Printmaking is a beautiful, though complex art. You have to first design your print, then etch or engrave it on metal plates; or use blocks of wood to create woodcuts and wood engravings; or linoleum to create linocuts. These are then inked and printed onto paper or fabrics. There’s also the screenprinting process, where screens made of silk fabric are used to create a print.
All of these methods produce some beautiful works of art, and the results of each vary slightly. While we cannot recreate these exactly, there are a number of ways in which we can create stunning prints much more easily. These prints can be standalone works of art, used as a foundation on which we can build up a larger piece, or a part of our original library of printed papers that we use as collage elements in our art practice.
So, how do we go about pulling prints easily? There are a couple of ways.
Printing techniques: Monoprinting
A monoprint simply means that you will get just a single print of an image. For this technique, you will need a piece of glass or an acrylic sheet and acrylic paints. And you’ll need to work fast because acrylics dry relatively quickly. So be ready with a design idea and keep it simple.
Spread a thin layer of acrylic paint on the glass surface.
Using a bamboo skewer or the back of a brush, quickly draw your design into the wet paint.
Place your paper over the surface, smooth down gently with your hand, and pull the paper up.
You may be able to get a second, partial print.
Printing techniques: Prints with scratchboard, foamboard or Styrofoam
If you have a more complex design in mind, and want to create multiple prints, this is the best option to use.
You can draw (or trace) a design with a pen or pencil on Scratchboard, Foamboard or Styrofoam. Use gentle pressure – if you press too hard, you may tear through the surface.
The design you draw will be raised, which means that the raised section is what will be printed. So if you draw a bird, the print will be a colored bird, not the outline of the bird. And if you write something, it will be reversed on the print, so write in mirror script.
Paint a thin layer of acrylic paint, put a piece of paper over it, brush lightly and pull your print.
These “printing plates” will last a while, so you can multiple prints and use them in different ways
Printing techniques: Gelli prints
I’ve been saving the best for last. Gelli prints are absolutely brilliant! You can make your own gelatine printing plate at home – see this recipe – which will last you for a while. Or, you could buy a Gelli plate – click on the image to purchase – which will last you forever (make sure to follow the safety instructions).
There are tons of ways to create gelli prints, and you can pull some stunning prints. I could devote multiple blog posts to the topic, but I’ll leave you with a few YouTube videos so you can see the possibilities, and a book recommendation in case you want to learn Gelli printing.
Abstract monoprints – oh my!
Multiple techniques to try with a gelli plate:
Want to explore gelli printing further? This book is absolutely brilliant:
Put this lesson to work: Try out any of these techniques in your art journal – they’re fun and interesting!