Learn how easy it is to make your own unique, printed greeting cards with a Gel Printing Plate or Gel Press. Printmaking made easy!
Have you heard about the latest craze in the crafting world?? It is the Reusable Gel Printing Plate such as the Gelli Plate or Gel Press plate which takes monoprinting and general printmaking to a whole new level.
I gotta tell you, this is an awesome fun way to make your own personalized gel printed cards for Valentines, Birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s day cards as well as mixed media journals, bookmarks and much more.
- What is Gel Printing?
- Making your Gel Printed Valentines:
- Step 1: Add paint to the gel plate
- Step 2: Use the brayer to distribute the paint across the plate
- Step 3: Add texture to the background
- Step 4: Transfer the paint to the paper
- Step 5: Peel the paper from the plate
- Step 6: Add paint for the second layer
- Step 7: Distribute the paint
- Step 8: Add texture
- Step 9: Place the stencil on the plate
- Step 10: Pull the image
- Turning your gel printed papers into Valentine cards
- How do you clean gel plates?
- How do you store your gel plate?
- Is Gelli Printing the same thing as Gel Plate Printing?
What is Gel Printing?
Gel Printing is a new mono print, printmaking technique that utilizes a special tool called a Gel Plate.
This plate is made with a permanent, gel-type material that picks up and transfers paints, inks and other mediums to paper, fabric, etc.
If you have ever tried printmaking with a lino plate, you know how labor intensive and time consuming that can be.
A Gel Plate, on the other hand, is always ready to go, easy to clean and can be reused over and over again.
Gel Printing Plates go by different brand names including Gelli Arts Gel Printing Plate and Gel Press and come in a variety of different sizes from small, card size to giant 12″ by 12″ plates. This tutorial uses the Speedball 8″ x 10″ Plate.
Learn how to make your own envelopes to go with these gel printed cards for Valentines!
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- Gel Plate
- Cardstock Paper (smooth finish) *
- Blank Cards and Envelopes *
- Acrylic Paints
- Texture Tools **
- Stencils and Rubber Stamps
- Scrap Paper
- X-acto Knife ***
- Cutting Mat
- Metal Ruler
- Tacky Glue
Notes on supplies:
* You can make your gel prints directly on the blank cards, if you like. This time, I wanted a little more control over the final look, so I printed on the cardstock paper and glued the trimmed prints to my cards.
** Texture tools can be anything that makes an impression. You can purchase special stencils and rubber texture stamps but you can also easily make your own.
Simple household items such as bubble wrap, burlap, textured shelf liners or placemats and the inside of cardboard all leave wonderful background texture.
Furthermore, you can use empty tape rolls, chopsticks, crumpled paper, forks and leaves or feathers to make interesting designs.
*** If you choose to print directly on the blank cards, you will not need the X-Acto Knife and Cutting Mat.
Making your Gel Printed Valentines:
Okay, you have gathered all of your supplies, you have covered your table (right?) so we are ready to get started making our cool gel printed cards for Valentines gifts.
For this tutorial, I will show you how I printed three papers with different looks and textures so that you can see how easy it is to use the various tools. If you have an idea for other textures, by all means, feel free to experiment!
Before you begin printing:
Go ahead and open all of your paint bottles. For these particular prints, you don’t want the paint to dry completely before you pull the image.
Place the gel plate in front of you and your scrap paper (for cleaning the brayer) next to that (on your right if right handed and your left is you are left handed)
Gel Print #1:
With the first print, I decided to make a lighter background with a darker heart shape. For this, I used my handmade heart stencil.
Step 1: Add paint to the gel plate
For the background, I added small amounts of white and silver paint in little dots all across the plate.
Step 2: Use the brayer to distribute the paint across the plate
You can cover the entire plate or only certain areas. Roll the paint so it just covers the plate but the paint layer is not too thick.
Clean the brayer by rolling it on the scrap paper. (Set the brayer upside down to keep it from sticking to the paper.)
Note: if you have too much paint, simply pick it up with the brayer and roll it off on the scrap paper.
