Jelly Printing: A Comprehensive Guide to this Unique Art Technique

Have you ever heard of jelly printing? If not, you’re in for a delightful treat! Jelly printing, also known as gelatin printing, is a versatile and captivating art technique that allows artists to create stunning and unique prints. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of jelly printing, exploring its history, materials, techniques, and endless creative possibilities. Whether you’re a seasoned artist or a curious beginner, this article will provide you with all the information you need to embark on your jelly printing journey.

In this article, we will cover various aspects of jelly printing, including the origins of this technique and its evolution into the modern art world. We will also delve into the materials required for jelly printing, such as gelatin plates, inks, and tools. Additionally, we will explore different techniques and methods that can be used to achieve stunning effects in your prints, including layering, stenciling, and monoprinting.

Furthermore, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to create your own jelly prints, ensuring that you have a clear understanding of the process from start to finish. We will also discuss tips and tricks for achieving successful prints and troubleshooting common issues that may arise during your jelly printing adventures.

The Origins of Jelly Printing

In this section, we will dive into the fascinating history of jelly printing, tracing its roots back to ancient art forms and exploring its development throughout the ages.

Jelly printing, although a contemporary art technique, has its roots in ancient forms of printmaking. The concept of using a soft, malleable material to transfer images onto paper can be traced back to ancient China, where artists would carve intricate designs onto soft blocks of wood or stone. These blocks were then inked and pressed onto paper, resulting in beautiful printed artworks.

Fast forward to the 20th century, when artists began experimenting with unconventional materials for printmaking. In the 1960s, Susan Pickering Rothamel, an American artist, discovered the versatility of gelatin as a printing plate. She noticed that a gelatin plate, made from a mixture of gelatin, glycerin, and water, had a unique texture and responsiveness that allowed for spontaneous and unpredictable prints.

The Evolution of Jelly Printing

As artists embraced the possibilities of jelly printing, the technique continued to evolve and gain popularity. In the 1980s, artists such as H.N. Werkman and Richard Bawden started experimenting with gelatin plates, pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved with this medium.

With the advent of digital technology, jelly printing found a renewed interest among artists seeking to combine traditional and digital art techniques. The ability to scan and manipulate images digitally opened up a world of possibilities for incorporating them into jelly prints, resulting in a fusion of old and new.

Today, jelly printing has become a widely practiced art form, embraced by artists of all levels of expertise. Its accessibility, spontaneity, and endless creative possibilities make it a favorite among printmakers and mixed media artists.

Materials for Jelly Printing

Discover the essential materials needed for jelly printing, including gelatin plates, inks, brayers, and various tools that will enhance your printing experience.

Gelatin Plates

The gelatin plate is the foundation of jelly printing. It is a soft, flexible surface that allows for easy transfer of ink onto paper. While you can purchase pre-made gelatin plates, many artists prefer to make their own. To make a gelatin plate, you will need unflavored gelatin, water, glycerin, and a shallow tray or container to pour the mixture into.

Start by dissolving the gelatin in water according to the package instructions. Once dissolved, add glycerin to give the mixture more elasticity and prevent it from drying too quickly. Pour the mixture into the tray, allowing it to set in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Once set, your gelatin plate is ready to use.


When it comes to inks for jelly printing, there is a wide range of options to choose from. Water-based inks, such as acrylic or poster inks, are popular choices as they dry quickly and are easy to clean up. These inks can be mixed to create custom colors, allowing for endless possibilities in your prints.

Oil-based inks, such as relief printing ink or etching ink, can also be used for jelly printing. These inks have a longer drying time, which allows for more workable prints and the ability to create unique effects such as transparency and layering.


A brayer is a roller used to apply ink onto the gelatin plate. It consists of a handle and a rubber roller, which evenly distributes the ink across the plate’s surface. Brayers come in various sizes, and the choice depends on the scale of your prints and personal preference. A smaller brayer is ideal for detailed work, while a larger brayer is better suited for covering larger areas.


In addition to the basic materials, there are various tools that can be used to create textures and patterns in your jelly prints. These include paintbrushes, stencils, found objects, and mark-making tools such as combs or sponges. Experimenting with different tools can yield unique and unexpected results, adding depth and interest to your prints.

Creating a Gelatin Plate

Learn how to make your own gelatin plate, a crucial component of jelly printing, using simple ingredients and step-by-step instructions.

Step 1: Gather the Ingredients

To create a gelatin plate, you will need unflavored gelatin, water, glycerin, and a shallow tray or container to pour the mixture into. You can find unflavored gelatin in most grocery stores or online. Make sure to follow the package instructions for the correct ratio of gelatin to water.

