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. Essdee Ink Roller
UK-based Essdee makes high-quality rollers for serious printers. This well-priced option gives users the smoothness and longevity that are hallmarks of the brand. Little things like the self-lubricating nylon bearings make it a noticeably speedy and consistent roller.
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. Falling in Art Rubber Roller Brayer
Falling in Art’s 2-inch rubber roller is the perfect size for inking small sections of a print or laminating the edges of a book. It doesn’t require much pressure to paint evenly or wipe out air bubbles, and the smooth handling makes it a pleasure to navigate. Through simple design and durability of material, it is notably easy to wipe clean.
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.