Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Art Class: Gel Medium Technique

I realize I haven't shown any of my scrapbooking projects since I started this blog, but that's because I've been so involved with the house and other stuff (can you say "beads!?"), and I just haven't created anything new to share. But I did go through my albums and found some Spring-like layouts that I thought were appropriate for this time of year—giving me something to look forward to since we still have snow on the ground! One of them featured a neat artist's technique that I've written about in the past, so I thought I'd share it with you in this mini tutorial as well. I stumbled upon it many years ago and it uses a fine art product called gel medium and acrylic paints to create a strong, flexible sheet that you can punch or cut out, which I used to create the dimensional fleur de lis accent on this layout:


Semi-Gloss Soft Gel Medium (Golden Artist Colors)
Acrylic paint (I used 3 shades)
Palette Knife (or similar spreading tool)
Craft Knife
Decorative Scissors, Dies or Punches
Non-Stick Craft Sheet (Ranger) or a pane of clean glass
Painter’s Tape

1. Cut out a frame from chipboard (I used two layers to make a thicker gel sheet), and attach to the clean non-stick craft sheet or glass with painter’s tape to hold it in place. Mix various paints and soft gel medium to create several shades and drop randomly into the frame opening.

2. Lightly swirly colors together, but be careful not to overmix or they will combine into one solid color.

3. Gently smooth down gel mixture so it completely covers the opening and is flush with edges of chipboard. Set aside to dry for 24 to 48 hours (depending on the thickness), then cut sheet away from frame with a craft knife to reveal the swirled pattern on the underside. This is the side you will want to show on your projects, as it will have the prettiest effect. (Note: if you're using glass as a base, make sure you don't leave the sheet on too long or it will be difficult to remove. It's better to take it off just before it's fully dried if you can, and let it air dry on wax paper.

4. Now you can take the "cured" acrylic sheet and use it like you would any sheet of thick cardstock or handmade paper. I love to make up several sheets in various colors and store them with wax paper in between each sheet. If you have any of the gel/paint mixtures left over, you can store them in air-tight containers for later use.

There are a wide variety of gel mediums available and you can find them in any art supply store, or in the fine art section of your craft store (where they have the oil paints and canvases, etc.). I prefer the Semi-Gloss version as it gives a nice sheen, without being too plastic looking or dull. Glossy varieties will be the most transparent, while Matte will have a milky to opaque finish.

Other Ideas to Try:
1. Punch out or die-cut simple shapes like flowers or leaves to create a layered bouquet or border.
2. Add a transparent paint to the medium or rub a tinted glaze over a plain, uncolored sheet to create a stained glass effect.
3. Instead of a swirled pattern, try layering on your gel/paint mixture in a striped or dotted pattern. Or pipe it on with a cake decorating tube and different tips.
4. Mix a texture medium with paint to give the sheet even more dimension and interest.

This is a really easy activity that you can even do with your children. And don't limit yourself to just scrapbooking applications—try it on cards, mixed media projects or home decor—have fun with it! I'm planning on sharing other techniques in the future, so please let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like to see me write about. I hope you enjoy trying this one out and I'd love to see what you come up with!


  1. Wow, that gives me quite a few fantastic ideas for my own albums! Many thanks for featuring this, and even more blog posts ahead, I hope!

  2. Thanks so much! And yes, I'm hoping to post more technique articles in the near future! *Ü*


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