Create Unique Prints with this Easy Technique

Last week the staff in our Stow offices got together for some after-hours creative play-time, making gelatin monoprints on fabric and paper.

I'd been cranking out monoprints for a segment I'll be shooting for the sixth season of "Quilting Arts TV" and everyone else wanted in on the fun. 

At lunchtime we prepared the gelatin printing "plates" in baking pans and popped them in the fridge to set.

Here is the basic recipe:

  • 2 pkgs. Knox gelatin (1 T per package)
  • 1 cup water
  • Pyrex or non-stick baking pan (approx. 8" x 8")
  • Protected surface
  • Water-based paints or dyes
  • Brayer
  • Flat or shallow palette 
  1. Mix half the water (cold) with the gelatin and stir until dissolved.
    Boil the remaining water and add it to the mixture. Stir slowly to avoid creating bubbles.
  2. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and pull torn pieces of newsprint lightly across the surface to remove any bubbles.
  3. Let the gelatin sit for 30 minutes, then place in the refrigerator until it is set. Remove the gelatin from the fridge about 30 minutes before you're going to use it to print.
  4. Dip the bottom of the pan briefly into a hot water bath (you can use your sink) to help loosen it from the pan. Unmold the gelatin onto a flat surface (such as a protected cutting board or acrylic sheet).
  5. Cut the gelatin to the desired printing size.

    By the time we set out the crackers and crudités at 5:30 p.m., the plates were ready to go.

    We threw a drop cloth over conference table and put out the gelatin plates, bins of acrylic paints, brayers, a basket of fat quarters, and some plain paper. We also had some painting tools (like a flexible comb) and found objects that might make interesting impressions: an ash tray with a cut glass bottom, a lacy plastic leaf, the back of a discarded tile, children's shape toys, and so on. 

Most of the staff had never made monoprints before, so we quickly reviewed the basic directions:

Step 1. Pour or squeeze drops of paint onto a flat or shallow palette.

Step 2. Roll the brayer in the paint and then roll a thin layer over the gelatin plate.

Step 3. Make imprints in the paint by gently pressing found objects or a paper cutout onto it.

Step 4. Lay the fabric over the paint and smooth it down gently with your hands (trying not to move the fabric around).

Step 5. Gently lift the fabric off the plate and admire your results.

Step 6. Take another "ghost" print off the same plate or start over from Step 1.

At first, some people were hesitant about what colors to use or impressions to make. But pretty soon, the "hmmms" and "huhs" turned to "wows" and "ooohs." Time flew and the floor got covered with prints as everyone got into their creative zone. Some of the people who had the least experience with printing came up with the most interesting effects.

Monoprints, whether made on gelatin, glass, or Plexiglas plates, are an easy and fun way to add surface design to your fabrics. Monoprinting with paint can give new life to so-so fabrics (or dye "mistakes") or create a one-of-a-kind designs on plain fabric or paper. 

Other topics you may enjoy:


Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog

5 thoughts on “Create Unique Prints with this Easy Technique

  1. This method of transfering designs is very much like what teachers did in the old days before Xerox and waaaayyyy before computers. My mother filled a little metal pan (8 1/2″ by11″) with a special thick gelatin. After the gelatin set, she placed a master sheet of paper on top of the gel. The master was a drawing for coloring or test for her class printed in an indelible ink that was absorbed into the gel. Then she made copies by placing sheets of paper on the gel until the ink wouldn’t copy anymore. When she finished her copying, she had to wash the gel with a wet cloth so she could use it again and again for other copying.

  2. After viewing both the series 100 DVD of QATV and Rayna Gillman’s DVD related to gelatin monoprinting I have made prints several different times. I have as yet to get anything near what I expected. My first prints just look like blobs while the second (ghost) prints are almost nothing. I am using Jacquard fabric paints (from the exciter pack). I know the issue is “operator error”; but, I fail to see where I am missing the point. Any suggestions?