Small hand rollers, also called brayers, are printmaking tools used to thinly apply ink or paint onto a printing surface. Commonly made out of rubber or a synthetic substitute, rollers come in a range of stiffnesses, with a softer roller providing more flexibility and coverage on uneven surfaces, and a harder roller working best for inking fine details. A handy multipurpose tool to have in any studio, a roller can be used in a variety of ways beyond printmaking, including painting base coats, inking stamps, applying glue for laminating or bookbinding, or use in paper crafts for embossing and burnishing. Our picks below will help you find the best rubber roller for your project needs.
1. Speedball Soft Rubber Brayer
Excellent for block printing and stamps, this 4-inch latex gum rubber roller provides a smooth, even ink distribution. Less likely to leave roller marks when spreading paint or ink, this soft, flexible roller is ideal for relief prints and forgiving on uneven surfaces. The roller is easy to clean and has a bulb rubber handle for a steady, comfortable grip.
2. Meeden Hard Rubber Brayer
Durable and long-lasting, this 6-inch hard brayer is an excellent choice for etchings or woodcut prints where fine lines are easier to unintentionally fill with a soft roller. While it is trickier to spread ink evenly with a hard roller, the sturdier surface it provides is excellent for spreading glue, laminating, and embossing, making it a more versatile choice for use in craft projects.
3. Heritage Arts Acrylic Brayer
Made out of durable polymer material, this 4-inch acrylic brayer is a rigid roller that works well for painting, printmaking, and paper crafts. Its smooth, clear surface is easy to clean, and since neither rubber cement nor wax will stick to the acrylic surface, it is an ideal choice for gluing projects. Hard and sturdy, it can also be used to roll out clay or as a burnisher to glue layers together and press out air bubbles. And you can alter it with rubber bands, lace, or other materials to change printing texture without damaging the roller’s surface.
4. Aipaide Rubber Rollers
A versatile and economical choice that is great for classrooms, this set of two rubber rollers is ideal for printmaking, painting, and gluing. At 2.2 inches and 3.8 inches wide, these small rollers are the perfect size for inking small sections of a print or laminating the edges of a book. The uniquely designed handle has two molded finger grooves at its base so you can easily control the pressure and direction of the roller.
5. Speedball Block Printing Baren
While not a roller, a baren serves many of the same functions for home printers and crafters. Speedball’s baren has an easy-grip handle and a circular, flat bottom that smoothly glides over surfaces for evenly distributed pressure. Ideal for making relief prints, a baren can be used in place of a printing press to lift ink from print blocks onto paper. Causing far less slippage than a roller, a baren is an excellent burnishing tool suitable for use in printmaking, laminating, and gluing.