Gelatin printing is an fun and process that allows you to make interesting, more organic images from stencils, found objects, and paint. The images produced are not as clean and crisp as images created from other techniques – but that’s the point! For a delightful day of image making, make yourself a gelatin printing pad and have a great time with your paints.
~ Various stencils [Cedar Canyon Textiles]
~ One box Knox® unflavored gelatin
~ 8” square cake pan or similar
~ Textile paints with body like Lumiere™ or Neopaque™ [Jacquard] ~ Retarder or open acrylic medium for paint (allows longer working time)
~ Sponges or sponge brushes
~ Spray bottle of water
~ Soft paper towels
~ Knife or palette knife
Make a gelatin printing pad by pouring one cup of cold water into an 8” square pan. Pour the contents of all four envelopes from the Knox gelatin box into the pan and stir to partially dissolve. Add one cup of very hot water to the pan and stir to completely dissolve the gelatin. Refrigerate the pan until the gelatin is set.
If your pan has low sides, you can work without removing the gelatin but if your pan has high sides, run a knife along the edges of the gelatin to introduce air underneath and dump the gelatin onto a plastic covered table. If your pan has a pattern on the bottom, turn the gelatin over to expose the smooth side.
Mix a small amount of paint with retarder, which will keep the paint viable longer. With a sponge or sponge brush, cover the gelatin with a layer of paint. If using a brush, be careful not to drag it over the gelatin, causing the gelatin to break up sooner.
It is possible to get three prints from each set up of paint:
Place the stencil over the painted gelatin and drop a piece of fabric on top. Rub gently with your hands to transfer the paint to the fabric and carefully lift the fabric off the stencil and gelatin. Place to the side to dry.
Lift the stencil off the gelatin. Since it will have paint on the back, it can be used to make a negative print. Carefully drop it down on a piece of fabric and rub the paint onto the fabric with your hands or a brayer. Remove the stencil and allow the fabric to dry.
The gelatin will now have paint exposed in a negative pattern with a faint amount of paint in the positive area of the design. Drop a piece of fabric down on the gelatin and rub over it with your hands. Pull the fabric off the gelatin and let dry.
If there is any paint remaining on the gelatin, either leave it to add interest to the next paint set up, or spray lightly with water and wipe clean with a paper towel. When your painting session is finished, return the gelatin to the refrigerator for another time. When the gelatin starts to deteriorate, (sooner in hot weather) tear it apart and continue to print with the pieces.
Heat set the painted fabric by ironing it for 3 minutes.
This photo shows the gelatin prints from the large Birch leaf stencil.
Thank you for your wonderful and very useful article. I appreciate so much that you shared the beautiful work that you do because I need to give a simple workshop on printing leaves. Your article is very helpful.
I havae a question— can you substitute sugarless jello instead of the knox?
I’ll have to ask Susan abut this, but I suspect the answer is no. I believe that the recipe for the gelatin plate is highly concentrated compared to standard jello. And, I’m quite sure that the coloring in regular jello would most likely stain any fabric. Now, if you WANT extra colors, do an experiment and see what happens. You might be able to get all kinds of interesting effects using various “flavors” of gelatin plates. 🙂
Right you are about the jello.
One of the students in my last class used jello instead of gelatin and it was pretty much of a mess. Stuck to the fabric and she had little red globs all over it. Fortunately, somebody had an extra pan of gelatin – LOL.
Make sure the gelatin doesn’t develop ice crystals in your fridge if you leave it overnight because it will also make a mess. Ask me how I know.