Gel Printing With Powders And Pastels by Marsha Valk

Hi there! September is #ABCPrintingChallenge month on the @GelliArts Instagram account, with a new Reel every day and an opportunity for you to play along with the Gelli Arts® artist team!

Challenges are perfect for experiments with different mediums and techniques. So why not use powders and pastels on the gel plate?

Please note that all dry mediums in this video are safe if used responsibly.

So don’t inhale the powders or blow away the dust. Clean up any loose particles as you go, and wear a mask if needed.

Use a dust wipe to wipe away loose powder carefully.

You do not need to wear gloves. I chose to wear them because I found that especially the watercolor powders stained my hands and nails.

You can mix cornstarch or baby powder with acrylic paint on the plate. One layer will result in a print with subtle darker patches. More layers will result in a grungy peeled paint effect.

You can also sprinkle baby powder on a layer of acrylic paint on the plate. This will result in a speckled effect because the powder will act like a mask.

Charcoal is perfect for grungy backgrounds or toning down existing prints. The acrylic paint fixates the charcoal, so spraying it afterwards is unnecessary.

Charcoal is gritty, so clean your plate and brayer when you’re done. Use tape to remove the particles from the plate gently.

Watercolor powders are intense colorants. I have two kinds in my stash—ones with larger pigment particles and ultra-fine powders with a shimmer (mica).

A little powder goes a long way, so I’ve had some of these powders for a long time. 

All the watercolor powders I show in the video are still being manufactured; however, note that some names have changed, and the packaging doesn’t look the same anymore.

Both types of powders activate when in contact with moisture (like acrylic paint).

If you mix them long enough, the particles will dissolve completely into the paint. You can use them to alter your paint colors, create glazes, or add them to the paint on your plate to add (visual) texture.

Clean your brayer when you move to another color if you don’t want the colors to mix!

The ultra-fine watercolor powders with mica in them act similarly to baby powder. You can spread them in a thin layer across the plate.

If you mix mica powders with acrylic paint, some of the shimmer can disappear. Mix with a glossy (gel) medium instead to keep the shine.

PanPastel is soft pastel in a pan form that you can apply like paint with special applicators. It’s super forgiving, and you can keep blending and working on it until you’re happy.

You can’t remove soft pastels from the Gelli® plate with a wet wipe. Use (baby) oil to remove soft pastels from your plate.

If you don’t have PanPastel, you could try eyeshadow instead. Or, if you have soft pastels in stick form, you can try gel printing with those.

You can draw directly on the gel plate if you have extra soft pastels. 
If you have regular soft pastels, they will be too hard and not give off any color on the plate.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use them! Just draw with them on a sheet of paper and then place the pastel drawing (illustration facing down) on the plate. Rub the paper and lift it. If all is well, you’ve transferred the pastel to the plate!

PanPastel and soft pastel gel prints do not need any extra fixation afterwards. The acrylic paint acts as a fixative.

Which of these dry mediums are you excited to try out? 

Come play along with the ABC Printing Challenge this month on Instagram. Choose one or more prompts to inspire your gel printing, upload a picture of your print(s) to Instagram and tag #ABCPrintingChallenge and @GelliArts in your creations!

I’ll see you there!


5″x7″ Gelli Arts® Printing Plate

Gelli Arts® Geo Stencil


Baby powder or cornstarch

Charcoal powder

Watercolor powder


Extra soft pastel

Soft pastel

Copy paper (A5)

Acrylic paint

Soft gel medium

Glossy medium



Dust wipes

Baby oil

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