Google+ House Revivals: How to Make a Permanent Gelatin Plate

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How to Make a Permanent Gelatin Plate

This is one of those projects that I procrastinated trying for several years. Then, I did it and realized how easy it was and felt silly for putting it off all this time.

Do you have projects like that? I love all the cool things folks are doing with gelatin plates, and I've had a small Gelli Arts plate for some time, but I wasn't exploring the gelatin printing process as much as a wanted, mostly because we go back and forth between three different homes, for my husband's job, and the place where we spent the most time was very small and I didn't have space to spread out big projects.
Now, we're temporarily spending a lot of time in our Los Angeles apartment, where I actually have quite a bit of space for big messy projects, so I've been printing quite a bit more.

I decided now was the time to try pouring my own gelatin plate, but I wanted a permanent plate, like Lindsay, at The Frugal Crafter shared about a few years ago. After looking at many blog posts and videos about the topic, and going back and researching old hectograph recipes, and chatting with my kid who has a chemistry degree, I created my own recipe.

It's not that I didn't think Lindsay's recipe was fine -- I just wanted a somewhat less fragile, firmer plate.

I started with a trip to the Dollar Store to find some items to use for molds and for storing the plates. I was planning on making several plates in different sizes and shapes, so I bought an assortment of items.

I ordered this tub of gelatin from Amazon (affiliate link).

And this bottle of glycerin (affiliate link).  

The recipe I ended up using was a modernized version of an old hectograph recipe from the early 1900's. Note: measure how much liquid your molds will hold, to have the thickness you desire, then add about 20% to that amount to know how much gelatin mixture to make. This is because you will lose some volume as you cook your gelatin and water evaporates.

Use one cup of water and one cup of glycerin for every six tablespoons of gelatin. This is a bit more gelatin than Lindsay uses, but it is more in line with the old hectograph recipes. (If you do decide to use Lindsay's recipe, please see her notes under her video. Her original permanent gelatin plate recipe had some mold issues, and she made some changes to it that she writes about in her notes.)

You will also need a spritz bottle filled with rubbing alcohol.

Start by sprinkling your six tablespoons of gelatin onto a cup of hot water in a bowl and mixing. Your gelatin will quickly take up all the water, and will start to look clumpy (see picture below) if you don't immediately add the rest of your liquid (the one cup of gelatin).

Stir the mixture well, trying not to stir air into the mixture. You will probably get a few bubbles, though.

Now, put the bowl in the microwave, on low, for about a minute. Every microwave is different, so watch it carefully and don't let it boil. Remove from the microwave and stir. Do this several times. The longer you keep your mixture heated (but not boiling) the better it will plasticize.

What you are doing, is making plastic. The glycerin will plasticize the gelatin, with the heat acting as a catalyst. The heat keeps the molecules bouncing around and bumping into each other, so keep heating and stirring for several  minutes.

Your gelatin mixture will become somewhat viscous, as shown above. Skim obvious bubbles/foam from the top of your bowl.

Carefully pour your gelatin mixture into a mold. You may end up with bubbles or bubbly scum on top, and that will need to be carefully removed. You can use strips of paper or cardboard to skim the bubbles from the surface. Work quickly, as the gelatin will begin setting up as it cools.

When you have gotten every bit of the bubbles you can skim off, spritz the surface with alcohol to remove any remaining bubbles. The alcohol breaks the surface tension of the bubbles, allowing the air to escape.

You should be left with a smooth, glossy surface. Allow the gelatin to set up on a perfectly level surface (most newer kitchen counters are pretty level, but check to be sure).

Do not use a knife or other tool to loosen the gelatin to "de-plate" it. You will just end up marring the edges. Instead, place you fingers flat on the plate and gently pull the gelatin away from the edge of your mold. Basically, you want to break the air seal. Once you've loosened the seal enough, you should be able to carefully flip the gelatin plate out of the mold onto another surface. I did this by cutting a dollar store placemat to be a little bit bigger than the gelatin plate, and holding it against the top of the gelatin before turning the entire mold over. This way, your gelatin plate is supported at all times, and it doesn't lose it's perfectly rectangular (or round, or whatever) shape.

For the large plate, shown above, I put the mold back on top of it, and gently flipped it back over, to store it.  I secure it with a couple of elastic hair bands.  I may eventually wrap a bit of cling wrap around it, but for now, this is how it is stored.

You never know what you will find that will work as a mold. My husband used my back brush to clean the shower (true story), so while I was at the dollar store, I grabbed a new back brush. As it turned out, the plastic cover that was used to protect the bristles made a perfect oval mold!

I cut pieces from a plastic place mat to protect the top and bottom surfaces.

Then, I dropped it into a Minney Mouse puzzle tin (also from Dollar Tree) to store it. It works perfectly.

Another creative mold idea I came across was to use a burner cover, also from the Dollar Tree.

The burner covers come in sets of two, one large, and one small. I used the small one as a mold, and the larger one to store it. You can always use your molds to store your pieces, as I've done with the large rectangular one I did, but sometimes, if they stretch a bit, they will get little wrinkles if you try to put them back into the same container. Those wrinkle will transfer to any prints that you pull.

I've cut a piece of place mat for both the top and the bottom of the round plate, just as I did for the tiny oval plate.

It's been a few weeks since I made the plates and they are all in great shape! Not one bit of mold. I do not store them in the fridge -- I store them in a closet.

If, for some reason, your plate gets damaged, just cut it up and remelt it and repour it.

I spent $27 on a bottle of glycerin and a tub of gelatin, plus I bought items to use as molds and several plastic place mats from the dollar tree. I experimented with using report covers, instead of the place mats, but the place mats are bigger and sturdier and worked better for the job. You may have items around your house that you can use. I didn't, since I'm living in a temporary part time apartment. For less than $27, you can buy a gel printing plate from amazon (affiliate link), so you really need to weigh the pros and cons of making your own. You definitely save money, especially if you want a really large plate. I made a 9x12 plate, two 5x7 plates, an eight inch round, and the small oval. I still have quite a bit of gelatin left, but used the entire quart of glycerin.

I hope this post encourages you to try your hand at gelatin printing, and maybe even make your own gelatin plate. It's easier than it looks.

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1 comment:

  1. This was a great tutorial. I get a thrill out of making my own anything. TFS your technique. I'm going to try it because I like being able to make my own size and having several different sizes!


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