Step 2: Dissolve the Gelatin

In a saucepan, combine the gelatin with the required amount of water. Stir the mixture gently to dissolve the gelatin completely. Heat the mixture over low heat until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Avoid boiling the mixture, as it can affect the gelatin’s properties.

Step 3: Add Glycerin

Once the gelatin is fully dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat and add glycerin to the mixture. Glycerin helps to prevent the gelatin from drying too quickly and adds elasticity to the plate. Stir the mixture well to ensure that the glycerin is evenly distributed.

Step 4: Pour into a Tray

Choose a shallow tray or container that is slightly larger than the desired size of your gelatin plate. Pour the gelatin mixture into the tray, ensuring that it spreads evenly across the surface. If there are any air bubbles, gently tap the tray on a flat surface to release them.

Step 5: Refrigerate and Set

Place the tray in the refrigerator and allow the gelatin mixture to set for a few hours or overnight. The gelatin plate should become firm and springy to the touch. Once set, your gelatin plate is ready to use for jelly printing.

Ink and Color Selection

Explore the world of inks and colors, and discover how different choices can affect your jelly prints. Learn about color theory and how to achieve harmonious compositions.

Color Theory

Understanding color theory is essential for creating visually pleasing jelly prints. The color wheel, consisting of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, provides a foundation for color mixing and harmonious combinations.

Primary colors, including red, blue, and yellow, cannot be created by mixing other colors. Secondary colors, such as orange, green, and purple, are obtained by mixing two primary colors. Tertiary colors are created by mixing primary and secondary colors.

Complementary colors, located opposite each other on the color wheel, create contrast and vibrancy when used together. Analogous colors, which are adjacent on the color wheel, create harmony and unity in a composition.

Ink Selection

When selecting inks for jelly printing, consider the properties of the ink and how they will affect your prints. Water-based inks, such as acrylic or poster inks, are quick-drying and easy to clean up, making them ideal for beginners. These inks can be mixed to create custom colors, allowing for endless possibilities in your prints.

Oil-based inks, such as relief printing ink or etching ink, have a longer drying time, which allows for more workable prints. They can be used to create unique effects such as transparency and layering. However, they require more care in terms of cleanup and can take longer to dry completely.

Color Mixing

Experimenting with color mixing is an exciting aspect of jelly printing. By layering different colors or blending them on the gelatin plate, you can create a wide range of hues and tones in your prints.

Start by applying a thin layer of one color onto the gelatin plate using a brayer. Then, apply another color on top, slightly overlapping the firstcolor. Use the brayer to blend the two colors together, creating a gradient or a new color. You can also experiment with layering different colors directly onto the plate, allowing them to mix and mingle as you print.

Remember to consider the opacity and transparency of the inks when layering colors. Transparent inks will allow the underlying layers to show through, creating depth and complexity in your prints. Opaque inks, on the other hand, will cover the layers beneath, resulting in more solid and vibrant colors.

Basic Jelly Printing Techniques

Master the fundamental techniques of jelly printing, including direct printing, ghost printing, and creating texture using various tools and materials.

Direct Printing

Direct printing is the most straightforward technique in jelly printing. Start by applying a layer of ink onto the gelatin plate using a brayer. Place your desired paper or fabric onto the inked plate and gently press down to transfer the ink. Peel off the paper or fabric to reveal your print.

Experiment with different pressures and angles to achieve various effects. Light pressure will result in a more subtle and textured print, while firmer pressure will create a bolder and more saturated print. You can also try different papers and fabrics to see how they interact with the ink and gelatin plate.

Ghost Printing

Ghost printing is a technique that involves creating a second print from the residual ink left on the gelatin plate after the initial print. Apply a fresh layer of ink onto the plate, using a different color or a lighter shade. Place a new piece of paper or fabric onto the inked plate and press down, transferring the remaining ink. The result is a faint and ghostly print that retains some of the texture and details from the previous print.

Ghost printing can add depth and layers to your artwork, as well as create an element of surprise and unpredictability. It is an excellent technique for creating backgrounds or building up complex compositions.

Texture and Mark-making

One of the unique aspects of jelly printing is the ability to create texture and patterns using various tools and materials. Experiment with different objects such as leaves, bubble wrap, or textured fabrics to press onto the gelatin plate before printing. These objects will leave behind their textures and patterns, adding interest and dimension to your prints.

