A Beginner’s Guide to Jelly Printing
Jelly printing is tremendous fun but it sounds a little frivolous, which is maybe why it’s often described as Printing without a Press or Monoprinting with a Gelatine Plate.
Jelly printing is ideal for anyone easily bored by repetition and enjoys creating and experimenting. It’s also a great introduction to printing for children because it’s quick and easy with no need for great precision or sharp cutting tools and suits their uninhibited attitude to art.
You should know before you start that jelly printing can be a bit random, with no guarantee that you’ll get the print you were expecting, but I think that’s part of the magic. If you use a home-made gelatine plate (we always do) you’ll find that your jelly plate will change over time as tiny holes develop and the plate dries out slightly, which adds texture and interest to your prints.
HOW DO I USE THE JELLY PRINTS?
Like any prints, jelly prints can be framed and hung on the wall. Jelly prints are also loved by mixed media artists, scrapbookers and bookmakers. Jelly printed paper is also used to make unique backgrounds for other forms of printmaking, like lino and screen printing and can be combined with drypoint printing to make each print individual.
When you have a pile of prints that you’re not sure how to use, try some of our creative ways to recycle scrap paper.
WHAT TOOLS DO I NEED FOR JELLY PRINTING?
If you want to try jelly printing, you need powdered gelatine, glycerine to make a jelly plate using these instructions. You’ll also need a roller and a palette for rolling out your ink. Water based relief or lino printing inks work best on the jelly plate as acrylic paints tend to dry out too quickly unless you add some medium.
When you’ve finished your session, gently wipe your jelly plate clean with water and a sponge (or wet wipes). If you leave the jelly plate out on the worktop it will dry out, so cover it with cling film or put it into a sealed container and keep in a cool place until you need it next time.
FIRST STEPS IN JELLY PRINTING
The best way to start jelly printing is to make a few stencils from a magazine cover. Cut out simple shapes like ovals or circles with a craft knife so that you have a heap of shapes and a piece of paper with lots of holes in it.
Turn your jelly plate out of the container onto the work surface and put your paper (copier paper or newsprint while you’re learning) close to hand. Put a tiny splodge of ink onto your palette, ink up your roller and then roll out a thin layer of ink onto the jelly plate. Place your stencil shapes and holey paper onto the jelly plate, lay a piece of paper on top, smooth over with your hands and then peel the paper away.
You have a silhouette print. You will see that where your stencils have masked the ink, nothing has printed, making a silhouette of your stencil.
Carefully remove the stencils, using your fingers or tweezers, lay another piece of paper on the jelly plate and make another print. This is your ghost print. The ink remaining on the plate after the first print was taken together with the ink previously covered by the stencils has been picked up to make a print.
Ink your jelly plate again and repeat the process. Print over your prints with other colours, experimenting with how much you clean your jelly plate between colours.
Use leaves as stencils and print over your previous ghost prints.
Over print silhouette prints of leaves and flowers with more silhouette prints.
DEVELOPING YOUR JELLY PRINTING TECHNIQUE
Have fun! Experiment and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Abandon perfectionism, embrace experimentation and enjoy the process.
Use up your stack of paper. Find different types of paper and print on maps and books.
Try different combinations of colour, ghost and silhouette prints. Keep reusing your stencils and plants to see how they retain the ink and add it to subsequent prints. Cut more complicated stencils and use them to build a picture. Lift the ink from the plate with stamping tools to add texture. Discover the detail you get from a ghost print of a leaf.
If you’d like to explore monoprinting with a jelly plate, join us at Slamseys for a Jelly Printing workshop where you can learn new techniques and develop your own style.
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