Step 3: Add texture to the background
To add some interest to the background paint, I used a rubber stamp and the ridges of the cardboard.
Step 4: Transfer the paint to the paper
Now, take a piece of your cardstock paper and place it over the plate. Then with the flat of your hands, rub the paper all around … including the edges …pressing gently to make sure you have good contact between the paint and the paper.
Step 5: Peel the paper from the plate
Now you are going to ‘pull’ the image. You do this by lifting one corner of the paper and then gently peeling the sheet off the gel plate.
Step 6: Add paint for the second layer
For the next layer, I added dots of pink and red paint. Since I was using my heart stencil for this print, the paint was placed in the center of the plate only.
Step 7: Distribute the paint
Again, roll the paint with the brayer (center only) and clean the brayer off on the scrap paper. (For some reason, I don’t have a photo of that step)
Step 8: Add texture
To add some texture, I simply placed a piece of burlap fabric on the paint and gently pressed down.
Step 9: Place the stencil on the plate
Decide where you want the heart shape to be and place your stencil.
Step 10: Pull the image
Pick up the previously printed paper and replace it, face down on your gel plate. Again, with your hands, rub all across the paper, including the edges.
Gently peel back the paper. Let it dry and your paper is ready to turn into a greeting card.
Gel Print #2:
With the second print, I wanted to show you how using the other part (the heart) of the stencil works. Basically, we will be making a negative image. This was a one layer print.
I added dots of silver, dark blue and lime green paint to my plate.
(Note the paint left on the gel plate from the previous print! This will give our printed Valentine card a lot of extra texture and interest)
Then I rolled it and cleaned off the brayer on the scrap paper.
Added texture with the bubble wrap and cardboard . . .
Then, I placed the cut-out heart shape in the center of the plate. This acts as a ‘resist’ meaning that it resists the paint.
And finally, I pulled the image
Again, notice how the leftover paint from the first gel print is adding lots of extra texture to this print.
(That is the reason why I prefer to not clean my gel plate too often!)
Gel Print #3:
This last print is again a two layer process using the homemade heart stencil. I wanted to play around with the edged paper to create designs in the paint.
This time, I added a variety of red paints including bright red and a darker brick red color.
Roll it with the brayer to spread out the paint and clean your brayer.
Then, I created some squiggle lines with the edged card paper. This removed the red paint, revealing whatever color, if any, was left below.
I also used one of the rubber stamps to add more designs.
Next, I placed the cardstock paper on the plate pulled the first print.
Finally, I added blue, purple and gold paint to the middle of the gel plate, rolled it, applied the heart stencil and pulled the image.
Turning your gel printed papers into Valentine cards
So, now you have your pretty gelli printed papers but how do you make them into Valentine’s cards? There are two ways you can do this.
1. Using the X-Acto knife, ruler and cutting mat, you can cut your printed paper to size and fold it over to make the card.
This can be any size you want. Standard card size is 4.5″ x 5.75″ but I have also made smaller, gift tag sized cards. Then you need to make some envelopes to go with your cards.
2. You can cut your prints to size and glue them onto the blank cards. I like this method a little better because the finished cards look a bit more professional.
And just for fun … here is different method of making gel printed cards for Valentines . . . Cut strips from a variety of prints and glue them together in a heart shape.
How do you clean gel plates?
I tried a bunch of different suggestions including hand sanitizer and dish soap. Honestly, the best way I have found to clean my Gel Plate is running very warm water over the plate and rubbing the paint off with my fingers.
How do you store your gel plate?
When I bought my gel plate, it was packaged inside a plastic ‘clamshell’ with some informational papers. I store my plate directly inside the plastic (without the papers).
Is Gelli Printing the same thing as Gel Plate Printing?
Yes! There is a brand of plate called ‘Gelli Arts’ Printing Plate which is why some artists refer to this printing technique as Gelli Printing. The actual method is the same regardless of the brand of plate you use.
I hope you will give this fun printmaking technique a try. These unique papers are wonderful not just for Valentine cards but also for making homemade art journals, book covers, bookmarks and so much more.