Getting started with a gel plate can be a bit overwhelming. Do not be discouraged. Once the basics are learned the creative possibilities are endless. This article covers the basics, three mediums that can be used, supply list and how to add texture to a gel plate.
Table of Contents:
- Gel Plate Basics
- Paint on a Gel Plate
- Ink on a Gel Plate
- Alcohol Ink on a Gel Plate
- Adding Texture
- Supply List
Gel Plate Basics
The first thing you want to do when you open the clamshell in which your gel plate is housed in is get rid of the thick acetate sheets that are stuck to each side. These are only part of the the packaging and can actually cause air bubbles on your gel plate if you attach them after each play session. I do not throw my acetate sheets away. I set them aside for shaker cards. Keep the clamshell the gel plate came in and store it in that. Buying something special is not necessary.
Store the gel plate upright like a book if possible. If that option is not available, store it flat in the clam shell making sure there is nothing on top of it. Before you create your beautiful pulls the plate has to be seasoned otherwise you will get beading. To season the plate, apply paint with a brayer and lift with scratch paper. Do as many pulls as needed until beading no longer occurs.
Sometimes problems arise during a paint play session that are baffling. The good news is there usually is an easy fix!
Brayer Not Rolling
If you notice that your brayer is not rolling, you probably have to much paint on the gel plate. I like to work with two gel plates plates at a time. One to create on and the other to use as a palate or to roll of excess paint. At the end of the paint play session I will use scratch paper to pull from my second plate. Sometimes the print pulled from that plate is better than the pulls I created intentionally on my main plate.
Colors Blend Like Mud
To avoid muddy colors be mindful of the color families. Keep your cool tones (blues and greens) and your warm tones (red, orange and yellows) separate for beautiful blends every time. If you are using purple, only blend it with shades of purple or blues or reds. Do not use secondary colors with it (greens, orange and pink) because it will always turn to mud.
The Gel Plate Turns Yellow
This is okay and nothing to worry about. It just means that it is properly seasoned and well loved. The yellow will not transfer to any substrates used on it nor will it discolor the paint.
Something Cut The Gel Plate
Gel plates are not self healing. Please do not carve into them or use sharp objects that can puncture. If this happens just keep in mind that it has two sides. Flip it over and create on the other side.
The best surface for a gel plate is glass. It is made up of mineral oil and can stain wood and silicone surfaces. A lot of the craft mats on the market do not play nice with gel plates. If you do not have a glass mat, just place a piece of paper under your plate. The paper will absorb any excess oil that may transfer to the surface it is on. Plus, a white piece of paper will allow you to see what is on the plate.
How To Clean A Gel Plate
I prefer a dirty plate, but sometimes I do have to clean it when switching to a different medium. This is easy to do with a little hand sanitizer and a baby wipe. Simply squirt some sanitizer on the plate, rub in with fingers and wipe clean with a baby wipe.
Paint on a Gel Plate
The most well known medium to use on a Gel Plate is paint. It is easy to find and can be inexpensive. There are a couple things to keep in mind when using paint. First, what type of paint are you going to use? I like acrylics because they are heavy bodied and dry to a plastic. Plus, they are easier to blend. Water based paints tend to be a little to runny for my liking and hard to manage. There are beautiful slow dry acrylics that have vibrant colors, but they are pricey.
If you are having a problem with your paint drying to quick on a gel press plate, you can do two things. First, apply a thin layer of white paint on the dried plate and lift. Make sure you can see the image through the white before lifting. If you want a little more play time on your plate, apply a thin layer of gel medium. This can also be used a glue for collage pieces.
Ink on a Gel Plate
Any dye ink pads work wonderfully on a gel plate to create gorgeous backgrounds. Smooch the ink pads on the gel plate and brayer it. I like to use white 110 pound flat cad stock to lift these prints. This is the best video on how to do this:
Alcohol Ink on a Gel Plate
Alcohol ink is my favorite to use on a Gel Plate. I do not like having to purchase special expensive paper in order to create with alcohol ink. By using a gel plate, I do not need anything other than regular paper. To lift the alcohol ink from the gel plate wait for it to dry and apply a thin layer of white paint. Do your pull immediately. By using a gel plate with alcohol ink it opens up numerous possibilities for substrates that could not be used successfully in the past with it.
Trash to Treasure
Adding texture on a gel plate is one of the main reasons artists like to create on it. There are several different ways to add texture. My favorite way is to rummage in my recycle bin.
Carboard boxes can be torn to reveal the corrugated center to be stamped on the Gel Press.
Bubble wrap is my very favorite thing to use on a Gel Press Plate. In fact, almost every pull I use it. It comes in several different shapes and can be found in packaging material. Use it again and again with paint to get even more fun bits of colored texture.
Bottle caps, red solo cups and straws make wonderful circles. Just be careful not to puncture the plate.
String, yarn and twine are also great on a gel plate.
You can also purchase texture tools consisting of combs to objects that look like pencils. There are some great videos on how to create your own using things from the Dollar Tree Store.
Stencils are a great on a gel plate. They are relatively inexpensive and can be used for other things. Who doesn’t like to get their monies worth? They also are easy to store. Just be careful to clean them after each use. Depending on what medium you use on them will determine how long they last and if they transfer color to your next project. When using a stencils, select ones that do not have an edge because the edge will imprint on the plate. If you have a stencil that has an edge use it with a gel plate that is smaller than the stencil.
Deep etched rubber stamps are best on a gel plate. Clear stamps do not always leave a good impression and can be a bit more challenging to clean. Background stamps are my favorite to use placed over stencils.
Here is a supply list to get started with a gel plate or to add to your collection. If you are not interested in using paints on your plate than skip over the paint and Ultra Thick Gel Medium. The Ranger Ink 3 Pack Gel Plate assortment is great to start with. There is a large plate to create on, a smaller plate to use on the side and a circle for stamping. Also, when I selected the colors for each medium I picked ones that will give you a beautiful blend each time. You will not get mud ever with these color combos. I included both cool and warm tone color combinations. If you would like more options please let me know in the comments or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
I hope you found this article helpful as you venture into the fabulous gel plate arena. Here is a complete playlist on my channel specifically created for gel plate art.
Until next time — Happy Crafting!