Gelli Plate Monotype Portrait Print

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Gelli Plate Monotype Portrait Print

Experiments with gelli plate monotype portrait prints have been underway in my studio, and they are FUN!

The first test was reminiscent of storefront window paintings, layered by sign painters on the glass from inside to display on the outside.

You begin by applying your darkest, most detailed line work first, and then layer lighter colors in sequence on top of previous layers.

My reference sketch, drawn in bold black lines with a grease pencil (like these Listo pencils) so I can see it through a gelli plate.
Using a small paint bush, I laid the gelli plate on top of the sketch above, and traced the design onto the plate with black Golden acrylic paint (like this).

Gelli Plate Monotype Painting Order

One of the (sort of) tricky aspects of monotype prints from a gelli plate using this printmaking method is sequencing. The first layers of color on the plate – in this case – the black lines – will be the uppermost pigments on the finished print.

The gelli plate also causes a bit of repelling when you brush pigments onto the surface, but that’s okay, since you’re adding subsequent layers after each paint application dries.

In the photo below, you can see a lot of brush marks and open places where pigment didnt stick in the blue sky. But that’s okay. (There’s a video close up to see the textures on this monotype print in my Etsy listing.)

In the next photo down, I’ve added a few more layers (standard, quick dry acrylics work great for this), and I peeked under the see-through gelli plate frequently to see how the print would look. You should do that too.

Using a clear sheet of plexiglass as a palette, I mixed standard acrylic paint colors (I used Liquitex Basics like this), and applied it to the gelli plate in layers, letting each layer dry before adding more.
The image on the left is the painted side of the gelli plate: each added layer of pigment starts to look flat and blocky compared to the detailed layers underneath it. Check your work by peeking underneath the gelli plate (image on the right) to see how you’re coming along.
A fast layer of Liquitex acrylic medium is a magic transfer vehicle: roll it on, and then quickly lay a sturdy sheet of printmaking paper on the wet medium, and smooth it over the plate to remove any air bubbles.
A torte of art books (I recommend that collagraph book if you make collagraphs) weighted on top of my paper and gelli plate sandwich: Gelli plate face up, then printmaking paper on top, and a few books stacked to squish it all together.
After the medium is dry, flip the gelli plate so your paper is on the bottom, and the plate is on top. Hold the printmaking paper down with one hand while you (carefully) peel the gelli plate from the paper & pigment.
The acrylic medium acts as a glue between the acrylic paint, and the printmaking paper – so the pigments release from the gelli plate, transfer to the paper, which leaves you with a lovely, already dry, painterly monotype print.
My experimental gelli plate monotype print – Pink Lollipop – printed from an 8×10 gelli plate, using acrylic paint, on good printmaking paper. Available in my Etsy Shop here.

Monotype Prints – Many Ways

he first class I attended on monotype printmaking was in 2005, and I’ve been in love with all the variations of monotype and monoprint ever since.

Even though I’ve probably made a thousand monotype prints by now, I think I’ve barely scratched the surface of this painterly, accessible printmaking method.

There’s no need for carving, or sharp tools, no chemicals, no drawing skills required (tracing!), and you don’t need a press to make monotype prints.

I’ve collected a few of the previous posts on this blog about monotype prints for your perusal below. I hope you feel inspired to make one soon. (And you can join my monotype group on Facebook if you want over here.)

A still from a tutorial video demonstrating a drawing transfer or trace monotype printmaking method on my YouTube channel.

Monotype Printmaking

If you have any qustions about this approach (one of many) for making monotype prints from a gelli plate, leave them in the comments. I always love hearing from you, and the questions you have might match the same ones other readers are pondering, so ask away!

Thanks for stopping in, and I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. One of my favorite printmaking books related to intaglio etching and engraving by Crown Point Press is now available as a digital download here.

Art Quote

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

Emily Post
Art for Sale in my Etsy Shop

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8 thoughts on “Gelli Plate Monotype Portrait Print”

  1. Isabel Tipple

    Thanks for this link Belinda. Will look forward to giving it a go. Really does give an attractive printerly effect..

  2. Belinda thank you for this post and all the others I have read over the years. I am painting landscapes on gelli plates. It is very difficult for me to think in reverse order. Your explanation is going to help me tomorrow when I tackle the next one.

  3. Hey Belinda, I love your blog and have learned so much from you. I use a gelli plate, but I use ink, not acrylic paint. I’m wondering if I can get the same effect with a quick drying ink like speedball. If I succeed, I’ll let you know.

    cheers, April

    1. Hi April, I’d be very interested in the results of your pigment test! I recall that Speedball water soluble block printing ink dries super fast, and it will re-wet when it comes into contact with any wetting agent. I’m curious if it will respond/re-wet from an application of acrylic varnish, or if it will release – once its dry – from the gelli plate the way acrylic pigments do. Please keep us posted!

  4. Starting with the details and moving along to big blocks of color is like a reduction block print in reverse. This is so cool.

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