portable gelatin printing
Gelatin or 'gelli' printing has become very popular around the world as a versatile, cheap and easily accesible printing process. It is usually used on a table top but is readily adapted to a portable system.
The Process... ink is rolled onto
a block of gelatin which is pressed against
a textured surface and then onto paper.
This prints a detailed image of the surface
on the paper.
Only one image is produced at time,
each one is unique.
The process is very simple, delightfully
messy and easily portable.
The gelatin... food gelatin
intended for deserts is quite adequate.
A generous amount can be mixed with a
small amount of cold water, heated until
the gelatin melts, then poured into a
This will produce a perfectly usable
printing block that will last for days or
even weeks if stored in a fridge.
For something much more durable
substitute half the water with glycerine.
The paper... good quality,
300 gsm, smooth surfaced paper is ideal.
Paper with a textured surface looks nice
but will lose a lot of detail.
I use rough 320gsm hand-made paper
from Khadi. I prepare the printing area by
first soaking the paper in hot water to
soften it, then use a hot metal press to
produce a flat surface.
The ink... I have tried Speedball acrylic
printing ink, Caligo safewash and even waste
ink saved from my inkjet printer.
The Speedball acrylics can benefit from an
extender to slow down drying time.
Caligo safewash works very well and is
my current favorite, however this type of
traditional oil based ink is spectacularly messy
due to it's very slow drying time, it seems to
Making it portable...
A small sized printing block is probably
a good place to start.
Mine are about the size of a large business
card which produces a nice size image on
an A6 greeting card.
A mould will need to be found or made
which is the correct size. Business cards
come in plastic boxes that can be used as
a mould and afterwards, for storage.
Various sizes can be bought cheaply on
To use one as a mould, line it with thin
card, line this with cling film then pour in
about 10mm of gelatin.
Let it set then lift it out.
Foam support... the subjects I
use for printing are usually not flat.
Mounting a printing block onto a foam
support allows it to be pressed into
hollows. Kitchen scourers are about the
right size and work well.
To join them together turn the block
upside down then gently and very briefly
melt the surface under a grill or with a
Carefully place the foam on top, the gelatin
will set quickly and stay securely attached.
Going bigger... it is possible to
work with larger printing block and larger
The same system can be scaled up using
a larger mould and multiple foam pads.
Large prints can also be built up using a