Roller or Brayer
What is it and what is it for?
A brayer (or roller) is a hand-tool used historically in printmaking to spread ink.
In the late nineteenth century, the term “brayer” was first applied to a small hand-roller, which was used for spreading ink on the inking table, and for applying it to the plates. Such small rollers were sold as “brayers” from at least 1912 but later in the century, the term was applied to hand-rollers of all sorts and sizes.
First brayers were generally made of wood and then, they were made in other materials such as rubber, sponge, acrylic, polyurethane or leather. Usually smaller rollers have an all-metal support, while larger ones may have two handles to allow for two-handed use (to allow better control or to apply additional pressure).
The printer uses a tool to lay out a little bit of ink on a smooth inking plate, originally made of polished metal or stone, and then the ink is rubbed with the brayer until the area is smooth enough. In contemporary printmaking, commercially available inks are often smooth and soft enough so they can be used in more fragile inking plates such as glass sheets.
The roller is passed systematically across the surface to produce an even layer of ink and then applied to the block, stone or plate. The ink has to be evenly transferred to the raised or receptive areas before the next stage, the printing.
Rubber rollers are primarily used for relief printing, leather rollers are used almost exclusively in lithography and sponge rollers are used only for paint, scrapbooking and other craft applications.
So… Are rollers all the same?
Hell No! In fact, there are several options, from beginner to professional.
Here is a list of different Brayers and Rollers with their main characteristics and different types of use.
Ideal for classroom projects such as block printing, laminating, stenciling… They are strong and durable enough for long-term use.
Professional brayer with a hand ground to produce a fully concentric rolling surface, enabling smooth ink application. Excellent choice for block printing.
Quality brayer that meets the demands of all professional etching artists. Super soft rubber, durable and long lasting, with a wood handle as a finishing touch.
Ergonomic (soft-grip handle with finger grips), lightweight and durable. The all-aluminum carriage which eliminates mess, as the stand does not allow the roller to rest on any surface.
Latex-free synthetic rubber, that snaps out for easy cleaning or replacement. Sets with two rollers, one soft and one hard. Handle made of durable plastic with a comfort grip.
Economical, long-lasting soft rubber brayer made of latex-free material. Also snaps out for quick and easy cleanup or replacement.
Ideal for projects where gluing is required since neither rubber cement nor wax will stick on it.
Hard synthetic rubber roller ideal for light carving or gluing applications, excellent for rolling down print surfaces.
The convenience of having 4 brayers in one. Handle accepts Soft Rubber, Hard Rubber, Acrylic, and Foam. All replaceable.
Smooth, soft rollers with sturdy metal core and strong plastic handle.
All-purpose brayer for scholastic printmaking. It has a one-piece, plated metal handle.
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