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Gelatin Monoprint Accordion Book

Mary Taylor creates gelatin image blocks to create this accordion book of fern leaf monoprints.

Thanks to Mary Taylor for this project.

Note: The item pictured here is an alternative design to the one demonstrated in this project, which is done in fall colors.

Materials and Tools:

several packages of unflavored gelatin
cold water
hot water
measuring cup
gelatin mold pan
blue and red water-soluble inks
palette (piece of glass or Plexiglas)
ferny leaves
coffee filters
printmaking paper
bone folder
steel wool
straight edge
utility knife
table knife
power drill
needle and thread
sewing machine
PVA glue
glue stick
foam brush
unprinted newsprint paper
wax paper
2 pieces of plywood
heavy object for weight


1. The gelatin mixture ratio is one cup of water per two packages of unflavored gelatin.

2. Measure the mold pan for the amount of liquid needed to fill it 3/4 to one inch thick with the gelatin mix.

3. Without heating the water, put half the amount of water needed into the mold pan. Sprinkle the gelatin into the cold water and let the gelatin swell (figure A). When the gelatin is swelled it will resemble applesauce.

4. Boil the remaining half of the water. Add the boiling water to the completely dissolved gelatin crystals (figure B). Pour the water slowly and stir gently to avoid bubbles.

5. With a light touch of your finger remove all bubbles on the surface. Or place a piece of unprinted newsprint paper on the surface and carefully remove the paper (figure C). Let the gelatin set up on the counter, then refrigerate several hours.

6. When the gelatin is solid, cut around the edges with a knife and remove the block. Unmold carefully. Cut the gelatin into 6" x 8" rectangular pieces (figure D).

7. Roll blue and red paint onto a glass palette with a brayer blending the colors as desired. Roll the paint onto the gelatin surface (figure E).

8. Lightly place a pressed fern leaf onto the surface of the painted gelatin (figure F).

9. To create a positive image, remove the leaf from the gelatin plate and place a flat coffee filter down onto the gelatin, gently smoothing the paper with your hand (figure G).

The paper will pick up the detail of the positive image of the leaf (figure H). Let dry.

10. To create a negative image, place the leaf onto the inked gelatin plate. Place the coffee filter over the leaf and gently press all around with your hand. Remove the paper and you’ll have a negative or silhouetted image of the leaf (figure I). Let dry. Make a total of six images.

11. Trim the images to 4-1/2" x 5" with scissors.

12. Fold a 6" x 30" piece of heavy paper in half. Measure five inches to the right and left of the centerfold and score using a bone folder at each measurement. Fold the two scored lines. Measure five inches from each of the new folds, score and fold. Accordion fold so that the pages resemble mountains and valleys (figure J).

13. Glue the printed images to the inside pages of the accordion book using a glue stick (figure K). Insert pieces of wax paper between the pages to protect them from the wet glue. Place the book between two pieces of plywood and place a heavy object on top and let dry.

14. Stitch veins onto the leaf images with a zigzag stitch on the sewing machine (figure L). Trim the threads.

15. Cut two pieces of Plexiglas for the front and back covers to size by scoring with a utility knife and breaking the piece on the edge of a table. The cover should be slightly larger but no more than 1/4-inch taller and 1/4 inch wider than the folded accordion. Round the corners (figure M).

16. Sand both sides of the Plexiglas pieces with steel wool.

17. Drill two holes in the front cover for a button using a power drill. Sew a button for the cover closure onto the front cover through the drilled holes. Glue a piece of ribbon between the back page and back cover for the closure (figure N).

18. Glue the front and back covers to the book using PVA glue applied with a foam brush. Insert pieces of wax paper between the cover pages to protect them from the wet glue. Place the book between two pieces of plywood and add a heavy weight on top. Let dry.

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