Gel Press Techniques #2: Printing With Leaves

Hello again! This technique uses printing with leaves to add detail to your art. It is really easy and is a great printing technique that doesn’t cost any extra.

My Gel Press was a great investment and I am using it a lot. I mostly make my own printing accessories because buying texture plates etc can be expensive. I have also found that some of the value paint works just as well on the plate as the expensive brands. Therefore, try The Works, Wilko or B&M for the basic primary colours. You could then mix your own colours, or just add one or two of the professional artist paints to your collection. I like Sennelier as it is in a handy pouch rather than a tube.

Collect a variety of leaves for printing

lots of different leaves I collected for printing with

I collected as many different leaves as I could find, making sure I had a good variety of shapes, sizes and textures I thought would print well.

At this stage, I had no idea which leaves would work best, so I collected some thicker waxy leaves as well as some thinner drier ones. I also had a piece of fern but that dried out too much overnight and unfortunately it wasn’t a great success.

The best leaves for printing turned out to be the thinner ones. The ones that were a bit waxy were really too slippery for making the detailed texture pattern on the plate. Anything with a very thick stem didn’t work that well either. That’s why it’s good to start with a variety and experiment until you get prints you are happy with.

How to print with leaves using the Gel Press

Put down a thin layer of paint on the gel press and arrange some leaves on the wet paint. The underneath of the leaf usually has the most texture, so think about the placement of your leaves depending on the look you are aiming for. I put the leaves face up to print the most texture, but face down would be ok if I had just wanted a silhouette.

Take a piece of paper and lay it over the leaves and press down gently. This will remove some of the paint from between the leaves. It will also help the gel press and the leaves make contact and do their magic.

Remove the first piece of paper and you will see white space in the shape of the leaves, but not much other detail.

Carefully peel the leaves from the gel press. This is a bit of a wow moment. I should have taken pictures! The paint left on the gel press will show lots of the details from the leaves, but you need to let it dry completely before the next step or you will lose it.

When it is dry, get ready with a second sheet of paper or cardstock. This is going to be your “best” print so you may like to use better quality paper or card for this. Choose a contrasting colour of paint and apply a thin layer to the gel press.

How much paint is a thin layer?

Generally, to get a successful print, you need to be able to see the layer underneath through the second layer of paint. If the paint is too thick, when you print you won’t be able to lift the first layer. If the paint is too thin it will dry before you have chance to print. Now that I have been using the Gel Press for a while, I can get a feel for how much paint is needed.

Press your paper or cardstock onto the wet paint and carefully peel it back. This is known as pulling a print. I think I’ve mentioned it in previous posts without explaining it properly.

Two pieces of printing with leaves side by side. The first has white leaf shapes on a reddish pink background. The second has a detailed print of  reddish pink leaves on a beige background.
Printing with leaves. In the first print the leaves act like a mask, and this technique can be used on it’s own on paper that already has a pattern. You can also use it if you want to keep some white space. However, it is the second leaf print I was aiming for as it shows all the details of the leaves.

In most techniques with the gel press it’s the first print that is the best one. Sometimes you can pull a second print, or ghost print. You will not get two identical prints, which is the beauty and the curse. If you do make a fantastic print it can be difficult to replicate it.

The results

A postcard made by printing with leaves. Dark blue (Payne's Grey) detailed leaves on a pale pink, orange and turquoise background.

I made this postcard by making a colourful background first with some pale colours. I printed the leaves in Payne’s Grey and pulled the print using gloss gel medium. The gel medium is clear so it doesn’t affect the colour of the background layer.

A brown envelope printed with white and purple overlapping leaf shapes.

I made an envelope by printing onto upcycled brown paper.

Real leaves stuck flat into an art journal page. The background is bright pink, dark blue and purple.

The leaves were so pretty after they had paint on them, so I stuck some into my art journal. I have no idea if the leaves will be preserved but I’m hoping they will last. My son did some leaf art in infant school and that is still looking good many years later.

A flat lay of all the different leaves I used. They have many colours of paint on them.
All the leaves looked so pretty at the end

I made about a dozen prints in total and most of them will go in my journal, or I will make envelopes I think. I also made three more postcards, which I may share as a snail mail blog post another day.

Related post:

Thanks for reading πŸ™‚ Please tell me what you thought of printing with leaves – I love to read your comments!

leaf printing pinterest graphic: coloured leaves with text across the middle that reads "leaf printing" in capital letters and "how to print with leaves using a Gel Press or Gelli Plate" in lowercase underneath.
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6 Responses

  1. They look so beautiful!!

  2. Geraldine says:

    I love all these colors! I have never heard of gel press before. It’s nice that you experimented with plants. So pretty! πŸ™‚

  3. Michelle says:

    You’re making me want to get a gel press just for fun! πŸ˜€ I love the postcard and envelope. How creative!

  1. 6th January 2020

    […] my screen time and increase the time spent on other hobbies instead. I discovered junk journals and gel press printing. Unfortunately I’m struggling with these activities at the moment, and I have found that my […]

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