Looking for more ways to use your Artesprix Sublimation Acrylic Paints? How about printing with a gel press plate! In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create different patterns using Gel Press Petites, which are simply miniature gel press printing plates. They come in a variety of shapes, which can be used individually or as building blocks to create mosaic patterns or other artistic prints. I’ve even got some free templates for you to download!
What is a Gel Press Plate?
If you’ve never used a gel printing plate before, you may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about, so let me explain. A gel press plate (also known as a gelli plate) looks and feels like a block of gelatin. And while you can find many recipes online for making your own gelli plates that DO contain gelatin, the Gelli Arts plates I used are made from a unique plastic material that doesn’t contain latex, gelatin, or any animal product. They are silicone-free, hypoallergenic, and non-toxic.
A gel press plate is one of the most versatile art supplies you’ll ever own. It can be used to with a wide variety of paints and inks and applied to cardstock, copy paper, fabric, etc to create stunning prints for mixed media projects, art journals, home decor items, and wearable art (just like the apron I made for this tutorial). You’ll find lots of ideas in this post from Handprinted.
The plates are also easy to care for. Clean them using soap and water or baby wipes. Pat dry with a lint-free cloth and store between two sheets of copy paper, smoothing out any air bubbles on the surface of the plate. Don’t cover the plate with plastic wrap or waxed paper, as these materials will damage the surface of the plate. Store the plates in their original packaging between uses.
Be careful where you place a gel printing plate when not in use. It will pick up the texture of anything it’s sitting upon or covered with, including pencil marks (ask me how I know!)
Unlike traditional fabric painting, where the paint sits on the surface of the fabric, sublimation is a process that infuses the ink into the blank. It is much more permanent than heat transfer, screen printing. or other forms of garment decoration. You can read more about the basics of sublimation in this post.
What You’ll Need
Some of the materials used in this project were provided by Artesprix in exchange for this post, but all opinions are my own.
- Sublimation-Ready Apron (use code SUBLIMATION to save 10% on your order)
- Pattern Templates (optional)
- Pattern Tracing Paper
- Gel Press Petites
- Acrylic Blocks (or other type of mount for the gel plate, such as an acrylic circle or small plastic lid)
- Artesprix Sublimation Acrylic Paint
- Various Textured Items (example: embossing folders, stencils, polymer stamps, bubble wrap, textured ribbon, rubber bands, etc)
- Lint Roller
- Heat Press or Dry Iron
- Spray Adhesive or Heat Tape
- Protective Paper
- Adhesive Tape
- Paper Towels
Step 1: Templates to Create Different Patterns
Print off several copies of the desired template(s) and tape together to create the size needed for your design.
Cut a piece of tracing paper larger than the template pattern.
Tape the template to the underside of the tracing paper.
Step 2: Stamping with Gel Press Petites
Note: Be sure to protect your work surface and your clothing during this process to avoid stains.
Mix the sublimation acrylic paint to create desired colors. (Check out this post for tips on how to mix the paints.)
Smooth out the surface of the paint by rubbing lightly with a brayer. Avoid overmixing the colors.
Press a stencil, rubber stamp, embossing folder, or other similar item into the gel press plate to create a textured pattern in the paint.
Stamp the paint onto the tracing paper, using the template as a guide. Keep in mind that your finished design will be a mirror image of the stamped design.
Add more paint to the gel press plate and continue to stamp until the template is completely filled in. When you want to completely change colors, simply wipe off the gel plate with a paper towel and add the next color.
Allow the paint to dry completely before pressing.
Step 3: Pressing the Design
Preheat your heat press to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the paint is completely dry, check to see if there are any splatters that need to be trimmed away from the transfer. Apply the painted transfer FACE DOWN onto the apron using adhesive spray or heat tape.
Cut two pieces of protective paper larger than the design and arrange the layers in what’s called a “sublimation sandwich”. The “bread” will be the two pieces of protective paper, one on top and one on bottom, and the “filling” will be the transfer and apron, with the design on top. (When you press, the only thing that will be between the heat source and the design is one layer of protective paper.)
Press for 60 seconds. (More than likely, the apron will be larger than your heat source, so you will need to press it in sections.) Before you remove the transfer, do a “peek test” to make sure the design has transferred and the colors are vibrant. If not, press for a few more seconds.
Like what you see here? Share the image below to Pinterest!
I hope this project has inspired you to create something of your own using a gel plate and Artesprix acrylic paint. Every design is unique and it’s so much fun to see your patterns come to life!
Until next time,
Lycia is a lifelong crafter whose goal is to help others find value, confidence, and joy in whatever they create. She geeks out on using technology to supercharge craft projects with Silhouette Studio, Design Space, Glowforge, sublimation, etc.! Lycia teaches these skills and more through online tutorials and videos as well as in-person classes at both the local and national levels.