Gelatin Plate Watercolor Monotypes

Gelatin plate printmaking with watercolors is inexpensive, easy, and a really fun time! It's also minimally toxic and can be safely done in the home.

Here is the recipe I use to make my plates. This is adapted from recipes on,, and I tend to tweak my recipe every time I make it – go forth and experiment to see what works for you! It’s pretty forgiving.

To make a 8"x8"x1” plate, you will need:
• ½ cup of unflavored gelatin, or around 22 packets. (I have not tried this with vegan/vegetarian gelatin alternatives - if you try these, drop me a line at @mosesmontgo on Instagram and let me know how it went!)
• ¾ cup of vegetable glycerin, available in most pharmacies and in larger quantities online.
• ½ cup cold water
• 1 cup boiling water. Get it real hot!!!
• ½ cup isopropyl alcohol. I use 70% but some people use the stronger stuff.
• A mixing bowl and rubber spatula
• An 8"x8" container with a smooth bottom. We don’t want ridges or dips or imprints.

1. Pour ½ cup cold water, ¼ cup of vegetable glycerin, and ¼ cup of isopropyl alcohol into the bowl. Pour SLOWLY and mix it all up SLOWLY to avoid bubbles. BUBBLES ARE THE ENEMY.
2. Sprinkle in ALL of the gelatin and mix it slowly. It will get very thick - you're going to do more "mashing" than mixing. We are looking for a well-mixed situation with an applesauce consistency. This will smell awful.
3. Add the ½ cup of BOILING water, the rest of the vegetable glycerin, and the rest of the isopropyl alcohol. Mix slowly until you have a smooth, homogenous mixture.
4. Pour the mixture SLOWLY into your flat pan. Remember, BUBBLES ARE THE ENEMY. If, despite your best efforts, you happen to have a few chunks of undissolved gelatin grossness, pour through a strainer instead of directly into the pan.
5. Skim the top of the pan with a scrap piece of paper to remove bubbles/scuzziness. You'll see what I mean. I like using thicker card from junk mail or old cereal boxes.
6. Let it sit on the counter for around 3 hours, then move it into the fridge to set overnight – 9 hours or so.
7. Once it's done, you can keep it for a long time OUTSIDE the fridge! I find that my plates are shelf-stable for about six months in Kansas, but only three months in Arkansas. Your mileage my vary depending on your climate.

If you don't have vegetable glycerin, you can replace it with the same amount of water. The catch is that this plate will not last as long, especially outside of the fridge. Keeping it in the fridge long-term will lead to shrinkage - not necessarily a problem, but something to keep in mind.
This recipe is VERY forgiving! You can tweak the amounts of things or fiddle with the ratios and still get usable plates, so go nuts!

Gelatin plates are very versatile. Most people I've seen online use them with acrylic paint or oil-based ink and use stencils or things like leaves to make impressions on the ink/paints. This is very fun, but not my style! I use watercolor paints or watercolor crayons instead.
1. Ready your workspace! You will need your gelatin plate, watercolor paints, brushes, anything you want to make impressions with, paper, and water.
2. Paint! Remember that whatever you paint on the plate will be backwards (like a mirror image) when you print it. You can also make impressions with things like bubble wrap to get fabulous textures! Just lightly press the bubble wrap/leaves/string/junk onto an area that you already painted and lift it off.
3. Print! Take your paper and place it on the surface of the plate. Lightly rub the back of the paper with your hands and lift it up to reveal your print!
4. Wash up - take a damp rag and/or mist your plate with water and wipe it off. You're ready to go again!

• Experiment with timing. I find I get the best impressions when I wait 1-2 minutes before printing so that the paint can kind of…stabilize? It won't really dry on the plate, but it will get a little stiffer and lose some of its shine.
• You can experiment with pressure, too. Sometimes, instead of rubbing the back with my hands, I flip the whole plate over with the paper on it and set it down, paper on bottom, and let it sit for a few moments.
• Sometimes misting/soaking your paper so it's a little damp makes for a better print and can lead to some interesting effects.
• Experiment,experiment,experiment!
• If you find that washes aren’t working out well for you (they’re beading up), try using something like Nori paste to get the effect of a wash but with a creamier texture.
• Be careful about getting your fingers/hands on the plate, as they can leave skin oils that repel water(color). This is easily removed by cleaning the plate.
• STORAGE:Keep the plate in between something smooth and reasonably rigid, and keep that all in something airtight. I use a sheet of acetate on either side plus foamcore for the rigidity and stick the whole sandwich in a zip-top bag.
• If you want to make this plate even MORE non-toxic, skip the isopropyl alcohol and replace it with more cold water. It will have a shorter shelf life, but it will be technically edible. The best kind of edible.
• Some paints will stain the plate. That’s not a problem, it’s just a stain.
• Because the plate is clear, you can put a drawing underneath it (protect it with a sheet of clear plastic) to trace from. Remember that it will be reversed when you print it, though!