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Relief Printing Rollers: A Comprehensive Guide

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Choosing the right roller for your relief printing can get confusing. Different uses, budgets, sizes and preferences can dictate which roller is best for you. We've put together a guide to lino rollers to help you choose the best roller for you.

There are several factors that decide how a roller will perform:

There are hard rollers and soft rollers - hard rollers will ink up less of the 'noise' in the carved areas but can leave roller marks at the edges, soft rollers can roll ink more evenly but can deposit more ink in the grooves. Soft rollers can be especially useful when the roller is more narrow than the block. 

The circumference of a roller can affect your inking - the larger the circumference, the more ink it can put down in one roll. 

Rollers come in different widths - it can help to have a roller that is slightly wider than the block you are inking. This can help with even inking without roller marks. If printing in a rainbow roll, you'll need a roller as wide as your gradient area. Smaller rollers can be useful for inking up small areas of lino or 'free inking' in a more painterly style. 

There are also rollers that can be used for block printing onto fabric as they allow other inks to be used.

Read on for a comprehensive list of all our rollers...


Abig Roller

 

These little rollers have a circumference of 6.5cm and a width of just under 6cm. The wire handle provides a stand to keep the roller off your inking plate. Although they may not be the best roller for inking up large-scale linocuts, these little wire handled rollers are a great addition to your lino kit. The rubber has a slight give in it, making it easier to roll without pecky roller marks. 

They're inexpensive, easy to clean and can hang neatly in on your workshop wall. Particularly good for small relief prints for cards or for free inking smaller sections of larger prints. They're easy to move around curves and make great shaped rainbow rolls:


Lino Roller

These red lino rollers are a classic. Many people's first relief printing experience is with one of these rollers. They come in a variety of widths, from 50mm to 200mm and a 10cm circumference. They are inexpensive and are therefore a great entry level roller. The roller is hard so will not deposit ink in the recesses of your block but may cause roller marks if the block is wider than your roller. They can be turned over to keep the roller off the inking plate. 


Soft Rubber Roller - Blue Handle


This is the blue handled version of the roller above but the rubber is a lot softer. This can make it a little easier to use. There are three widths available: 100mm, 150mm and 200mm and they have a circumference of 11.5cm which is a little wider than their red handled counterpart. Like the red rollers, they can be turned over so that the roller is kept away from the inking plate.


Speedball Soft Rubber Roller

This soft rubber roller by Speedball has a 'pop in' mechanism so the roller can be separated from the handle for cleaning. They are 10cm wide and have an 11cm circumference. The roller is soft, allowing for even ink distribution but they can become a little sticky after being cleaned with solvents - this does not affect their use. When turned over, the rollers rest of their plastic stand and so the roller is held away from the inking plate. 


Deluxe Rubber Roller by Speedball

This Deluxe Rubber Roller from Speedball comes in three widths: 1.5", 4" and 6" and has a 10cm circumference. The rubber is soft for even ink distribution but, like the Speedball Soft Rubber Roller, can become when sticky after being cleaned with solvents. Again, it doesn't affect its use so is thankfully not an issue. Turn it over to keep the roller away from the inking plate. 

The 1.5" roller is particularly popular as it can be used for free inking for more painterly linocuts or small detail. 


Wooden Handled Roller

These wooden handled rollers are available in eight widths: 9mm, 15mm, 20mm, 25mm, 60mm, 120mm, 150mm and 200mm. They have a wide circumference of 16cm allowing ink to roll out more ink before the surface of the roller touches the block twice. They are relatively inexpensive and are made from a thinner tube of rubber around an aluminium core. The rubber has a little give in it making them a pleasure to use.

The wide range of widths of these rollers makes them a unique addition to your printmaking kit. The more narrow rollers allow for very fine detailed inking and free inking whilst the large circumference spreads ink further. 

The larger rollers can be turned upside down to rest on a stand, keeping the roller off the inking plate. The more narrow rollers do not have this feature. 


 

Japanese Hard Rubber Roller

These Japanese Hard Rubber Rollers are lovely to work with. They are available in four widths: 30mm, 100mm, 165mm and 210mm. They have a wide circumference of 15cm allowing you to roll out your ink evenly over large areas. The hard surface of the rubber means that less noise is picked up from the background when inking. This is a high-quality roller, especially for the price. 

These rollers have a plastic handle and metal frame. The rollers can be turned upside down to rest on the frame, keeping the roller off the inking plate. The rollers rock a little from side to side on their spool but this doesn't affect their use.

The rollers come boxed separately from their handles (with the exception of the 30mm which comes ready-made) but are easy to put together. 



Japanese Soft Rubber Roller

 

These Japanese Soft Rubber Rollers are of equally high quality with thick rubber. Like the Japanese Hard Rollers, they are available in four widths: 30mm, 100mm, 165mm and 210mm. They have a wide circumference of 15cm allowing you to roll out your ink evenly over large areas. These rollers have a softer rubber surface, making it easier to roll evenly without roller marks. This is another high-quality roller, especially for the price.

The Soft Rubber Rollers have a wooden handle and metal frame. Unlink the Hard Rubber Rollers, they cannot be turned upside down to keep the roller off the inking plate but rather have a 'leg' to hold the handle out of the ink. The exception to this rule is the 30mm roller which has a red plastic handle, not a wooden one, and can be turned upside down to rest off the inking plate. 

The rollers rock a little from side to side on their spool but this doesn't affect their use.

The rollers come boxed separately from their handles (with the exception of the 30mm which comes ready-made) but are easy to put together.

 


Hawthorn Inking Roller

This Hawthorn Inking Roller is a great all-rounder. It's 15cm wide, has an impressive circumference of 17cm and is reassuringly heavy The rubber is soft and inks evenly. When turned over, it rests on a stand to keep the roller off the inking plate. This is a high-quality roller, especially for the price. 


Sponge Roller

Sponge rollers are a really useful bit of kit when you're wanting to print your lino designs onto fabric. They're very inexpensive and refill sponge rollers can be fitted to the handle when they're worn out or to swap to when the first is wet. They're roughly 10cm wide and have a circumference of 15cm. The smoothness of standard lino rollers means that only block printing inks will roll out evenly - other inks will cause the roller to slip. Using a sponge roller allows other inks and paints to be rolled out. For example, fabric screen printing inks can be easily rolled out with a sponge roller and then used to print lino blocks onto fabric. 

These sponge rollers do soak up a lot of ink and can leave a bubbly texture on the blocks. 


Textile Roller

We have had this roller specially made to be perfect for block printing onto fabric. Like the sponge roller, it allows you to roll out slippery fabric screen printing inks but this roller creates a more even texture. The ink goes further as none is soaked up into the roller. 

The Textile Roller is approximately 10cm wide and has a circumference of 10.5cm. 


We have all of these rollers in the Handprinted studio if you would like to come in and give them a try!