Several composite hydrogels were prepared by in situ incorporation of sugarcane bagasse cellulose (CB) and a natural polymer gelatin (GT) in to the polyacrylic copolymer network by free radical solution polymerization. The hydrogels were characterized by FTIR, XRD, TGA, DMA, SEM, EDAX, pH at point zero charge and swelling reversibility at varied pH in water. The effects of the synthesis parameters on sorption of Cu (II) from water by the resulting hydrogels were studied and the results were optimized by response surface methodology (RSM) with Box-Behnken design (BBD). The hydrogel prepared with optimized parameters was further studied for sorption of Cu (II) at varied process conditions. © 2017 Elsevier B.V.