Gel Plate Printing Tip – printing a white silhouette

 In Printmaking

How do you print a white silhouette with a coloured background when printing with gelatin plates? Here I share my process with you …

Gel plate printing, aka gelli printing, aka gelatin plate printing, is one of life’s simple pleasures. I, quite simply, can’t get enough of it. It’s spontaneous, fun and immensely satisfying. And, like just about any other art form, there are so many different ways to approach the medium.

My approach is to build up thin layers of colour, using plant matter to create my image. Weeds are my favourite plant material to use – they provide a vast variety of shape and size, and have strong vein structures. And, yes, they grow in abundance at my house!

In this article I’m sharing the steps I use to create a white silhouette effect from a gel plate that already has colour and detail impressed onto the plate. Below are 3 example of the process, created in some time-out play time yesterday …

Lets Get Gel Plate Printing

You will need:

  • A gelatin plate – either a commercial Gel Plate or Gelli Plate, or have a go at making your own. I’m using the commercial 6″x6″ Gel Press plate in this demonstration, but you can make your own very easily. I have a recipe here.
  • paint or ink in your colour of choice
  • a Brayer (aka roller)
  • 2x sheets of paper
  • mark making elements (eg plants, stamps, stencils). For this example I am using plant matter.

Step 1. Ink your gel plate

I’ve inked my gel plate with an even layer of prussian blue paint.

Mix it up a bit and introduce a 2nd colour to the plate before you roll the paint out, or only roll the paint over some of the gel plate. You can get some great results when you play around with different applications of paint to the surface of the gel plate.

Step 2. Place your ‘mark’ on the plate

By ‘mark’ I mean leaf matter, stamp, stencil – what ever it is that you want to ‘print’ as the background behind your white silhouette.

I love to use plant materials, and generally weeds. In this example I’ve used the leaves from a cobblers peg plant. In a world focused on sustainability – I have a very sustainable supply of this plant in my garden ๐Ÿ˜‰

Step 3. Make an impression

Now make your first print. But this printed impression isn’t part of the final print. Rather it’s used as more of a blotting sheet to create the ‘ghost print’ layer.

The real purpose of this print is to create an impression of the leaf shape and vein structure on to the surface of the gel plate.

I rub the paper over the leaves, firm, but not so firm in the uncovered parts of the gel plate (the area with no leaf covering). I don’t want to remove too much paint from these uncovered areas at this stage.

The two pictures shown for this step show:

  1. the printed impression next to the plate, you can the paint has transferred to the paper, but I pressed lightly enough so as to leave enough paint on the surface of the plate for the next and final print.
  2. plant removed from the plate revealing the impression left by the leaves and vein structures, ready for the next step.

Step 4. Place your white silhouette

Now place the item that will form the white silhouette on to the surface of gel plate.

I like to play with shape contrast – big and small, long and short, thick and thin. The contrast creates interest on the final printed piece.

In this example I’ve laid some very thin roadside grass on the gel plate.

Gel print with a white silhouette - step 4

Step 5. Make your final impression

Grab your 2nd sheet of paper and place it over the gel plate. Give it a good, all-round, gentle rub to make your printed impression, then lift from the plate.


Gel print with a white silhouette - step 5

The final image

And here she is … printed.

Mix it up a little – use leaves from a previous print that have paint on them, and face the leaves paint-side-down on the gel plate.

Use the same process with stencils. Print onto music paper of other pre-printed papers.

The ideas and possibilities with this process are unending.

Gel print with a white silhouette - the final image

Want to learn more about gelatin plate printmaking?

Printing with gelatin plates, home made or commercially bought, is fun and easy. There are many different approaches you can take, using different paints and inks. If you’re interested in learning my approach, attend one of my gelatin plate printmaking workshops. In them I share how I created my layered prints using organic materials. We print onto paper and fabric; and I demonstrate how to make a gelatin plate. Workshops run throughout the year, and I am available to private group workshop bookings too.

Gelatin Plate Printing and Monotype Workshop June 2019
Gelatin Plate Printing and Monotype Workshop June 2019
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Showing 8 comments
  • Alison Charlton

    Fantastic explanation and illustrations of your “white silhouette’ process, Kim. Thank you for your generosity.

    • Kim Herringe

      Thanks Alison. I’m glad it makes sense. If and when you have a go at this in your own time, I’d love to see the end results! Viva la printmaking ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Roz

    Many thanks for sharing Kim! It will make it much easier to have a play when I get myself sorted!

    • Kim Herringe

      Thanks Roz. It could be fun to combine this with some cyanotype too ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dee

    Where And when are your workshops?

    • Kim Herringe

      Hi Dee, I’m based in Australia. Are you? Or are you overseas? I’m in Maleny, just north of Brisbane. My next workshop is in September, then that will be it for this year. This page has dates for upcoming workshops.

  • Ali Manning

    I like how you break down this process – Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Kim Herringe

      Thanks Ali. It’s such a deceptively simple process – once you see the steps you can see how simple it is, but looking at it beforehand can be tricky. I had a look at your website – beautiful work. I’ll go and spend some time in there. I also love love love making artist books. Something I now have the space to invest more time into it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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