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How do you make your paper decorations?

As a printmaker, I employ many different techniques. I really value the different qualities which each method helps me illustrate. Some have long, considered stages, before a print is completed. However gel printing, using a synthetic gelatin plate, with its lack of need for a press, is different. The main reason I love using gel printing is it's a playful, experimental technique, that generates immediate results; where happy, colourful accidents regularly happen. It's simply fun!


Here is a quick guide to how to make your gel prints into a wreath or other simpler decorations. This guide presumes you are already familiar with the technique of printing with a gel plate. I run courses which you may like to enquire about attending, teaching botanical gel printing and there are a multitude of fun techniques.


An asymetrical wreath made of paper leaf shapes is hung on a dark green wall with shadows casting on it.
Make a unique, printed wreath

1) Your prints might be abstract designs, botanical imagery (as mine are) or... well anything you chose really!


You may opt to print on top of text, music sheets or pages from an old book, using Christmas colours or any that speak to you. I have one wreath which looks great displayed all year round. Make your prints double sided, as when curled, the underneath of the print will be revealed.


Look into which thickness of paper you prefer too. In general, the higher the gsm rating, the heavier and thicker the paper will be. For this wreath I used recycled paper, a heavier weight, similar to a quality watercolour paper. Its cartridge paper, made from recycled cups and is 140gsm, but you can use something you already print on and are familiar with.

a green painted background has many cut out paper leaf shapes of it, with many patterns. They are multi coloured and some have prints from nature on them.
Colour combining is part of the fun.



2) Cut out lots of individual leaf shapes. I used real eucalyptus leaves as my templates, selecting some larger and some smaller ones for visual interest.


I can imagine more complex leaf shapes would look interesting too and may try those out when the mood takes me.










A muddled pile of gelatine prints in leaf shapes on top of each other, on a green painted surface. Acrylic paint choices her range from green to blue and orange.
Sort your leaf pile into 4s.

3) Once you have a pile of beautiful printed leaves (the quantity will depend

on how large a wreath you intend to create) it's time to make mini branches.


I grouped the leaves into 4s, selecting colours I felt complimented each other. For some 'mini branches' I picked colours which were similar and for others I purposefully put colours which worked together well - different, contrasting. I cut a small slit in the leaf to poke the wire through. I have done this with florists bind wire, but here I used paper wrapped wire, as although still very easy to manipulate, I preferred the look of it for these pieces. I mentioned cutting a slit. It was only 5mm ish across.



Primarily, I had made holes, by poking the wire through but it looked messy and the slit was much neater so I went with that method. To attach one leaf to a wire, hold one leaf in one hand, in the other hold your prepared wire, cut to a length of 15 cm or 10 cm. The longer length I use for the main stem and the shorted lengths are for adding the side leaves. After poking the wire through, I bent the leaves into more natural-looking, organic forms.

Click the slider to view the process.




4) Note- when I pushed the length of wire through the 5mm slit (about 3-5 cm should be pushed through, I bent the wire over and twisted it until it joined onto the stem. The end of the wire is obviously a sharp point, so take precautions such as gloves if you feel this necessary and be careful around your eyes. I may at this point suggest you should also never run with scissors! You can easily play around with the length of wire you select, to suit the size of the decorations you want to create.


Paper leaf decorations on a real branch in front of two framed painitings
I tidied up the loose ends after taking this photo

5) Having made one long stemmed leaf and 3 shorter stemmed versions I attached these all together. I tried to make the branch mimic a really eucalyptus by adding the leaves in a similar place to where they would naturally grow. I then made many examples of this simple single branch. At this stage you could just leave it there and have individual decorations, adding a twisted loop/hook to each for displaying, on a real branch or on a Christmas tree. I really like the branches of a beech tree, picking some from our paddock when they have leaf buds, ready to unfurl. If you are creating a wreath rather than individual decorations, you don't need the hook, as instead the wire will wrap around a frame.

nipplewort seed head wreath is hung on an olive green wall
A seed head, asymmetrical wreath, enjoyed all year round


6) I twisted one simple branch directly on top of another, so I ended up with a more complex branch which had 8 leaves.



At this stage I'd encourage you to bend wires into branch shapes which please you. I made 7 of these doubles branches.

As you can see in this image of my seed head version, (right) and my paper wreath (at the bottom) I like asymmetry, however

you may decide to make your wreath go the full way round the circle.

Adding a ribbon to one side also sometimes elevates how your wreath

might look.



Finally I made a circular frame, using galvanised wire, the type you train a grape vine or other outdoor trailing plant with. When mine arrived it was shiny, which although may be to some people's taste was a little too blingy for me, so I knocked the colour back to a more gunmetal grey, by immersing the wire in some white vinegar for half and hour. to help achieve this. The spent vinegar is then reused as a cleaning product in other areas around the house.


Letting the wire naturally dry prior to using it with the printed leaves is recommended.


Create individual posies then subsequently add them to your circular frame, twisting so there are no ends peeking out.

Now its time for faffing! Zhuzh it up until you get it looking the way you like. Do leave a comment below if you have found this helpful as its my first 'Printing how to...' on this blog.


Happy creating! Su

Paper wreath on a green wall using gelliarts print plate. Its next to some copper leaf decorations on a beam in an old house.
The Finished Wreath


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