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 www.dotcalmvillage.net).

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! 

28 thoughts on “Who Was That Masked Man?”

  1. Love this masking technique. I do mono prints using a press but I am convinced that I really need a Gelli plate! Are you printing on dry paper? Oh, I am getting so excited to try this.

  2. Thanks, Sylvia! You will LOVE the Gelli plate. Or as one artist put it, her press is collecting dust now! I am printing on dry paper … no need to soak or mist. FYI, these prints were done mostly with Golden Open Acrylic paints — on Stonehenge. Hope you get a plate … and have fun!!!

  3. Very interesting — gave me some great ideas for using my new Gelli. Thanks!

    I have a question. Why use Sheer Heaven as a mask? It's expensive, and there are lots of alternatives. Maybe I misunderstood what you were saying.


    PS What is Stonehenge?

  4. Thanks for your comments, Donna! There are countless materials that will make great masks. And as you can see, I've used plenty of them 🙂 I mentioned Sheer Heaven because it's one of my favorite materials to use, and I agree — it is expensive! But of all the materials I've used, the masks I've cut from Sheer Heaven have held up the best. Please use whatever masking material suits you! And I hope you'll share your prints on our Facebook page!

    Stonehenge (by Rising) is a printmaking paper with a smooth surface. However, there's no need to use a specific paper with Gelli printing! Anything will do … just have FUN!!!

  5. I've been playing all afternoon, but can't seem to get enough paint on my gelli, or it might be that is drying too fast – I'm under a fan. I'm using a small brayer and now I'm going to try a sponge. Love all the techniques you are showing.

    Carmen L

  6. Great blog nice n useful information , it is very helpful for me , I realy appreciate thanks for sharing. I would like to read more information thanks.

    oklahoma seo

  7. Hiya! So I know this blog post is from ages ago, but I'm really struggling with the masking idea, I love it, but its difficult for me to execute! The actual mask design I want is fairly delicate calligraphy. I want to put the mask on a canvas and paint over it. But I find that I need something to keep the mask in place (I tried masking tape but it was too flimsy), but don't know what to use ? I need something that will allow me to do quite an intricate design without making it look too 'thick'.
    Any help would be greaaatly appreciated!

    1. Hi! When you want a delicate mask to adhere to canvas, you might try cutting your mask out of Frisket. It's a thin, clear film with removable, low-tack adhesive already on it, usually used with airbrushing. You'll see it mentioned in this post! Good luck and happy printing!

    1. The circle backgrounds were created with a piece of foam packing material. Keep an eye out for interesting textures and found objects — you'll start seeing them everywhere! Happy Printing!

  8. I love masking and blur also because i work six hour on Photoshop so i know very well that how much important to make creative and innovative to any product and market value as well. Background is eye catching and inseparable.

  9. I love the idea of using people shapes for masks! I'm running into my studio right now to create some masks out of some female figures I have been using for years. Thanks for the idea.

  10. I've been gelli printing for several months and I have used masks, but I am telling you – these are the best gelli prints that I have ever seen. They are beautiful!. Thank you for sharing your methods. Tomorrow I will be locked in my art room, surrounded by pulled prints.

  11. I would love to be entered for the free gift. Iam already hooked onGelli printing, and would love to try the pound plate.

  12. My 12 x 16 gelli is amazing! Would love to win the 8 inch round for more endless possibilities. Note: gelli plates are addictive!

  13. HI and thanks for sharing all of this wonderful knowledge. Has anyone asked – do we have permission to use your mask/man shown here? Thanks kindly

  14. Thanks for another informative lesson. I love using masks on paper I have altered using CitraSolv. I'll post some on my Flickr pages, but would love to send some to you. Tips on how to do this??? Thanks again.

  15. I finally dug out my gelli plate and taught my 7 year old grandson how to gelli print. Just had to show him once how to do it and he caught on. He printed 12 pages, both sides. He had a blast doing it. I then made them into a book and he gave it to his Mom.

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