Experiments with gelatin plate printing

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I’ve been wanting to play with gelatin plate printing for quite a while, but as the commercial plates are pretty expensive, I hadn’t yet managed to have a try. Over the past few weeks I’ve been teaching collagraph printmaking, and thought some monoprinted backgrounds would work well with the collagraph prints, so I set to making my own gelatin plate so my students could have a play with gelatin plate printing too. A quick internet search will bring up hundreds of different recipes to make a plate, so in the end I decided to first of all see if I could find the ingredients needed (gelatin and glycerine) locally, and then take it from there.

Gelatin plate recipe

114ml glycerine
36g gelatin
200ml water

Finding glycerine in my local town was not easy! After several hours of searching I managed to find just 3 small bottles of glycerine (38ml in each bottle), so I had to make my mixture up using what I had. The plate needs to be a thick, firm jelly-like consistency, so I decided that making the mixture five times thicker than gelatin normally would be, might work ok.

I had just over 100ml of glycerin, and 3 packets of powdered gelatin that would normally be set in 500ml of water per packet.
That would normally make 1500ml water, which divided by 5 equals 300ml of liquid for the gelatin plate, so I decided to add 3 packets of gelatin (12g in each packet) to 200ml of water, leaving the 114ml of glycerine to make up the rest of the liquid content.

Using an old pan on a low heat setting I poured in the 200ml of water, and got it to around 60C. Then I slowly added all of the gelatin and kept stirring the mixture until all the gelatin was dissolved. Next I added all of the glycerine, still stirring the pan contents on a low heat setting, and made sure the mixture was all fully combined. Then I poured the mixture into a 12″ x 8″ baking tray. I then left the tray in the fridge for a couple of hours to set.

Once set, I ran a knife all the way around the edge of the baking tray to loosen the plate, and then the printing plate just easily peeled away from the tray in one piece.

This mixture has produced a nice gelatin plate, I think it may be a bit soft for long term use, but considering in the end I only paid £3.90 for all of the ingredients, I’m happy with it! I can always re-melt the plate and add another packet of gelatin if it needs it. I took the plate along to my printmaking workshop this morning, and it had two hours of solid use by all my students, and it’s still working great. It got torn a bit at the corners this morning, so I just reheated the plate in the pan, melted it all thoroughly, and then re-set the plate in the fridge again, and it’s back to new.

my home made gelatin printing plate
my home made gelatin printing plate

The following video is taken from a live stream I did on Instagram, where I was just playing and experimenting with the plate. Hopefully it will spark off some ideas for you.

I hope you will inspired to make your own gelatin printing plate and have a go at making your own monoprints. If you do, please leave me a comment below and let me know where I can see your results – I’d love to see them!

Have fun!

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