Thursday, May 12, 2016

Second Thursday Tutorial: comparing printing plates

Today is the second Thursday in May, and time for my once monthly tutorial.

Nothing really new or unique this month, but I thought I would compare and contrast different printing plates.  From left, acrylic sheet, Gelli Plate, mouse pad encased in a clear 3-ring sheet protector.

Let's begin with my favorite, which is a sheet of acrylic.  If you don't have acrylic, you can use a piece of glass from an old picture frame.  But be sure to wrap the edges with some type of tape, because glass can cut.    Before I got my sheet of acrylic, I tried to use a piece of glass, but the tape I wrapped around the edges of the glass was just thick enough to cause the glass to bend when I used my brayer, which scared me.  You may have better luck, though, and this is a viable alternative to the expensive Gelli.

I like to put a sheet of grid paper under my acrylic plate, or something the same size as the paper I'll be working on.  That way I know where to spread my paint.  However, be aware, it can slip if it's on a slippery surface, like a craft mat or a garbage bag.

I have all my supplies ready, but couldn't find my good brayer.  I had to use my old one, which challenges me.  Besides cheap craft paint, I also have wet wipes and a bamboo skewer.  You cannot use the skewer on the Gelli plate, but you CAN use it on the acrylic plate.

Most Gelli fanatics will tell you that you can use ANY acrylic paint, but you have to be careful of drying time with these cheaper paints.  When I used the Gelli, I added a glaze, which took the place of the more expensive extenders that are sold in art supply stores.  I got my glazes at my local household hazardous waste swap and shop facility.

I seem to have better luck with the acrylic plate, because drying time doesn't seem to be a problem.

Although brayer challenged, I was able to draw some hearts in the three colors of paint.  I would never try this on the gelli, because no matter how careful you are, the bamboo skewer can gouge the plate.  Not the case with the acrylic plate.

Not the best piece I've made, but not the worst, either.  This is 8.5 X 11 inch 110 lb. card stock.

I used a bigger piece of 12 X 12 inch 90 lb card stock to mop up the remains where I went over the edges of the paper.

Even though I was definitely brayer challenged, I continued to make more art.  Clean up is quite easy.  All I had to do was remove the excess paint with a wet wipe.  Be aware, the acrylic plate will eventually get a few bits of paint on it that you won't be able to remove, no matter what you do.  When I completely finish a session, I soak the plate in hotish soapy water for a few minutes, use a soft cloth to wash it, then dry and put it away.

I decided to put myself and my acrylic plate out of our misery and quit while I was ahead.  This way,

I'll have a good base for if and when I find my good brayer.  At least I know where it wasn't when I looked for it.

AHHH!  Found it.  It was hiding upstairs in my craft room where I was originally going to photograph this tutorial.

More cheap acrylic craft paint and I was ready to resume where I left off last time we visited.

After spreading the paint around,

I think I'm equally brayer challenged with this brayer, too.

The big difference between the acrylic plate and the Gelli is the "squishyness" factor.  More similar to the gelatin I cooked for my first time gel plate, the Gelli has a squash factor, where the acrylic plate is hard.

I admit it's harder to get a good print on deli paper with the acrylic plate, but you can use any and all dyes, inks, or paint (even made for fabric), which, according to the Gelli instructions, is a no-no.

Let's plow forward and try the next technique.  My friend Susi told me about this technique months ago, and I was anxious to try it.  From what Susi explained, you place any mouse pad inside a clear Polypropylene three ring binder sheet protector.  Mine loads the piece from the top, but I've seen ones that load from the side, too.

Similar to the acrylic sheet, you can use any craft paint, ink, or dye on the binder sheet. 

It was harder to control the start and stop action of my brayer, but that only means I will need to cut these painted papers to size.

Clean-up was easy.  All I needed was a wet wipe.  Of course, I have a TON of these protector sheets, so if it gets too grungy, I'll simply pitch the protector.

I also wasn't afraid to use the bamboo skewer to draw words and images on the protector.  If you like the squish factor the Gelli gives, then this set-up is probably for you.

I admit these are just the start as backgrounds, but I like them for their uniqueness.

Let's compare:


Gelli is EXPENSIVE. Mine was $40.00 USD.  They are hard to find unless you go online and order them or have access to a craft show where they are being featured.

Acrylic plate was free.  It was given to me when a friend was going to throw it away.

Mouse pad and protective binder sheet were also free.  I was given a bunch of the protector sheets and the mouse pad was a freebie I picked up at some trade show.

Squish factor:

Gelli has the best.

Mouse pad and binder sheet were good.

Acrylic plate is hard. 

These can change the way your brayer behaves on each plate.

Ease of use:

Gelli plate scares me.  I'm always afraid I'll leave a permanent mark or gouge the plate with my fingernails.  Do not use watercolor paints as they are very thin and watery which causes beading on the plate.  Do not use some oil based inks and paints, since they can soften the Gelli.

Mouse pad and binder sheet were easy to use, but hard to control because the mouse pad was much smaller than the binder sheet.  Any ink, paint, or dye can be used on the binder sheet.

