Friday, April 17, 2015

FLAG FRIDAY Gelli® Print Prayer Flags

I'm a mixed media artist but a total newbie when it comes to prayer flags. I've always had a thing for hearts and decided to work with the color black as the top layer instead of the bottom layer.  Wasn't sure if it would work out but it would be fun to try it anyway.

These are the materials that you will need to give this project a try:
Gelli® Printing plate 8x10 (or smaller if you wish)
heavy acrylic paints in favorite colors and black
Natural or white cotton duck cloth
scrap paper and/or text paper
paper plate
wet wipes
spray bottle and paper towels
paper plates
Optional:  acrylic inks and bamboo skewers

You'll need an area where you can lay out all your materials and have a flat surface for your Gelli Plate. Cut your fabric slightly larger than the size of your Gelli Plate so you can press down on the Gelli Plate and not get paint all over your hands. You can use the excess scraps for other projects.

The first layer of paint will provide contrast with the top layer of black paint, so my first layer will be a solid layer of a bright color acrylic.  I squirted a solid color onto the Gelli plate and brayered it all over the plate.  I placed the cloth on top of the plate and applied pressure evenly with my hand across the fabric and plate.  Then I lifted the fabric off the plate.  I don't need a lot of paint. Just enough to cover the plate in an even coat.  I made several of these first layers.  It is not necessary to let the fabric dry completely before you do the next layer. Clean your Gelli Plate with a wet wipe and/or water and paper towels after each pull or each color.

Below,  you will see the 2nd layer of acrylic paint with black on the Gelli Plate + stencil.  Squirt black paint on the plate and brayer it evenly. Immediate lay the stencil on to the plate and then place the fabric on top of the stencil with paint side down.  Use your hands with firm pressure to press down firmly and evenly to get the print on the fabric.  Some people work from the middle out and some work from the top down.  Some people use a brayer to do this but I get a better feel with my hands. Remove the fabric from the stencil immediately after.  

This last one with the black paper is an example of what you get using red paint with black cardstock.  I didn't bother to clean the Gelli Plate before I printed on it.
Note:  You can set the stencil, paint side down on a piece of scrap fabric/paper and get a partial print if there is enough wet paint left on it.  I don't bother to clean my stencils until I am done with all my prints.  That's why my stencils are so colorful.

If you take a piece of scrap paper or text paper and lay on top of the Gelli Plate that you just used with the stencil and press down firmly and evenly throughout the plate you will get a ghost/residual print that you can use in your artwork.  I use mine mostly for backgrounds and journal pages in my art journals. Lay the stenciled pieces of paper aside to dry.  See my two examples below:

I wanted to have some red heart backgrounds so I could cut out some red hearts and sew them onto my prayer flags.  As a result, I brayered red paint on the Gelli Plate and got a red background on my fabric. The only problem was that it looked too plain.  I figured that I would try it again but would stick a stencil in between the plate and the fabric with another layer of red paint. This is what I got.  I really liked the texture even though I used the same color red again.

These are the stencils I used for this project.  I used stencils from MaryBeth Shaw - Stencil Girl Products and Artistcellar Stencils. You can tell that I use them a lot because they are so colorful. Yes, I do clean them all the time, I just don't get to it right away.

Once my layers of paint are all dry, I want to add a little color, embellishing, and writing to it.  This is when I get out the acrylic inks.  I use a wooden skewer to add a bit of color and contrast.

Once it all dries, I cut them to size.  I know they are 5x8" but have to remember that I have to leave a few inches more at the end to fold over so I can hang it.  So, it's more like 5x11". I marked the back side with a dot where I needed to fold it over to sew it, to make it easier on myself later.  These are what the cut-out unfinished pieces of fabric looked like.

I decided I needed to sew my little hanging end/flap first so I knew where I could position my hearts and other stuff.  Then I stitched on the hearts/flowers/stuff and did my writing. This is my end result:

Well, the prayer flags are not complete until I've gone outside and hung them out on a line.  I couldn't do it myself. My daughter had to volunteer to help me. You'll see her in one of the pictures.

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial and will have some fun using the Gelli Plate making your own prayer flags.  You can find me on Facebook. Let me know if you have any questions. Comments are always welcome. 
                      - Belinda Spiwak


  1. I've been intrigued by prayer flags for a while. Thanks for this great tutorial. It looks like great fun.

  2. Nice Tutorial! I have a ton of ideas after seeing your flags! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Nice tutorial; I want to try this. I wonder how the paint will hold up when the flags are hung outside. The painted flags may be more fade-resistant than flags made from commercially available fabric. I know prayer flags are expected to fade and disintegrate over time, but I would like to have the colorful decorative function in addition to the spreading of goodwill on the winds!

    1. M - I would think the acrylic paints would hold up really well. I've made flags using Setacolor paints and had the flags up for a year in all weather and they are just as vibrant as when I hung them. Please share your flags with us when you create some. If you email them to I would love to post them on the blog!

  4. The flags created at this workshop are vibrant and wonderful.

  5. Thank you for the tutorial and for the inspiration.