You can also use mark-making tools such as combs, sponges, or even your fingers to create lines, dots, or other shapes on the gelatin plate. These marks will transfer onto the paper or fabric, adding a personal and expressive touch to your prints.

Advanced Jelly Printing Techniques

Take your jelly printing skills to the next level with advanced techniques such as layering, stenciling, and monoprinting. Learn how to achieve intricate details and depth in your prints.


Layering is a technique that involves building up multiple layers of ink and imagery to create complex and visually rich prints. Start by printing a base layer, allowing it to dry completely. Then, add additional layers of ink, using different colors, stencils, or textured materials.

Each layer adds depth and dimension to the print, creating a sense of visual complexity. Experiment with transparent inks to allow the underlying layers to show through, or use opaque inks for more solid and bold effects. Layering offers endless possibilities for creating unique and captivating prints.


Stenciling is a technique that allows for precise and controlled application of ink onto the gelatin plate. You can use pre-made stencils or create your own by cutting out shapes or patterns from paper or cardboard. Place the stencil onto the inked plate and press down gently to transfer the ink onto the stencil’s openings. Remove the stencil and place your paper or fabric onto the plate to capture the print.

Stenciling opens up a world of possibilities for creating intricate designs and repeating patterns in your prints. Combine different stencils, layer them with other techniques, or use masks to create negative space. The possibilities are endless, and the results can be truly stunning.


Monoprinting is a technique that allows for the creation of one-of-a-kind prints. It involves applying ink to the gelatin plate, manipulating it, and then transferring it onto paper or fabric. The resulting print is unique and cannot be replicated exactly.

To create a monoprint, start by applying ink onto the gelatin plate using a brayer or brush. Then, use various tools such as brushes, sponges, or your fingers to manipulate the ink on the plate. You can create textures, blend colors, or remove ink to reveal the underlying layers. Once you are satisfied with the design, place your paper or fabric onto the plate, press down, and peel off to reveal your monoprint.

Monoprinting offers a sense of spontaneity and experimentation that is both exciting and unpredictable. It allows for a high level of personal expression and encourages artists to embrace the unexpected.

Tips and Tricks for Successful Jelly Printing

Discover valuable tips and tricks that will help you achieve outstanding results in your jelly prints. Learn how to troubleshoot common issues and overcome challenges.

Prepare Your Workspace

Before you start jelly printing, ensure that your workspace is clean and organized. Clear away any unnecessary clutter and have all your materials and tools within reach. Lay down protective sheets or newspaper to catch any excess ink or mess. Having a well-prepared workspace will allow you to focus on the creative process without distractions.

Experiment and Play

Jelly printing is all about experimentation and embracing the unexpected. Don’t be afraid to try new techniques, mix colors, or incorporate different materials into your prints. Allow yourself to play, make mistakes, and discover new possibilities. Some of the most interesting and unique prints come from taking risks and pushing the boundaries of the medium.

Practice Patience

Jelly printing requires a certain level of patience and attention to detail. Allow sufficient drying time between layers or prints to prevent smudging or smearing. Take your time when applying ink to the gelatin plate, ensuring even coverage and avoiding excess ink that can result in a messy print. Patience and attention to detail will lead to more successful and satisfying prints.

Embrace Imperfections

Jelly printing is a medium that celebrates imperfections and happy accidents. Embrace the unexpected marks, textures, and variations that occur in the printing process. These imperfections add character and uniqueness to your prints. Don’t strive for perfection; instead, embrace the beauty of the imperfect and let it shine in your artwork.

Clean and Maintain Your Materials

Proper cleaning and maintenance of your materials, especially the gelatin plate and brayers, are essential for achieving consistent and high-quality prints. After each printing session, clean the gelatin plate by gently rinsing it with warm water and patting it dry. Clean brayers by wiping them with a damp cloth or using a mild soap solution if needed. Regular cleaning and proper storage will ensure the longevity of your materials and the quality of your prints.

Jelly Printing with Found Objects

Experiment with unconventional materials and found objects to create unique textures and patterns in your jelly prints. Discover the endless possibilities of incorporating everyday objects into your artwork.

Exploring Textures

Found objects offer a variety of textures that can be incorporated into your jelly prints. Look for objects such as leaves, fabrics, lace, bubble wrap, or even kitchen utensils. Press these objects onto the inked gelatin plate before printing to create interesting textures and patterns.

The textures and patterns created by found objects can add depth and visual interest to your prints. They can mimic natural elements, architectural details, or abstract shapes. Experiment with different objects and combinations to create unique and visually captivating prints.

