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Gelatine Vs. Agar Plates for Gelli Printing

Updated: Apr 20

I tried making a Vegan version of Gelli Plates for printmaking.


In preparation for this school holiday's library workshops, I had to ready over 10 gelli / jelly plates. This was a perfect time for experimenting making a vegan alternative for the plates, with seaweed based Agar Agar.


The first batch was a complete mess. It did not harden at all and stayed mushy. So I used less glycerine and a little more agar. Please note that the result may differ depending on the brands of agar and glycerine.

To make 2-3 small plates

50g Agar Agar

600ml Water

100ml Glycerine

2tsp Salt

This recipe is based on a recipe I found on the internet, so I am not sure why salt is in there, to be honest.


Whisk agar agar and water together to make sure there are no lumps. Let sit 5 minutes. Heat on medium heat while stirring. It will start to thicken. When it is about the consistency of honey (thicker than runny), remove from heat and put into mold.* Since it will be stiffer than gelatine plates, I find it better to keep it thinner than 1cm to prevent it from breaking. Smooth out the surface with a spatula. Let cool in room temperature, then move to refrigerator to set.

To take the agar plate out of the mold, run a butter knife on the edges of the set agar and gently take it out with your hand.

*Note about the mold. It will not set properly in a bigger mold such as a baking tray. I used a stainless steel lunch box and stainless steel milk pot.


Strange thing about the agar plate is that it seems to sweat all the time. It stays wet on the surface.


Agar plate is milky in color and surface stays wet all the time
The suface of the agar plate stays wet

Gelatine plate is clear but browning from many uses, and freshly made agar plate is milky in color
Left: Gelatine (w. tea tree oil, and been used many times) Right: Agar plate

Below is a watercolor print comparison.

Comparing the watercolor print on gelatine and agar plates. Agar one is smeared due to its wetness.
Left: Gelatine, Right: Agar


Below are taken immediately taken after wiping the agar plate, so there is less moisture left on the plate.

Left: Agar 2nd print, Right: Agar 3rd print

Close up of the 3rd print. Leaves a strange, fuzzy texture.
Close up of the 3rd print. Leaves a strange, fuzzy texture.

Gelatine plate is flexible
Gelatine Plate

Agar plate is less flexible
Agar Plate

The Verdict:

For printmaking purposes, I find gelatine plate superior. It prints clearly, stays dry, flexible, and can be reconstituted over and over again. I only used watercolor for this experiment since that's what I use at libraries (less-messy and faster drying), but I'd assume the Agar plate wouldn't be suited for use with acrylics either, considering it is sweating all the time. At least that's what happened with my plates. I think I will stick to gelatine.


Update:

After transporting the plates to the library, one of them just cracked in half. It is not as flexible as a gelatine plate and seems brittle.








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