Media & Techniques

5 Remarkable Gel Plate Printing Techniques for You To Master This Summer

printing ink

Note: Be sure to review all resources and preview all artists before determining if they are appropriate to share with your students.

Gel plate printing needs to be on your summer bucket list. With 41% of art teachers expressing a desire to learn more about printmaking in 2024, now is the prime time to dive into this dynamic form of monoprinting and get creative. Whether you’re looking to explore new techniques, add variety to your work, or simply have fun experimenting with different processes, gel plate printing provides an engaging experience that’s perfect for refreshing your artmaking. 

Review printmaking basics before you dive into gel plate printing with the three resources below:

  1. Ask the Experts, Episode Four: Printmaking
  2. 10 Everyday Items to Help Manage the Mess of Printmaking
  3. How to Make a Gelatin Printing Plate Resource from FLEX Curriculum

Introduce exploration and play into your artmaking with one of the five gel plate printmaking techniques below. 

1. Unconventional Object Prints

Printing with unconventional objects on gel plates can offer a creative avenue for artists to explore and experiment with texture and pattern. Gather an assortment of everyday items such as flowers, paintbrushes, string, keys, coins, bubble wrap, and corrugated cardboard to arrange on an inked gel plate. This may dent your plate, so this is a great opportunity to use old gel plates before discarding them. Press the objects down to create impressions and transfer the design onto paper or fabric. Dig deeper into this technique in the Monoprinting at Every Level Pack from PRO Learning and showcase the beauty of everyday materials.

Base your unconventional object prints on Kim Herringe’s botanical gel plate monotypes.

A passionate printmaker, artist, and educator based in Maleny on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, Kim Herringe finds inspiration in the natural beauty of her surroundings. Combining the meditative craft of printmaking with the tranquility of nature, her work encourages stillness and presence in daily life. As a multi-disciplinary artist, Kim explores various printmaking techniques, including relief, intaglio, monotype, gel plate, and botanical contact printing. She aims to bring the calming qualities of the natural world into busy modern life. Kim is happy to share her best tips for bringing this print form into the classroom.

karen herringe
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2. Paper Masks

Using homemade stencils to mask an area is an excellent way to introduce unique positive and negative shapes into your prints. Start by creating cutouts from sturdy paper, cardstock, or light plastic. Use abstract shapes or simple silhouettes or go all in with an intricate design! Once your cutouts are ready, ink your gel plate with your chosen colors. Lay the homemade masks on the inked plate, pressing them down lightly to ensure good contact. If you plan on printing multiple layers and don’t want the stencils to move, fasten them to the plate with tape loops on the back for added security. Then, place your paper over the plate and apply even pressure to transfer the ink around the mask.

Explore gel plate masking like designer Drew Steinbrecher’s vibrant board book collages.

Drew Steinbrecher is a full-time Cincinnati artist specializing in collage, printmaking, and fiber arts. His crisp, colorful art reflects his degree in graphic design and 25 years of experience in the field. Drew loves to create gel plate collages in children’s board books, and masking is one of his favorite gel plate techniques. When not pulling prints, Drew enjoys landscape photography, traveling, knitting, and watching soccer. 

drew steinbrecher
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3. Image Transfers

Transferring printed or magazine images opens up exciting possibilities for incorporating detailed imagery into your prints. Print or copy an image on an inkjet machine or grab a magazine cutout with clear, high-contrast elements. Apply a thin, even layer of transfer medium or acrylic paint onto the gel plate. Quickly place the image face down on the plate and gently press to ensure good contact. Allow it to sit until the medium or paint is completely dry. Carefully lift the image paper to reveal the image transferred to the plate. Layer additional colors or textures before inking the plate and printing as usual. 

Reference Nitsa Malik’s altered photos and extensive library of tutorials for successful image transfer prints.

Originally from Israel and now based in Los Angeles, Nitsa Malik is an author, instructor, photographer, and mixed media artist. Using classic cameras and historical processes, she creates mixed media pieces and conducts darkroom experiments. Nitsa specializes in photo transfers, often incorporating gel plate printing into her mixed media pieces, like in these art journals and this neon beach print. She shares her techniques through YouTube tutorials and in her numerous how-to books.

nitsa malik
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4. Oil Pastel Resist

Explore an innovative use for oil pastels by using them in gel plate printing. Create a drawing with oil pastel and firmly press it onto an inked gel plate. As you lift the drawing, the drawing paper will capture the ink from the plate around the oil pastel marks. It will also leave behind oil pastel marks on the plate. To pull the plate image, allow the ink to dry completely. Then, cover the surface with ink before pressing a clean sheet of paper on the plate. Once again, allow the ink to dry completely before lifting the paper. Experiment with different color combinations and layers to unleash the full potential of this technique. For another way to incorporate oil pastels with printmaking to make a radial design, watch Renae Greene, in the video below.

Encourage your students to experiment with oil pastel resist like Mark Yeates.

For UK-based artist Mark Yeates, making art is all about exploring processes and creative ideas. His eclectic work evolves from experimenting with surfaces, textures, and layers. Mark leans strongly toward printmaking, collage, painting, and drawing, and often combines these techniques for maximum creative freedom. He shares YouTube videos where he showcases a variety of gel plate printmaking techniques like this expressive oil pastel resist work

mark yeates
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5. Charcoal Transfers

Incorporate drawing in your prints with this charcoal transfer technique. Start by creating a charcoal drawing on paper, ensuring the design has strong, clear lines with high contrast. Lay the drawing face down on an inked gel plate and gently rub the back of the paper to transfer the charcoal image onto the plate. Follow the same steps as the oil pastel resist technique to capture the drawing on your gel plate surface. Transferring charcoal drawings to a gel plate combines the spontaneity and expressiveness of drawing with the rich, layered possibilities of printmaking.

🔎 art 🔎

Introduce your students to Mark Wills’ surreal prints to inspire their charcoal transfers.

Mark Wills is a dynamic Somerset artist specializing in fine art gel plate printing. Mark’s diverse body of work includes vibrant portraits, hybridized animal-human figures, and abstract studies influenced by realism, expressionism, and surrealism. His art is characterized by bold colors, dynamic shapes, and a spirit of exploration and fun. This is exceptionally embodied in this sphinx cyclops that demonstrates the charcoal transfer technique. Mark’s YouTube channel showcases how gel plates can produce high-quality, sophisticated artwork that goes beyond traditional crafting.

mark willis
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If you’re eager to dive deeper into the world of printmaking, enroll in the AOEU course, Studio: Printmaking. Explore printmaking techniques suitable for all ages, like monoprints, image transfers, linoleum prints, collagraphs, and more—no press or chemicals required. Learn to adapt these skills for your students and revitalize your printmaking lessons. Fill out a quick contact form to begin the enrollment process today.

The gel plate printing techniques above offer exciting creative possibilities for artists of all levels. As you work on mastering these techniques this summer, you’ll unlock new avenues for artistic expression and experimentation. Whether you’re drawn to the tactile quality of unconventional object prints or the detailed structure of image transfers, each technique provides a chance to push the boundaries and expand your artistic repertoire. So grab your gel plate and get printing—this summer is your chance to explore, innovate, and create stunning images. This is one bucket list item you’re sure to enjoy!

Which gel plate technique will you try first?

Share a gel plate printing hack you think every art teacher should know!

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mariana VanDerMolen

Mariana VanDerMolen, an elementary art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She enjoys teaching for creativity, with a focus on ELL and therapy in a process-based art room.

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