Collage with Gelli Arts® by Catherine Tonning-Popowich

If you are like me and you have a few extra prints that you made with your Gelli Arts® printing plate then this blog post is for you! I have accumulated hundreds of prints from playing with my gel plates and they are starting to take over my studio! I decided to try my hand at making collages from some of them.

I discovered a technique from artist Kathleen Mooney with whom I took some workshops with this past summer. This technique involves coating both sides of the prints with matte medium to virtually create skins. I used Liquitex but any brand will do.

You will need to use a clear trash bag to paint on (clear trash bags for glass recycling). You can also use heavy 4 mil plastic from Home Depot that is found in the paint department. It comes on a roll. You are basically making an acrylic skin. When the paper is thoroughly dry you just peal it off the plastic. Look at the edge of the second image below and you can see the skin edge.

Using a sponge brush, paint the matte medium on the plastic bag and then put your print on top of it. Brush the print into the medium while pouring more on top of the print and brushing it to cover the entire paper. You can fit a couple prints on the plastic bag and then move it to a safe place to dry for a few hours.

I spent a day just coating the prints I wanted to use for collages. Then the prints are dry and ready to go when inspiration strikes. I most often use my prints that are made on deli or parchment paper. This technique lends a bit of translucency to the prints and makes great collage material.

Next, I coat my collage surface with the gel matte medium and leave it to dry. With this technique you can collage on mat board, wood panels, canvas board, or stretched canvas. I choose to paint my surface with black gesso before coating it. I like the dark background behind the collage.

Now that your surfaces and papers are dry you can start to create the collage. I chose to use the beautiful blue papers I made. What better way to use them but in a sunset over a water scene. I made a variety of them using various surfaces. My favorite is cradled wood art panels.
I trace the shape of my board on a piece of parchment paper and move the board aside. I will then arrange the pieces to be collaged on the parchment within this area. Each piece should be overlapped a bit so they will adhere to each other when heat is applied. When I have all the pieces in a pattern that I like, I iron them together between 2 sheets of parchment. They do not adhere to the parchment paper. This leaves me with a collage skin to place on the prepared surface.

Set the iron on medium or polyester and press over the top of the parchment paper. It doesn’t take long and then lift off the top parchment layer and peel up the fused piece. Now you can lay this on top of your surface of choice and place a sheet of parchment on top and iron it onto the surface. Check to make sure it has adhered. If not, iron it a few more seconds. When set, trim the edges with scissors or X-ACTO knife being careful not to pull it off the board or panel.

Look at your design and decide if you want to add more pieces. I wanted the sunset to stand out more so I added some pieces to make the reflections in the water and to shape up the sun more. What’s nice about this process is you can add more pieces on top of the fused piece as long as they all have been coated with the matte medium. When you are satisfied place the sheet of parchment on top again and give it a quick press with the iron.

When you are completely satisfied with your piece you will now apply more matte medium over the top to seal the entire piece and leave to dry for a few hours. Once mine was dry, I did some metallic pen and ink work on top. You can use gel pens if you like but I prefer my dip pens and gold ink. Just a few lines — don’t over do it as it can take away from the collage technique.

I would like to share a couple storage ideas for your gel prints. It is easier to find what you are looking for if they are out in the open instead of filed away so I save those plastic pant hangers that most of us throw away. I sort my large papers by color and clip them onto the hanger and hang them over the door or from my wire shelf. For the smaller pieces I again sort them by color and put them into a blank journal or spiral notebook. You can put an elastic band around the book to keep them from falling out.

Thanks for stopping by!
Share your collages with us by tagging us on social media!

Finished gel prints on parchment, deli, or tracing paper
Clear recycling trash bags
Matte medium
Gel matte medium
Sponge brush
Canvas panel or wood panel

© 2019 by Gelli Arts®, LLC
Philadelphia, PA All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Collage with Gelli Arts® by Catherine Tonning-Popowich”

  1. What a beautiful idea! i love it. I just need a only use the gel matte medium on the collage surface…everywhere/time else you are using the matte medium? Also i have used the plastic side of freezer paper to make skins, i would imagine it would work here as well?? Thanks for an interesting technique.

    1. Catherine Tonning

      Thank you Carol! Yes only use the gel medium as the glue to attach the pieces to your surface. The matte medium makes the skins.

  2. Could you do this process with a magazine picture as well? I love this idea – just wondered if we could take it even further.

    1. Catherine Tonning

      I believe it would work with magazines, it's worth a try. You can do it on the front of photos and then when it's dry you wet the back and rub off the white backing paper.

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