Art for the non-artist

If I’m honest, I don’t consider myself particularly artistic–my sisters both are “legitimate” artists as photographers and jewelers. Maybe it’s my tendency to overthink my efforts or my preference towards order and symmetry; maybe I just found a different creative outlet in literature and writing.


That said, I don’t even consider this an art project because it’s so easy and takes so little effort or thought–and therefore there is very little for me to over-think. It was also incredibly inexpensive for the results. I think all the supplies, minus the frames, cost less than $20. I really encourage anyone (especially those who don’t think they’re artistic) to try this; it’s a lot of fun, it would be great for kids, and the end results look store (or independent-artist)-bought.

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Supplies assembled.
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Ink rolled on the gelatin. Using half the pan makes it easier to experiment with colors or printing the inked leaves on the blank side of the pan.
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Fern branches ready for printing.
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First print.

Gelatin prints
Inspired by these Leafy Spring Prints

14 packets of plain Knox gelatin (about 4 boxes with 4 packets in each box)
4 cups water
Jellyroll or sheet pan

Water-soluable printing ink (ink extender is also helpful)
Print brayer
Leaves, flowers, or anything else with a fun texture or shape

The night before, bring the water to a low boil in a pot and slowly whisk in the gelatin, stirring to avoid lumps. Once the gelatin is dissolved, carefully pour it into a jellyroll or other pan with sides (the shorter sides on the jellyroll pan make it easier to print); the gelatin should come up about an inch or so in the pan. Allow the gelatin to set in the pan on the counter overnight or until it’s pretty firm, with just a little bit of “give.”

Once the gelatin is set, it’s time to print! Collect any leaves or other objects with a neat texture or shape (the flatter, the better). Put some of the printing ink in a flat dish, I used a disposable aluminum grill pan. The ink extender I mentioned above is helpful for both extending the ink (obviously) and it slows the drying time a little bit, which was helpful but not necessary. Roll the brayer in the ink, then apply the ink to the gelatin. Once it’s more or less even, place your leaves or other objects on top of the ink and press a sheet of paper on top, rubbing the paper thoroughly over the ink (if you happen to have an extra brayer around, because you’re just that crafty, this would probably be a good use for it). Carefully peel the paper up and you have your first print.

At this point, you can do a few different things. You can carefully peel the leaves up, set them aside, and press another piece of paper over the ink they left behind. You can also flip the leaf over so the ink side is up and press the paper on top of it. I tended to prefer the look that the second option gave me, but it’s all personal preference.

Print to your heart’s content, experimenting with ink colors, objects, maybe even drawing something in the gelatin. If you want to change ink colors, you can wipe the gelatin carefully with a slightly damp cloth. The gelatin will also keep for at least a day or two on the counter.

Allow the prints to dry, frame, and say “I made art!”

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8 thoughts on “Art for the non-artist

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