Monday, May 1, 2017

Gelli Arts® Printing with Watercolor

Hi there! It’s Marsha here today with a fun little watercolor technique!

You may be thinking that watercolor isn’t the most suitable paint for Gelli® printing. The viscosity is thin and that causes the paint to bead up on the slick surface of the Gelli® plate. However, with a little experimentation, I was able to use watercolors to create amazing prints!

If you like surprises, apply watercolors directly onto the plate and just let the magic happen. The paper you use will affect the outcome. I experimented with different kinds of paper and I found I preferred drawing paper and smooth watercolor paper.

Keep the brush fairly dry and gently rub the paper without applying pressure when pulling the print.

Don’t use a brayer. Pressure will push the watercolors around on the plate and it’s possible to end up with more watercolor next to the Gelli® plate than on the print.

Add more water for a real watercolor look. Just load the brush with more water when applying the paint to the plate or spray water over the paint on the plate with a spray bottle.

For a little more control over the paint, you need a carrier or something that will make the surface of the Gelli® plate less slick.

In her last blog post, Birgit used gel medium as a carrier for her spray ink technique. This will work for traditional watercolors too. But once use gel medium with watercolors, you cannot reactivate the watercolor paint on your print.  It will act more like acrylic paint. 

If you want the watercolor to keep its characteristics, try using a tiny drop of dish soap instead. The soap will create a thin film on the plate that will stop the watercolor from beading up as much.

You don’t need to add a new drop of dish soap for each new print. I used a baby wipe to spread the dish soap over my Gelli® plate the first time. That baby wipe absorbed a lot of the excess dish soap, so from then on I just cleaned the plate with that same baby wipe to distribute dish soap onto the plate in between prints.

Dab the baby wipe with dish soap onto the plate to create foam. This will cause tiny bubbles that will show up in your prints!

Now add the watercolors with a brush. Try dragging and dabbing the brush for different print effects and use mark making tools and round pointed brushes to create designs.

Watercolors stay wet longer than acrylic paints on a gel printing plate, so there is plenty of time to work on the designs before pulling a print.

Let the printed paper dry properly before pulling another print on top.
Be mindful of the colors you choose! Go for colors that mix well, because watercolors are transparent and each new wet layer can also re-activate the watercolor that has already dried on the print.

The most important thing is to have fun and experiment!

Happy printing with watercolors!!


Gelli Arts® 5" x 7" Gelli® Printing Plate
Drawing or watercolor paper
Watercolors (Winsor & Newton)
Flat watercolor brush
Round, pointed watercolor brush
Mark making tool
Dish soap
Baby wipe


  1. Super cool! Now I want to try this too!!

  2. So cool! I love watercolors and these techniques are very helpful to make different looking prints.
    Birgit's ideas with the gel medium were great too.

    1. Thanks! Have fun playing with both techniques!

  3. This looks exactly like something I want to try now! It is exciting to see a new way to use both plate and paint.

  4. I’ve read some good stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how much effort you put to create such a great informative website.

  5. What brand is you grid template you are using under your gelli plate?


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on our blog! We hope you find it fun and helpful in your artistic endeavors!

We will try our best to answer your questions and provide good, helpful information in a timely manner.

We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for stopping by!

Happy Printing!
Gelli Arts®

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