Acrylic plate is practically indestructible, which makes it the easiest in my world.  Any ink, paint, or dye can be used on the acrylic plate.


Gelli plate suggests you clean it with dish soap and water after each session, or simply clean with a wet paper towel.  You can also use hand sanitizer.   Wipe the plate with baby oil to remove any stains, then remove the baby oil with dish soap and water.  Sometimes your hands can leave oil on the Gelli, at which time clean with dish soap and water.

Mouse pad and binder sheet are easily cleaned with a wet wipe, paper towel and water, or the binder sheet can be tossed after a heavy printing session.

Acrylic plate is easily washed by soaking a few minutes in dish soap, then washing with a soft cloth.  Rinse and dry before putting it away.

Overall likeness factor:

It's no secret I prefer the acrylic plate, but I may not really know how to use the gelli to its fullest potential. 

I hope this comparison of gelatin printing has been useful to those of you who don't own a Gelli, those of you who are thinking of getting one, and those of you who already own a Gelli, but might want to explore other alternatives.

Thanks for visiting today, and as soon as this goes live, it will be stored forever on my Tutorials page under "Comparing gelatin printing plates."

12 thoughtful remarks:

Valerie-Jael said...

Thanks for your experiences comparing all the possibilities. I always use a glass plate for making monoprints, as it is quick, easy and cheap. I have a stack of linoprint colours, and usually use them. Perhaps is I ever have more than 6" free in my kitchen I could have a play again, but that would mean a lot of clearing up and clearing away first! Have a fun day, Hugs, Valerie

kaybee said...

I love all your experimentation! Never thought of using acrylic or glass, so that is now on my "to try" list.

Pen Sunshinepen said...

Morning for me in North Devon UK, thanks for this blog today. Very interesting. I have a gelli plate and love it, I have used baby oil to clean my plate if necessary.

I have also used a glass mat. However I go back to the gelli plate. I had a play with mine and blogged about it a few days ago.

Well have a great day and thank

Crafty hugs Pen x

Pen Sunshinepen said...


Thank you for your wonderful comments about my work. It is really appreciated and yes of course you can add me to your side bar.

crafty hugs Pen x

My name is Erika. said...

Before I forget, how were the elephants yesterday?
Love your tutorial today. I've used glass and I've used a Gelli plate but not the mouse pad, although I do remember Susi mentioning it. I agree Gelli plates are expensive, but I don't clean mine very well. I like how the new prints pick up the old dried up paint for effect. I just wipe off the excess paint-but usually there isnt' much left. I will say I like the squishiness of the Gelli plate over the glass, although I think if you want to print painted images the glass/acrylic is better because it doesn't have the give and your images come out sharper. But you've seen my backgrounds and you know I like lots of color everywhere and I like how the Gelli plate gives me that "mushy" look. Hope your winds have died down and you have a good day ahead. Erika

Meggymay said...

A super tutorial and lots to think about with all the details and feedback you gave. I have a small Gelli plate 6 x 6 inches, so must get it out and play sometime.
Yvonne xx said...

How interesting!!! I have only used the Gelli plates -- and I have to say i love them. In fact, I am planning an all day Gelli marathon printing day tomorrow. But i loved the other ideas -- I hadn't thought of them. I have a mouse pad but no sheet protectors so I can't try that tomorrow...but someday....let the paint fly!

Jeanie said...

This is all really interesting -- I've been using gelli for awhile and am pretty comfy with it but I know what you mean about worrying about scratching it. I got a good deal on mine -- a big discount when I took a class but they are pricey. I lost my gelli for months! Finally found it and it's time to pull it out again and see what I can come up with!

Nicely explained and I really appreciate your complete assessment of the various types. Lots to digest and revisit here!

AiyanaKalyna said...

I really love the idea of the sheet protector. Susi is clever! Love it! I have a tip for glass. I use glass from old scanners that are broken. It's tempered glass so it won't break, bend or cut you. It's the same glass sold for cutting mats. If you have old scanners lying around or know somebody that does ask if you can have the glass. I did the frame technique too and had it shatter on me with very little pressure. Scared the life out of me. I bought my Gelli plate too. It was worth it but they are expensive. I do agree. In the long run it was cheaper for me to buy one than make one. Plus, my DH is probably happy not to have a Gelli plate in the refrigerator. :) I also worry about hurting my plate and treat it gingerly.

~*~Patty S said...

You do such a thorough job of comparing and giving things a whirl E!
Since nothing lasts forever I would not worry about gouging your gelli plate just look at it as patina and any paint left on it also adds interest for the next piece.
Friends and I were saying the other day how much we enjoyed the results of gelli printing on smooth cotton. It worked brilliantly.
Now you have me wondering how your other two printing ways might work with fabric as well. That's a whole nother thing isn't it LOL.
Also wanted to say how yummy your color selection is ♥!

pearshapedcrafting said...

I love my Gelli plate but I love your comparison experiments and found your notes very interesting! Best of all was the sight of that HUGE Deli paper package! Hugs, Chrisx

Rita said...

I never would have thought of a mouse pad and sheet protector!
Nice comparison post. :)