surface of the gelatin. Small ferns, leaves and other things from nature are also wonderful. Try the diamond pattern from the string bags used to bag oranges, onions, and some other produce. Look for the softer cotton bags; some of the plastic ones are too harsh for the gelatin.

RobertaWa wrote
on 19 Feb 2013 1:51 PM

I make them and I think the most important thing is getting some type of composition going so that it doesn't look like a mass of textures with no direction to it.

on 19 Feb 2013 3:27 PM

I live in tropical Costa Rica so the premade gel blocks are not available to us.  The problem with the homemade ones are that they don't hold up to the heat and break down quickly.  Any suggestions?  Also I recently invented a technique to create monotype prints in the sand.  It's a great activity for a day at the beach!

Sgolbert wrote
on 23 Feb 2013 8:04 AM

Go and see Linda Germaine's website, she's the best!

She'll be teaching this spring in Austin, TX.

Stephina wrote
on 29 Jun 2015 1:13 AM

Great article. What's Tyvek?

CherieHaas wrote
on 29 Jun 2015 10:22 AM

Hi! I've not used Tyvek myself, but it looks like it's a type of materials that you can find in home improvement stores. :) Thanks for asking!