Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Monoprinting for the Beginner (aka: Getting Inky!)

First let me thank Club Scrap for inviting me to blog for you today. It is truly an honor to be able to share this fun technique I stumbled across a while back. I am totally sure some of you have come across this before and wondered how it was done. So here goes ...

To make the plate, you need some kind of shallow container. I bought some of those disposable aluminium trays in the supermarket and lined two of them with a layer of foil. You will also need 3 boxes of Knox gelatin to 6 cups of water. 

Heat 3 cups of water in the microwave to boiling--about 6 minutes. Meanwhile, put 3 cups of cold water in a large bowl, and add all 12 sachets of gelatin. Stir well until dissolved. Add the boiling water from the microwave to the cold water/gelatin mix; stir well until fully mixed. Pour the mixture into the lined foil tray. You will see that some bubbles will form on the surface. It is best to remove those by skimming. Allow it to cool down on a flat surface; then refrigerate for 12 hours.

(Now is the time to pat yourself on the back and have a quick slurp!!! Actually my quick slurp turned into dinner out with Mr. Wonderful.  I am a lucky lady.)
Once the gelatin plate has set completely (and is very firm to the touch), remove it from the fridge, and very, very carefully unmould it from the foil-lined container. It is very important that the unmoulding is done extremely carefully, because the last thing you want is for the plate to crack before you use it. What I do is lift the whole plate using the lining of the container very slowly and transfer the lining and plate on a craft sheet. Then peel back the lining so the sides of the gelatin plate are exposed. Once the gelatin plate is in place you can begin the monoprinting process.

 To make prints, gather a variety of acrylic paints (along with an extender so the paint does not dry too quickly), stencils, stamps (or any other ephemera you would like to use), and of course, a copious amount of paper.  You will also need a brayer, paper towels and some newspaper. You will find that you have to move quite quickly if you are not using an extender with your paint because the acrylic will dry quite fast!

Now for the fun part! With your brayer, layer a thin and even coat of white acrylic paint onto the gelatin pad.  

Carefully layer either a stencil or mask on top of the white paint and then layer on another color (or two) with your brayer. Gently press the object down to be sure it has made good contact with the gelatin, while trying not to tear, gouge, or damage the plate.

Next lay a piece of paper down on top of it, pressing gently to ensure that the paper makes good contact with the exposed gelatin plate. Gently peel the paper off. The resulting print is called a negative image.

Continue by gently lifting the textured object (stencil or mask) straight up off of the gelatin, trying not to disturb the art. Place a second piece of paper onto the gelatin plate, rubbing gently and evenly to ensure good contact between the paper and the gelatin. Slowly peel the paper off. This print is called a positive image.

Important tips:
  • The gelatin plate is quite cold when it comes out of the refrigerator and moisture will condense on it for the first 15 to 20 minutes of use.You may find that your first prints are a little bit runnier than your later prints.
  • As the plate warms up, it will become more and more `mushy' and may start to fall apart.Chilling the plate after 2 or 3 hours of use helps restore its firmness.
  • The plate may be stored in the refrigerator and reused for up to 2 weeks (or until it falls apart or you notice green fuzz, whichever comes first).

Once you have a feel for the basic process, consider playing with some experimental techniques:
  • Collage printing & layered printing--Create a collage either by making multiple prints on a single piece of paper, or by arranging many different individual prints into a single composition. Or, created a layered image by overprinting.
  • Negative-on-positive, positive-on-negative--Printing negative images on top of positive images and vice-versa.
  • Apply ink to printing object--Apply small amounts of ink/paint with the brayer (or your fingertips) to an object before pressing it onto the gelatin plate.
  • Different papers--Different types of paper will absorb the ink/paint differently and reflect the technique differently.
  • Different inks--Experiment with different brands and types of printing ink, paints, dyes, etc. Tempera paint is particularly well-suited for young children. Be sure that all colorants are water soluble!
  • Use the plate like a rubber stamp--Cut the plate into manageable pieces, ink them, then pick them up and print on surfaces as if you were using a rubber stamp.
  • Plate texture--The gelatin itself will develop a pattern with use. Experiment with cutting, gouging, and reforming the plate.
  • Alternative media--Gelatin printing techniques can be used on fabric, painted surfaces, wood, egg shells, etc.

I think that just about does it for technique.  Experimentation is the name of the game here, and you can use all kinds of things layered directly on the gelatin plate. Just be extremely careful when you lift anything off the plate for the best results.

I have lots of examples posted in the online Galleria to help inspire you.

Again, many thanks to Tricia for inviting me to write this blog post for you. It has been a pleasure! 

Take care of all of you.

Annette Dragon


  1. WOW Annette, this is a new technique to me. Thanks for sharing.
    I love the resulting cards and images.

  2. Thanks for sharing the technique, Annette! Sounds like a weekend project when I have a little more time to play! Great job!

  3. Thank you so much. This is so much fun and you get different results every time.

  4. It does sound fun but maybe a little ambitious - I guess I am going to have to find out what is available at our weekend crop so I can decide whether I can do this there.

  5. Annette, this sounds like a fun project! Thanks for much for going into more detail here so we can play ; )

  6. Great post, Annette! I've heard folks talk about gelatin prints before, but didn't really 'get it.' This tutorial is very clear and well written on the subject. Thanks!!

  7. Everyone is very welcome. I am hoping so see lots of these showing up now.

  8. Annette, these are mouth-watering-jaw-dropping-gorgeous! I don't know if I would take the time to go through all those steps but maybe I would if I knew I would get these kinds of results. So stunning! Thanks.

  9. Eeek, that looks a bit messy and scary! :) I would love to see pictures of the layering on stencils and brayering other colors - whatever you did after the white acrylic paint base. I still can't figure how you got from that to the finished product. I'm such a chicken!

    1. Our friend, Annette, DID include many, many pictures for those "in-between" steps, so it's my fault they didn't get included...I didn't want the post to be too long. I'll see what I can do about getting those posted for those who asked...

      CS Karen

  10. Annette, your prints are down-right gorgeous!!!! I have never heard of this technique before, but it's something I would like to try. I'm with Pam though, I'd love to see more pics of the steps between the brayering of the white acrylic paint & the final product. I would be more comfortable trying this if I saw those steps.


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