Gelatin Printing


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In the 1880’s a gelatin plate printing method was developed in Germany to make inexpensive copies. Some say it was designed for church bulletins and student tests. It was called a hectograph.

A special ink or pencil was used to write on a piece of paper. That paper was laid on the gelatin for a few minutes and lifted off. Then a clean paper was laid on the gelatin. To make more copies, one would place another clean paper on top of the gelatine and continue until all the ink was gone. The name hectograph came from the idea that you could make 100 copies from the one image.

Today, we use gelatin plates primarily for art project-monoprints or monotypes. You can buy a product called a Gelli plate that will supposedly last forever. Since the cheapest “classroom kit” which contains 4 12×14 plates was more than $250 and way out of my budget, I made a semi-permanent plate using gelatin, glycerin and water. The plate cost just about $7 and was made in a 9×13 glass pan. Recipe is below.

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I had my after school group try it out. They were a little heavy handed with the paint but loved it. I will probably make another couple of plates and let them do this again. Not sure how long the plate will last but it held sturdy with only a few nicks through 25 2nd-5th graders making 2 prints each.

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I found this how to video on youtube. The video is about 30 minutes and she tells you how to print with it as well. The Frugal Crafter has an original version of the recipe.  I read some disaster stories on the web about the contents becoming gloppy and not useable so I used a whisk and blended the gelatin and glycerin quite well before adding the hot water.

Gelatin Plate-no refrigeration needed

6 Tablespoons of gelatin (7 packets)

Mix the gelatin into 1.5 cups glycerin

While mixing, add 1.5 cups boiling water

Pour it into a shallow pan to set-I used a 9×12 glass baking dish and it was perfect.

You can remove the air bubbles with a piece of tissue paper or newsprint.

If it gets nicked or damaged, you can microwave for a minute and let it set back up.




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