gelli print monotype with a girl holding a fox on her lap

Gelli Plate Print Abstracts

Gelli Plate Prints and Monotype prints are some of the most accessible types of printmaking to try if you’re curious about making prints at home.

You don’t need a printing press, or sharp carving tools, or even printmaking ink.

The popularity of gelli plates, and all of their instructional videos have opened up monotype and monoprint method options to beginners worldwide. You can make Gelli Prints with stamping ink, patterned stencils magazine transfers, letters, and slow-dry acrylic paint.

I’ve experimented with layers of pigments rolled in abstract patterns on gelli plates to use as backgrounds for collaged papers, trace monotypes and mixed media drawings. They’re quick, simple and a lot of fun. Have you played with them yet?

Random colors layered on a sheet of mulberry kozo paper
Rolling out Caligo Safe Wash Ink in blue-black to add a trace monotype of a figure with a fox in her lap to the gelli print background
A trace monotype printed on top of the abstract background
I used some Caran D’Ache Luminance colored pencils on this print, and they’re wonderful. (I still love my Prismacolor pencils – and I used them on this print too.) The Caran D’Ache Luminance are softer, almost buttery, and they’re more heavily pigmented, so they cover printmaking ink thoroughly.
Adding colored pencil to the trace monotype for better contrast for the girl and her fox against the layers of gelli plate color in the background
  • Elly McCay is a Canadian artist who inks and layers yupo paper inside a miniature theater to create a dimensional depth of field. I follow her on Etsy, and I love the imaginative, ethereal quality of her art. Have a look. If you’re intrigued, she describes her process over here.
  • When selecting colors for your new watercolor palette as a beginner, the options can be overwhelming. So many manufacturers, and hundreds of color names! And then there are the Quinacridone colors! What the heck are those? Jane Blundell does an excellent job of explaining what’s so special about Quinacridones, and what are the other names they go by. She also suggests which colors you might enjoy adding to your palette if you paint florals.
  • Have you ever watched a stone carver? National Geographic produced a 9 minute film featuring the work of London sculptor Anna Rubicam while she created a beautiful bust of a head from a live model, first in clay, and then in chiseled stone.
a shelf in an art studio with supplies tucked along it's length, and a line with clothe pins holding a variety of monotype prints
Monotype prints and linocuts hanging in the studio, under a shelf of art studio trinkets.

If Not Gelli Plates, Maybe a Doodle?

We’re in a busy season right now, so I’m surreptitiously sneaking fast little art-making sessions in here and there. I make tiny art at the kitchen counter, or on a lap desk on the couch.

This morning, I pulled two fast monotypes on the last 12×12 inch corner of table space that remains clear of piles and clutter in my studio.

It looks like a tornado swept through in here, but I’m going to make stuff anyway.

Making bits of tiny art is grounding. It quiets the cement mixer of my ToDo list mind, and it makes the day and the night flow easier. Even if the art fails.

Are you doing this too? Doodling flowers around your daily lists? Dripping watercolors in overlapping leaf shapes in a sketchpad? Quick-drawing your coffee mug in the morning? I hope so.

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


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P.P.S. Speaking of pet foxes, do you know Juniper and Fig?

Art Quote

There should be at least a room, or some corner where no one will find you and disturb you or notice you. You should be able to untether yourself from the world and set yourself free, loosing all the fine strings and strands of tension that bind you, by sight, by sound, by thought, to the presence of other men…. 

Once you have found such a place, be content with it, and do not be disturbed if a good reason takes you out of it. Love it, and return to it as soon as you can, and do not be too quick to change it for another.

Thomas Merton

Monotype Transfer Drawing Print Supply List

Here are the basic supplies you'll need to create a monotype transfer drawing print without a press. These versatile prints can be left as standalone original works of art, or you can add color with all sorts of pigments like watercolors, gouache, colored pencils, pastels and wax crayons.

Caligo Safe Wash Etching Ink

Caligo Safe Wash Intaglio Ink

This ink looks and feels and prints similar to traditional oil-based etching ink, but it washes up with soap and water. Solvents aren't necessary. The ink stays wet on the brayer and roll-out slab for a good, long time. Note: Don't use watercolor paper with sizing in it, as that will block absorption and slow the ink drying time. See paper recommendations in this list.

Inking Plate

Four 12x12 Clear Acrylic Sheets

These shiny, clear sheets of plastic are *perfect* for rolling out ink on all your printmaking projects. If you're printing in multiple colors, you can roll for colors - one per sheet - or 8 colors if you use the right and left sides of each sheet. You can also use these to print dark field and light field monotypes. The bonus for monotype prints is that the plates are totally clear, so you can trace your image in printmaking inks for better accuracy.

Printmaking Paper

Arnhem1618 Printmaking Paper

This is the paper I printed my monotype transfer drawing on, and it works beautifully for both allowing the printmaking ink to dry, and for painting with watercolor afterward.

Rubber Gloves

Rubber Gloves

Whenever you're working with pigments, it's wise to wear protection to keep the inks from getting on your skin. The inks I've recommended here are water wash up, but that doesn't mean they're non-toxic. Repeated exposure to paint, inks and modifiers are best done with a good barrier to protect the container we'll be cruising around in all of our lives. When handling ink, wear gloves.


Winsor Newton Watercolor Set

Here is a good starter set for watercolors if you're not experienced with painting your printmaking projects. You'll be able to mix all sorts of new colors from these tubes of basic hues.

Watercolor Brushes

Watercolor Brush Set

This set will give you plenty of options to add color to your monotype transfer drawings in broad strokes or fine details.

Making Monotypes (book)

Making Monotypes

If you've never made a monotype print before, this book is a treasure trove of history, approaches, supplies, methods, and ideas. It's out of print, but you can get it used, or at your local library.

Visit SixTipstoPaintMore for a free online class with ideas to get you back to make art.

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4 thoughts on “Gelli Plate Print Backgrounds for Trace Monotypes”

  1. Hey Belinda – you always entertain and educate — you are appreciated. And what can I say about Ellie – “holy cow” – she is marvelous. I need to get back to printmaking and my painting. The part time job is taking my life through December…the new year – new painting begins (and probably a diet!@)

    1. Hi Sheila! Thanks for your appreciation. ?? I’m glad you like Elly too. I love that her methods and results are evidence of many hours of experiments and exploration of her materials. Plus, the whimsey of her subjects are just lovely! I wish you luck on a return to your art supplies, and I hope the month of December is fruitful in all the other ways, including a wee bit of sketching out plans for art in January.

  2. Marybeth Piccirelli

    As always Belinda I’ve enjoyed your post! Thank you also for introducing me to the work of artist Elly MacKay, Amazing!

    1. Hi Marybeth! Isn’t Elly amazing?! Her methods, and the beautiful results are so inspiring! Thanks for your kind comment, and I hope your next few weeks are sprinkled with sketching and planning some art projects. 🙂

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