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8" x 10" Gelli Arts ® Printing Plate, Paints, and Brayer Review by Susan Anadale

Gelli Arts®, LLC
525 S. 4th Street Suite 477
Philadelphia, PA 19147

I have a family of creative art fanatics, and we are always looking for a fun new medium or technique to try out. We had never seriously tried printmaking, unless you count cutting potatoes into shapes, dipping them in paint, and stamping designs onto paper. I thought making real prints required sharp tools to cut wood blocks or dangerous chemicals to etch a hard surface—all things that I do not particularly want to use with my children.

Gelli Arts® has developed a unique, non-toxic, vegan-friendly Gelli® Printing Plate that will open up the world of printmaking even to very young children. My 8-year-old, 12-year-old, and 13-year-old have all been creating some amazing art with this tool.

The Gelli® Printing Plate comes in many different sizes and shapes. We received the 8” x 10” size which sells for $30.99. We also received a brayer (roller) for applying paint and four bottles of acrylic paint. Gelli Arts® sells the brayers in sets of ten for $44.99. Gelli Arts® Premium Acrylic Paints can be purchased singly for $2.99 each or in assorted sets containing six colors for $15.99.

Kits and class sets are also available, as well as additional accessories, including texturing tools and stencils.

The Gelli® Printing Plate is latex free and contains no animal products. This flexible plate is made from mineral oil and a hypoallergenic polymer. It comes in a convenient, easy to open and close plastic clamshell, which is perfect for storage. When you open the package, you will need to peel off the clear plastic sheets on the top and bottom of the plate before using it, but no other prep is required.

Because the Gelli® Printing Plate contains mineral oil, it is recommended that you not place it directly onto a porous surface. Over time, some of the harmless oil could seep into your dining room table, leaving a stain, and we would not want that. It will also take an impression easily, so you will want to avoid leaving it on a textured surface. The instructions recommend that you place the plate onto a flat baking sheet or a sheet of glass while using it. We used a baking sheet, which was handy and easy to wash off afterwards.

The printmaking process is easy. Even my 8-year-old made beautiful prints without any help.

I recommend protecting your table with some newspaper or a plastic table cloth---printmaking can be messy. Squirt one or more colors of paint onto the plate and roll it out with the brayer. You can produce some interesting blending affects rolling the brayer in different directions. Add textures with special tools or household items like cotton swabs, fingertips, textured napkins, blades of grass, bubble wrap, or whatever else you can think of. You can do a resist using pieces of paper, leaves, flowers, etc. Carefully place a piece of paper over the plate and smooth over the back of the paper with your hands. Beginning at one corner, slowly peel off the paper to reveal your masterpiece.

Gelli Arts® has a wonderful, easy to follow tutorial on their website to help you get started. Printmaking is definitely a process art and the results can be unpredictable. We spent a lot of time experimenting with different color combinations, different textures, different resists, different amounts of paint, different types of paper, and more.

We found that heavier papers worked best. Smooth cardstock in various colors very quickly became our preferred paper choice.

You may have heard that less is more, and sometimes it is, but we found that with the Gelli® Printing Plate, often more was better. Being too sparing with the paint caused it to dry too quickly on the plate, which led to poor transfer. After a few prints, you will start to get a feel for the right amount of paint to use.

We also preferred using multiple colors in a print and even multiple layers. You can roller multiple colors over the plate, place a resist, then roller more colors over that, then remove the resist, revealing the first set of colors on the areas the resist covered before printing. Using multiple layers added interest and depth to our prints.

After making a print, you can clean off the plate with a baby wipe, a wet cloth, or some hand sanitizer before making the next print, or you can leave the residual paint for added interest. We used a wet paper towel to remove paint between our masterpieces and it worked just fine. The brayer can be rinsed under a faucet and patted dry.

When your table is full of 20 new prints and you are ready to call it a day, you can easily wash the plate with mild soap and warm water, dry it off, and put it away in its clamshell until next time.

The Gelli® Printing Plate is a fun, easy to use tool for all ages. We love using it to create beautiful prints, but it would also be a wonderful tool for creating your own scrapbooking paper or a unique background for a painting. I highly recommend it.

-Product review by Susan Anadale, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2017