Reliable, rapid and inexpensive detection of cellulolytic enzymes that can be used for a wide variety of biological and environmental samples are currently in high demand. Here, a new cellulase detection protocol is described that circumvents problems observed with popular agar-based methods by exploiting the ability of carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) to form gel-like surfaces on its own. These pure CMC-layers are sensitive to cellulolytic degradation and stainable by Gram's iodine without showing unwelcome reactions with other enzymes. The staining intensity negatively correlates with the enzyme activity and can be used for quantification. Cellulase activities are not obstructed by high sugar contents (e.g., in plant material) which limit the applicability of other quantification methods, making our new method particularly attractive for screening of plant extracts. A useful variant of this new method is its applicability to plant tissue prints for spatial mapping of the cellulolytic activity in a zymogram-like fashion.