Gelli Plate: Intaglio-Inspired Printing

(This tutorial was previously published in the book Gelli Plate Printing by Joan Bess, copyright 2014; republished here courtesy of North Light Books and

Intaglio (pronounced in-TAL-ee-oh) prints are created from an etched plate that’s been inked and wiped so that all that remains is the ink in the incised areas. An inked plate is covered with printing paper and put through a press, which pushes the paper into the grooves to transfer the ink, creating the print. The Gelli print adaptation is inspired by intaglio printing and does not use a press.

Materials list

  • Gelli plate and brayer
  • acrylic paint
  • paper for printing
  • styrofoam
  • ballpoint pen
  • duct tape
  • scraper

Intaglio step 1

1. Cut a styrofoam plate to size [6″ × 6″ (15cm × 15cm)]. Etch an interesting design with the tip of a ballpoint pen. Fold duct tape over the edges of the plate to give you an area for easy handling.

Intaglio step 2

2. Apply a generous amount of paint to the plate and push it into the inscribed lines with a scraper.

Intaglio step 3

3. Take a relief print of the foam plate to remove excess surface paint, then gently wipe the plate with clean scrap paper to remove any remaining paint from the relief surface. Be careful not to wipe off the paint in the inscribed lines.

Intaglio step 4

4. Working quickly, flip the foam plate onto the Gelli plate, paint-side down. Roll a clean brayer over the back of the foam plate to transfer paint from the inscribed lines onto the Gelli plate.

Intaglio step 5

5. Remove the foam plate before pulling the print. The final print will be right-reading. If you inscribe words, they’ll appear in your print as they’re written. These make great prints to work back into because the lines provide a framework for adding hand-coloring and collage.

Intaglio step 6

6. Cover the Gelli plate with printing paper and pull the print. Styrofoam plates are quite durable, so your image can be printed again and again. Try printing an intaglio-inspired layer over a previous Gelli print to add the interesting design element of lines.

Intaglio final 600
The original black line print is perfect for hand-coloring and collage embellishment. I used Distress Stains by Ranger and other watercolor paints to fill in the different sections. Additional marks were added with colored pencils, paint markers and rubber stamps. Paper collage elements were glued onto the print.
Since the original styrofoam inscribed plate can produce many prints, it’s fun to create a series from the same line print, adding different colors, collage elements and if appropriate to the image, changing its orientation. In fact, the line print can be any color too! The possibilities are endless!

(This tutorial was previously published in the book Gelli Plate Printing by Joan Bess, copyright 2014; republished here courtesy of North Light Books and

T0883_CM_GelliPlate.inddTo find out more about or purchase a copy of Gelli Plate Printing: Mixed-Media Monoprinting without a Press click here.

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