Monday, October 24, 2011

Who Was That Masked Man?

He's a shape I cut out — and he's one of my favorite
images to use as a mask in my Gelli® monotypes.

 In fact, I like him so much I've cloned him

Using masks is an ideal way to create interesting imagery, focal points and repetitions in your Gelli® prints. A perfect tool for creating a series. 

A mask is basically the opposite of a stencil. Whereas a stencil has the design cut out (holes), a mask is the cut out shape. Put another way, if you punch a shape from a piece of paper — the hole you've created in the paper can be used as a stencil. The shaped piece of paper you punched out can be used as a mask.

The function of a mask is to create a barrier between the painted plate and the substrate you're printing. Applying a mask onto a painted gel plate results in a blocked out area on your print, in the shape of the mask. Who knew it's so easy to create visual complexity!

Making a mask can be as simple as tearing a piece of paper into a random shape. Or using a punched shape or die-cut. Or easier yet — how about using a found object, like a leaf or fern, as a mask.

I've cut masks from freezer paper, computer paper, waxed paper, parchment paper, kraft paper, index cards, card stock, manilla folders, frisket, acetate, DuraLar, Yupo, Mylar, Denril, stencil blanks, magazine pages, newsprint, chipboard, cereal boxes ... and probably some other materials. Each works well and will produce a masking effect. 

Some materials interact with paint a little differently and/or better than others. 

And some of these materials become so beautiful after you’ve used them as masks — you’ll want to use them in your artwork!

Among my favorite masks are images I've cut out of Sheer Heaven™ — like this guy. If you're looking for a durable material that lays flat, stands up to repeated use, is easy to cut and feeds through an inkjet printer — you'll love Sheer Heaven™ (available online at

Take a look around ... you'll find masking materials and found masks everywhere! 

So let's make Gelli® prints using masks!

1. Apply a layer of paint onto the gel plate with a brayer or soft brush (create textures in your paint, if desired)
2. Lay the mask onto the wet paint
3. Cover with paper or fabric.
4. Rub to transfer the paint and pull your print
The mask has created a blank area on your print.
When you lift the mask from the gel plate, you'll see there is residual paint on the plate where the mask had been.
Quickly place a piece of paper on the plate and pull another print. This second print — made after the masking object is removed — is often a delicate print with great detail. Especially when the masking object has a finely textured surface, like a leaf or feather. The second print, pulled from the paint remaining on the plate, is called a “ghost” print.

This is the ghost print from the plate above. Notice the detailed
outlines that show up in the print.

I like to use Golden Open Acrylics for this process as it gives me the clearest ghost prints. Exquisite detail! 

But with any paint, the trick is to use a thin coat. A little paint goes a long way. 

Also, when you remove your mask, it will have paint on it. So use it as a stamp! Place it paint-side down on a print and rub to transfer the paint. It's a fabulous way to make an image and it cleans some of the wet paint off your mask! 

Another exciting way to use masks is to over-print multiple layers on the same print. It’s as easy as it sounds! Here’s how to do it ...

Follow the steps for making a masked Gelli® print ... up to Step 3.

This time, instead of printing on blank paper or fabric, you're going to print onto a previously printed piece.
The area covered by the mask will reveal the original print. The rest of the print is a new paint layer.

Printing with masks on patterned paper or commercially printed fabric will give you instant complex prints!!!
This Gelli print was done on commercially printed fabric with Versatex
Screen Printing Inks for Fabric and Paper (#346 Super Opaque White).

Using masks to create a focal point is also a great way to improve a monotone print. One of my favorite ways to spice up a print is to roll a layer of opaque gold metallic paint onto my gel plate, such as Speedball Opaque Screenprinting Fabric Paint. Create some texture in the paint. Then lay down a mask onto the wet paint and print a new layer right over that first print. Works like a charm!

                                  Before                                              After

To integrate a rubber stamped image into your Gelli® print follow these simple masking instructions:

(Stamped frisket masks)
1. Stamp with a rubber stamp onto frisket (durable, self-adhering film with a removable adhesive that leaves no residue... such as Grafix Frisket Film). Post-it paper works well, too.

2. Cut out the image (slightly inside the edges to avoid a halo effect) ... and now you have a removable self-adhesive mask.

3. Stamp the image onto your printing paper.

4. Overlay the frisket mask on top of the stamped image — it will stick to the paper.

5. Make a gel print and remove the mask to reveal your stamped image.

The stamped image is beautifully 
preserved and synthesized into the print! 

Fun, yes? 

Further detailing with colored pencils can enhance the stamped image and add yet another dimension to your print.
These techniques should keep you good and busy making fascinating prints! And remember, monotypes are perfect beginnings! Work back into them with collage, watercolor, pencils, pastel, stitching — you name it!
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Now, a bit of trivia. For those of you who remember the famous line — "Who was that masked man?" ... (from the iconic 50's TV show, "The Lone Ranger") — you'll surely remember the line that followed:
"I wanted to thank him."

Try making masks and using them on your Gelli plate. You'll thank them.

And I thank YOU for taking a few minutes to watch this slideshow of my masked man’s metamorphosis!

PS - I love reading your thoughts and ideas. All comments, 
short and long, are welcome and appreciated! 

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