Creating Negative Space

Found objects can also be used to create negative space in your prints. Negative space refers to the areas in your print that are intentionally left blank or uninked. By placing objects onto the gelatin plate and printing over them, you can create areas of white or unpainted space that contrast with the inked areas.

Experiment with different objects and their arrangements to achieve the desired negative space effect. This technique can add a sense of balance, contrast, and visual interest to your prints.

Jelly Printing as Mixed Media

Combine jelly printing with other art techniques and media to create mixed media artworks that are rich in texture, color, and depth. Explore the synergy between jelly printing and various art forms.

Collage and Assemblage

Jelly prints can be easily incorporated into collage or assemblage artworks. Use your jelly prints as a backdrop or a focal point in your collage compositions. Cut out shapes or elements from your prints and combine them with other found materials, photographs, or drawings to create visually dynamic and layered artworks.

Experiment with different adhesives, such as gel medium or glue, to adhere your jelly prints to the collage surface. Layer various materials and textures to create depth and interest, allowing the jelly prints to interact with other elements in the composition.

Painting and Drawing

Jelly prints canalso serve as a foundation for painting and drawing. Use your jelly prints as a textured background and build upon them with additional layers of paint or drawing materials. The unique textures and patterns created by the jelly printing process can add depth and visual interest to your paintings or drawings.

Experiment with different techniques such as dry brushing, glazing, or adding details with pens or pencils. Combine the spontaneity of jelly printing with the precision of painting or drawing to create mixed media artworks that are rich in texture, color, and visual complexity.

Showcasing and Preserving Your Jelly Prints

Discover different ways to showcase and preserve your jelly prints, from framing and mounting to creating unique art journals or handmade books.


Framing your jelly prints is a classic and timeless way to showcase your artwork. Choose a frame that complements the style and aesthetic of your prints. Consider using a mat or spacer to create a visual separation between the print and the frame, enhancing the overall presentation.

When framing, ensure that your prints are protected from dust, moisture, and direct sunlight. Use archival materials and UV-protective glass to prevent fading and deterioration over time. Proper framing not only enhances the visual impact of your jelly prints but also ensures their longevity.


Mounting your jelly prints onto a rigid surface is another option for displaying your artwork. This can be done by adhering the prints onto a wooden panel, foam board, or canvas using an archival adhesive. Mounting provides stability and durability to your prints, allowing them to be easily hung on walls or displayed on easels.

Consider adding a protective varnish or sealant over the prints to protect them from moisture, light, and general wear and tear. This will also enhance the colors and textures of your prints, making them more visually appealing.

Art Journals and Handmade Books

If you enjoy working in a more intimate and tactile format, consider incorporating your jelly prints into art journals or handmade books. Use your prints as pages, covers, or elements within the journal or book. Combine them with other mixed media techniques, such as collage, writing, or drawing, to create a unique and personal artistic expression.

Art journals and handmade books offer a more interactive and immersive way to experience and share your jelly prints. They allow for experimentation, storytelling, and the exploration of themes or narratives within the context of the printed pages.

When creating art journals or handmade books, ensure that the materials used are archival quality to preserve the prints for years to come. Consider using acid-free papers, bookbinding techniques, and protective covers to ensure the longevity and durability of your creations.

In Conclusion

Jelly printing offers a captivating and versatile art technique that allows artists to create stunning and unique prints. Its rich history, endless creative possibilities, and accessible materials make it an ideal choice for both seasoned artists and beginners. By following the comprehensive guide provided in this article, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills needed to embark on your own jelly printing journey and explore the boundless world of this fascinating art form.

From the origins of jelly printing to the materials required, techniques to try, and tips for success, you now have a comprehensive understanding of this captivating art technique. Whether you’re drawn to the spontaneity of direct printing or the intricacy of layering and stenciling, jelly printing offers a wide range of possibilities for artistic expression.

Remember to embrace experimentation and play, allowing yourself to explore new techniques, incorporate found objects, and combine jelly printing with other art forms. The imperfections and surprises that arise during the printing process can often lead to the most interesting and visually striking results.

Showcasing and preserving your jelly prints can be done through framing, mounting, or incorporating them into art journals or handmade books. Choose the method that best suits your artistic vision and style, ensuring the longevity and protection of your prints.

So, gather your materials, set up your gelatin plate, and let your creativity flow. Whether you’re an experienced artist or just starting your artistic journey, jelly printing offers a world of exploration and artistic possibilities. Happy printing!

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