Intaglio-Inspired Printing with Gelli Arts®

See how you can achieve an intaglio effect — without a press! — using a styrofoam

printing plate, a ballpoint pen, acrylic paint … and a Gelli® plate!

Intaglio (pronounced in-TAL-ee-oh) is a printmaking process using a plate that has been inscribed or etched. Ink is applied to the plate and pushed into the grooves. The plate is then carefully wiped to remove the ink from its surface, so that ink remains only in the incised areas. When the plate is put through a press, the high pressure pushes the paper into the grooves and transfers the ink to create an intaglio print.

We’re taking the basic concept of intaglio and adapting it to printing with Gelli®! With the Gelli ® plate, there’s no need for a press! You won’t have to meticulously wipe the plate for printing 🙂 And there’s no need for special inks — acrylic paint works just fine!

Follow these step-by-step instructions for creating an intaglio effect:

1. Use a ballpoint pen (or pencil or stylus) to inscribe a design into a styrofoam printing plate.

TIP: Once the styrofoam plate is ready, I like to stick it onto a piece of Press ‘n Seal (food wrap) to keep the back of the plate clean. Doing this is not essential to the printing process. But it keeps things from getting messy 🙂

2. Apply a generous amount of acrylic paint to the styrofoam plate.

3. Use a squeegee to spread paint across the foam plate. Make sure the paint is pushed down into the incised lines — while the surface is wiped as clean as possible.

Note: An old credit card or piece of mat board will work as a squeegee.

TIP: After you squeegee the paint onto the foam plate, you can roll the surface with a brayer. And instead of wiping the plate to remove surface paint — just pull a relief print! To do this — quickly cover the plate with a piece of paper and rub — and pull a print! The image in a relief print is reversed.

4. Flip the styrofoam plate onto the Gelli plate, paint-side down — and roll over the back of the plate with a clean brayer. The paint in the grooves will transfer to the gel plate. Remove the foam plate.

5. Cover the gel plate with your printing paper. Rub to transfer the paint — then pull your print.

Good things to know:

One of the wonderful benefits of this technique is that the final print is right-reading! That means the printed image is not reversed — and written words will read exactly as you wrote them 🙂

  • The styrofoam plate is durable, so you can use your image over and over!
  • Perfect for printing fabulous art journal template pages — creating lines and spaces — and you can work back into your prints!
  • If you are working in layers, try an intaglio layer as your last one. That will give you a line drawing over a background image!
  • Clean styrofoam food trays and plates will work for this technique! What a great way to upcycle those products 🙂

Foam printing plates, like those seen in this video, are available at Dick Blick, Daniel Smith, and many other art supply retailers.

Intaglio-inspired Gelli® print (black lines) —
embellished with Distress Stains, Inktense pencils, Neocolor II crayons,
rubber stamps and collage.

Happy Printing!!

190 thoughts on “Intaglio-Inspired Printing with Gelli Arts®”

  1. WOW! I love this idea, and have had a heck of a time trying to write backwards 😮 I can't wait to give this a go — THANKS!

  2. Would just love one of these!! Thanks so much for giving even the remotest chance of winning one! Fingers crosed.

  3. I am so excited about discovering your blog and product- i was a printnmaker in undergrad a zillion years ago- now i can return to it without a press!

  4. I loved printing in college and I need to get my hands back into it again. Thank you so much for sharing and giving this package away.

  5. I'M iN LoVe WitH a GeLLi PLaTe..
    I WisH i HaD TWo..
    I'D CovER oNe aLL in PiNK pAiNT
    …AnD THe OthER in BLuE … 🙂

    thes are soooo seriously addictive …i have lost my kitchen floor…it is covered in prints ..there is NO paper left in the photocopier and the toilet roll is looking rather worried! lol

    love it love it love it 🙂 🙂 xxxx

  6. I have been fascinated by gelli printing for some time, unfortunately i cannot find a uk stockist it looks like fantastic fun specially when its combined with other processes such as stamping and embossing. I must get my hands on a printing plate soooon ! X

  7. This is awesome! I have been using the gelli plate with a group I run for adults with special needs. Everyone can do it and they all turn out great!

  8. This is SO fun! I've been working with Fourth Graders and a homemade gelatin tablet. We would LOVE to try out a Gelli plate! It would be so great if each kid could have their own. We can't get enough of printing this way!

  9. Brenda Livermore

    I am a printmaker and absolutely love the Gelli Plate ideas. They really free me up a get me experimenting. Thanks

  10. I'd like to try a Gelli Plate. Have always been a fan of monoprinting but been to afraid to try it. This seems doable and the possibilities seem endless.

  11. OH wow, just looking your video how to use it; love the 2 kind of background they made!!
    ..and I buy my gelly plate today!!

  12. Wow, this is wonderful! I just bought my Gelli plate a few days ago and am having the time of my life playing with it. There are so many possibilities and so many color combinations! I love that these new pages are a jumping off point for my art journal. I would love to win this giveaway and try out this technique.

  13. Thomas A. Marino

    I love the ideas and how to's. I have bookmarked it and will refer to this site many times for explorative adverntures.

  14. thanks for the great information.. I think i am going to buy a gelli plate.. hope they have it here at Micheals. maybe next months trip.

  15. First time seeing this art form. It looks like a lot of fun! A gelli plate to lessen stress….food for thought!

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