Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Gel Print Q&A
I’ve been getting questions from various places and am attempting to consolidate them here for the convenience of others. If you have any questions, please share them in the comment section below and I will reply (or try to help point you in the right direction if it is not something I am able to answer directly).
WHAT TYPE OF PAINT ARE YOU USING?
I have played with cheap/craft acrylic paints, Utrecht “fluid” acrylics, and Golden acrylics (regular—though I do want to try both “fluid” and “open” in the near future). Cheap/craft acrylic paints are pretty watery already but tend to dry quickly. They also don’t have the same saturation of color and I have only been able to get one good print, with sometimes a second so-so print from each spread of paint.
So far I have been underwhelmed by Utrecht “fluid” acrylics. I have tried them right out of the tube and have tried mixing them with the acrylic and watercolor mediums (sold right next to the “fluid” acrylics). While they are slightly more saturated than the cheap/craft acrylic paints, they are not worth the price. I wish I had spent another $1 or so each to splurge on the Golden brand “fluid” acrylics. When these run out I won’t be replacing them, but will try Golden "fluid" acrylics.
When using the Golden acrylics, I have also used a medium to ease spreading the paint on the plate and to extend the working time. Glazing medium, acrylic medium, retarder, etc. can all be used-experiment to see what works for you. The color saturation is amazing and I can often get 3-4 good prints, with sometimes 3-4 second/partial prints from each spread of paint. As I mentioned above, I am looking to experiment with Golden “fluid” acrylics soon. I am also looking to experiment with “open” acrylics as well. Though I suspect using the mediums gets me there already. Once I played with Golden acrylics on my gel plate, I was no longer satisfied with anything else.
You may want to experiment with cheaper paints and junk paper at first just to get a feel for the gel plate, the tools you are using, new techniques you want to play with, etc. Once you think you have the hang of it, jump to Golden acrylics and play with different types of paper based on your needs (see comments about paper below).
WHAT TYPE OF PAPER ARE YOU USING?
I am not using any specific paper. I have a wide variety of paper from a stash that I've been trying to eat up that ranges from the blank side of ugly scrapbook paper to cheap cardstock that I've picked up in the scrapbook area of the craft store, office supply store, etc. I've also used up some of my stash of handmade paper (acquired not made), newsprint, watercolor paper, used manila folders, pages out of altered books, and even right in my journal (just smoosh the page right on top of the gel plate).
A couple of things to keep in mind:
1) Consider what you will be using the print for. If you will be making greeting cards, you might want to use thicker/heavier weight paper. If you are doing a lot of collage i your journal, you might want thinner/lighter weight paper. If you will be experimenting (and you will do this a lot at first to get a feel for what techniques you like), use up all the ugly stuff in your stash. You will have a muddy/brown mess. You will keep adding layers until you hate it. You will like some prints and not others. But once you get the hang of it, then you'll want to experiment with different types of paper and cardstock based on your needs.
2) The weight of the paper is not as important as the texture of the paper. Smoother is better. In other words you probably don't want to use watercolor paper or heavily textured paper on the gel print as you lose some of the fine details in the print you are trying to make.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A GEL PLATE?
I have seen a couple of YouTube videos that demonstrate how to make your own gel plate (using gelatin). I've also seen videos showing how to use a piece of glass, a craft mat, or even the top of your work surface. Jennibellie has a YouTube video on using a computer mouse pad in place of the gel plate. You may want to explore these options.
Before I got my gel plate, I tried using a piece of glass. It wasn't great but did give me a chance to experiment and convinced me that I wanted the real thing. What you'll get with the gel plate is an amazing level of detail in patterns, multiple prints from the same effort to create texture in paint, etc. that you just won't pick up with other methods. I would suggest playing with this as you'll figure out quickly if the gel plate is something you can’t live without.
For me, the gel plate is a tool I can use in numerous ways. What I can do on the gel plate can be done directly on paper, but it’s just not the same. I am having so much fun making prints and then finding ways to use them (even the icky ones are getting a second life somewhere in my work).