The Do’s and Don’ts of Gelli Plate Printing

By Nicole Tinkham


Back in May we featured Gelli plates (from Gelli Arts) in a blog post. This post contained information on what Gelli plates are, how to use them (with videos included), and even how to care for them. We’re bringing these popular printing plates back for another post just in time for Joey Long’s Gelli plate printing workshop coming up on Saturday, August 3rd. Now that you have your Gelli plate and are anxious to begin using it (if you haven’t already) let’s talk about some of the do’s and don’t when it comes to printing with your new plate.


DO use acrylic paints. Any brand will work, so pick one that you’re comfortable with! If using craft paint, be sure to work fast – these paints tend to dry quickly. To slow down drying time, feel free to use a retarder or other medium (see our GOLDEN mediums blog for more info). Golden Open Acrylics are ideal for more pigment and a longer working time. For monoprinting, Liquitex Basics are recommended.

DO use printmaking inks. Water-soluble printmaking inks work best. Try Speedball or Daniel Smith!

DO use oil-based inks and paint. BUT make sure they don’t sit on the Gelli plate for too long. The oils can end up softening the plate – something that should be avoided!

DO use fabric paints like Jacquard Lumiere or Speedball screen printing ink. Silk paints, like Dye-Na-Flow, are very watery and end up beading up on the plate so try to avoid these. Feel free to use Golden Gac 900 to heat-set the fabric paint.

DON’T use dyes and rubber stamp inks UNLESS you don’t mind a little staining on your pad. These dyes won’t do any harm to the Gelli plate performance but they will change the color.

DON’T use watercolor paints as they are very thin and watery which causes beading on the plate. Gouache may be a better solution but we suggest experimenting with it first.


DO use just about any paper that is not glossy. Basically, it comes down to personal preference so experiment and see which you like using best. Computer paper, cardstock, Bristol, and printmaking paper are all wonderful choices. Wax paper (or deli paper) is great for collages with its thin, translucent properties. For more detailed prints, use a smooth-surfaced paper.

DO use fabric. Gelli printing is great to do on fabric, especially tight-weave fabrics.

DON’T wet your paper. Printing with a Gelli plate is best done with dry paper so there’s no need to mist it with water first!

DON’T use any type of glossy coated paper! This type of coating can stick to the Gelli plate, thus damaging the plate.

Proper care

DO let paint dry on your Gelli plate if you want to create unique textures. When fresh paint is applied over dried paint, printing may pull off some of that dried paint creating unique textures. However, when finished printing, you should clean your plate so it’s ready for the next use.

DO clean your Gelli plate after each use. Just spray with water and wipe down with a paper towel. You can also use hand sanitizer or clean with dish soap and warm water.

DO wipe your plate down with baby oil to remove any stains. Remove the baby oil with dish soap and water.

DON’T cut Gelli plates down to smaller sizes with a craft knife. With the flexibility of the plate, using a knife becomes too difficult. Instead, cut them down using scissors.

Alright, you took all of our advice and something still goes wrong. What do you do?

What to do if..

Your paper is sticking to the Gelli plate: Add a bit more paint. Most of the time when a print sticks to the plate, there either isn’t enough paint or the paint is starting to dry. If your plate starts to feel tacky, wash it thoroughly with dish soap.

Your paint is beading up on your Gelli plate: Wash the plate thoroughly with dish soap. This will remove the film of oil that develops on the plate. If this doesn’t solve the problem, you may need to use a thicker paint.

Your paint is drying too fast: Add some retarder to the paint. This will slow down the drying time, allowing you more time to work. You can also try using a heavier paint application. Many will want to spray the plate with water but this does not usually help.

Your Gelli plate becomes cloudy: Nothing. This is normal and does not affect the use of the plate.

If you stumble across any other questions or issues concerning your Gelli plate, please feel free to ask us about it. You can leave a comment in the box below, give us a call (941-747-2995), stop in, or connect with us through Facebook and Twitter.


10 thoughts on “The Do’s and Don’ts of Gelli Plate Printing

  1. Re: Drying paint on the Gelli plate –Actually, there’s a cool Youtube video that shows that being done deliberately. You would create a design with multiple colors of paint, rubber stamps, combing tools, etc, and leave it to dry. Then cover your gelli plate with strips of clear packing tape. Peel the tape up, and the paint comes with it, creating design-covered tape stips to use in projects. Bonus – minimal cleaning of the gelli plate required. Just clean with a baby wipe.

    1. Thanks for sharing Judy! We are definitely going to try to find that video – sounds like a really cool technique! Have you tried it before? We would love to see what you’ve created!

  2. I have made my own Gelli Plate. At this moment I have not found instructions on how to store the plate, where to store it and in what type of containment. —-Also is it permissible to use baby wipes to clean off the Gelli Plate before storing, and should the Plate be dry before storing. I appreciate your help at this time. I am looking forward to using this new item in my studio. Thank you

  3. My Gelli plate is almost new. From the beginning, there have been patches on the plate where the paint just won’t stay. It’s almost like the paint shrinks away from those areas leaving small ‘holes’. My friend came round with a new plate and exactly the same happened. Any suggestions would be appreciaed.

    1. The first thing we recommend is making sure the plate is thoroughly cleaned. Sometimes the oils from your hand or the packaging the plate came in can act as a resist. If using acrylic paint, you can clean your Gelli plate with mild soap and water, a gel hand sanitizer, or baby wipes. If it’s oil paint that you’re using it’s recommended to clean with baby oil or mineral oil then with a dish soap.

      Let us know if this helps. If not, we can always do some research and figure out what’s going on with your plates!

  4. I’ve just got my Gelli plate and I’m having trouble with the second coat of paint taking off the first one. I left it various times to dry (sometimes upto 15 mins but it still pulls patches of paint off. I never saw this happen in the you tube demos 😞

    1. Dawn, we’ve confirmed with our Gelli plate expert and the reason why the paint is pulling off is because you’re letting it dry. When using acrylics it’s important to work quickly. Get your print done and move on to the next print right away! Hope this helps 🙂

  5. I bought some water based block printing inks to use on the gelli plate, as it says they should work ok. The inks are stiff & I have tried loosening them with a little water but the resulting prints are not good. Is there a medium I should be adding instead of the water ? Thank you !

    1. It sounds like your ink is drying too fast. There is a block printing ink extender that “creates subtle transparent colors and maintains ink viscosity” or a retarder that “slows drying time for water-soluble inks during printing.”

      Does that make sense?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s