A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gelli printing with plants, stamps, stencils and more

Hi, I'm Holly McLean from the blog Through My Window and I'm excited to be guest blogging today about my Gelli printing. For many years, I've been using mono prints in my artwork in one form or another. Some twenty plus years ago I started with Styrofoam meat trays to make stamps and carve images into.
After the foam trays, I eventually found sticky back foam which is so much more versatile as it's easier to cut and is pliable as well, meaning that narrow strips can be cut and bent at will. I have a box full of various stamps that I've cut from sticky backed fun foam and mounted to Plexiglas, thicker foam, and even cardboard. I use these many times over  in my artwork.
 As I like to take photos and sketch when I'm not printing or sewing, I've also made a small collection of hand carved stamps, stencils and Thermofax screens. I like to combine all these resources when I get into a Gelli printing session. I send away my designs for the screens, but I make my own stamps and stencils. I have a heat cutting tool which makes cutting the stencils easy. Recently, I found clear plastic binder dividers are just the right weight of plastic and much cheaper than the overhead projector acetate I was using.

Since I sometimes take several minutes to work into the paint on the Gelli, I like to gather all my supplies that I think I might use first, such as paint, stamps, stencils, textural items, and torn and ironed pieces of white cotton fabric. I primarily use Setaclor fabric paints and I do not have an extender for the drying time. I try to work quickly.

To get started, I roll fabric paint, usually Setacolor, onto the Gelli plate with a brayer and work into it in many different ways. One of the first things I may do is to draw into the paint on the Gelli with the wooden handle end of a paintbrush for small lines. I may also use the paintbrush itself to remove paint. You can see an example of this in the following print on the right side. After each swipe of the brush, I removed the paint from the brush with paper towel.

I started this print with a screen printed layer underneath on a piece of solid white cotton (the mossy green vine like plants). The stamped image I added after pulling the mono print.
This is the same print but with a stenciled plant added in bronze on the left after I pulled the print. I will sometimes stencil right onto the painted Gelli. I lightly hold the stencil on top and gently pounce on paint through a section of the stencil with a sponge brush. The stencil edges won't leave much of a mark or pick up much paint if you hold one corner of it away from the Gell.

Below, the pink plant on the left is again done by stamping after the fabric print is pulled. The white one on the right was done with a dry clean paint brush to remove paint from the Gelli before pulling the print. This piece isn't finished yet as I've just ironed on the appliqued leaves and will continue stitching.

This is one that I did in the same printing session that has been stiched, quilted and embellished. Again the background white plant was done by removing paint from the Gelli with the paintbrush.

My print themes tend to follow the seasons and the current flora or fauna. The tulips have just waned here and during their bloom, I sketched and made stamps before getting started with the prints. Below you see an example of a Gelli print that I did by:

1. Spreading paint with a brayer onto the Gelli.
2. Laying paper masks that I had cut form printer paper (these may be used a few times if you lift them carefully).
3. Using tulip stamps pressed directly onto the wet paint on the Gelli. The stamps are clean with no paint. This creates the ghostly background tulips you can see in the print below.
 I keep many old phone books where I collect flowers, leaves and even seaweed to use on the Gelli as a mask or as stamped image.

The print below happened to be made on a real gelatin mold which I stirred up to create the bubbles. I used pressed dried seaweed as a mask and cut out a paper seashell mask as well.  Just remember to reverse any image that is directional! The seahorse was stamped on using one of my homemade stamps after pulling the print.

Here's one that I've done in the same manner and stitched onto. I added color to the seashell with Neocolor II crayons.

I love to use pressed flowers from my garden as well.
I cut up and added bits of the print above to this piece:

Below, is an example of what the Gelli looks like with the paint brayered on and printed into with some textures (the circles are empty spools). A paper mask is laid onto the wet paint. The next step is to lay on the fabric and rub with my hand to transfer the image to fabric. Once the print is made, I use a palette knife to carefully lift the paper off the Gelli to use again.

In the same session I also pulled a print of a gold finch onto deli paper using a paper mask for the finch. Once dry,  I then pasted it into my sketchbook using matte medium. This allows me to play some more with the image.
The sketchbook is on the left and the fabric Gelli print is on the right. I've begun to color in the goldfinch with my NeocolorII crayons and will do some thread sketching ontoit  next.
I'm moving along with the thread sketching on the gold finch. It is nearly ready to be sandwiched and quilted. I intend to add some musical notes but I think after the quilting is done.
I hope I've given you lots of ideas for using the Gelli in your art quilting and journaling. I'd be glad to answer any questions!


  1. Holly, These are beautiful. I love all of your layering. And I never thought about using Setacolors! Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Great ideas, Holly! I'm a big fan of using sticky back foam for stamps, and have a good supply I can try with my Gelli-Art plate. And I like how you are using masks. Thanks for the great tutorial and inspiration!

  3. Love the article Holly. Lots of inspiration here!

  4. Lots of beautiful examples of printing. Not being able to afford a gelli plate, I recently discovered that you can achieve the same effects printing on white acryllic cutting boards. I bought three at Target for $12.00. They clean up great and are lightweight and come in different sizes. I also like using Setacolor paints and dried leaves and stamps. Check out my blog for pics.
    Thanks for providing more inspiration!

  5. Excellent, Holly. Luv all the layering. I am definitely saving this. :)

  6. Beautiful pieces Holly! I love the neocolor crayons too and I especially love how you have used them on the finch. Such a sweet little birdie. Great tips! Thanks!


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