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Best rubber rollers and brayers for printmaking: Affordable, quality ink rollers for efficient crafting

Best brayers and rollers_FEATURE

Are you getting into printmaking or feeling like it’s time to take your projects to the next level with a new set of rubber rollers and brayers?

Whether you’re looking for hard or soft rollers, there’s no doubt that a quality ink roller will make life easier and, consequentially, more pleasurable.

The best part is that you don’t need to worry about spending a ton of money on high-quality rubber rollers and brayers; renowned brands offer many affordable options for all printmaking goals and artisan levels.

To help you out, we’ve put together this short guide on the best rubber rollers and brayers to help you get your printmaking projects off the ground!

Affiliate disclosure: Articles on Tiny Workshops may contain affiliate links.

Best rubber rollers and brayers: Quick picks

Speedball lino printing brayers

Speedball: Soft Rubber Rollers / Brayers: 40/42 Shore

  • Popular brand
  • Different roller sizes on offer
  • Very affordable and good quality

Japanese hard rubber brayer

Japanese Hard Rubber Roller / Brayer: 60 Shore

  • Premium rubber roller
  • Suited for experienced artists
  • Pricey

Essdee: Black Handle Professional Ink Rollers: 60 Shore

  • Versatile shore value
  • Eight rollers with different sizes
  • Great design and ergonomic features

What to know about rubber rollers and brayers for printmaking

When looking into printmaking rubber rollers and brayers, there are a few factors to take into account to make sure you’re making the most suitable pick for your projects.

Besides price, brand, and size, one of the most important distinctions to make before purchase is if a hard or soft roller would benefit you more. And of course, you can have both! But if you’re looking to stick to one option for now, it’s a good idea to know what each type has to offer.

Often, the hardness of a roller is referred to as the durometer or shore value; you’ll see the latter referenced a lot with Essdee products. The higher the shore number is, the harder the roller will be. Therefore, a roller with a 25-30 shore value would be considered soft vs. a 70+ shore roller.

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Soft rollers are the most popular, especially among beginners. They’re easy to use, don’t require extra pressure, and are really successful in achieving smooth, consistent ink coverage. On the other hand, because of these roller’s squishy-like nature, there are more chances of depositing more ink than desired into detailed grooves.

Hard rubber rollers and brayers are excellent options, usually aimed at more experienced printmakers. The main benefit of using this type of roller is that they work best for inking fine details and getting rid of air bubbles. You may also have to apply more pressure when using a hard rubber roller; however, the type and amount of ink that you use will also impact the process.

Other important aspects to consider beforehand are the circumference and width of your roller. The larger the circumference, the more ink it will retain and put down on your lino block in one go. This will benefit you more or less, depending on the size of your project.

Regarding width, be aware that the ideal scenario is to have a roller that is slightly wider than your block to avoid roller marks. However, small rubber rollers are fantastic for covering detailed areas of your lino block or for doing more freeform or color-blocking work.

Best rubber rollers and brayers

Because choosing the right rubber rollers and brayers can get confusing, we encourage you to check out our top picks of the best budget-friendly options by renowned printmaking brands below!

Speedball: Soft Rubber Rollers / Brayers: 40/42 Shore

Speedball lino printing rubber rollers and brayers

These Speedball soft rollers are some of the most popular, made from natural latex gum rubber and ideal for lino art as well as other relief work such as woodblock printing.

The smooth rubber rollers are mounted on a sturdy steel frame, making them an excellent pick for beginners looking for convenience and reliability as they start to explore printmaking.

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The consistency and materials of these rollers ensure even distribution throughout any surface and will work efficiently whether you’re crafting with water-based or oil-based ink.

There are seven Speedball soft roller sizes to pick from, ranging from 1.5 inches (~4cm) to 6 inches (~15cm), giving you all the possibilities needed for different project sizes. Pricing varies according to size; however, all are very affordable, the most expensive being under ~$20.

Essdee: Soft Lino Rollers: 40 Shore

Essdee-Soft-Lino-Rollers-edit

Essdee is another renowned brand in the printmaking world, and these blue-handle soft printing rollers are excellent choices for starters as well as for experienced crafters looking to refresh essential tools.

Available in 2 inches (~5cm), 4 inches (~10cm), and 6 inches (~15cm), these soft rubber rollers are designed for inking lino sheets and are highly recommended for work on Speedball’s easy-to-cut speedy carve blocks — a great suggestion for newbies.

Offering complete coverage, these rollers are robust, built with an aluminum core and a steel shaft. These vegan tools can be used with both water-based and oil-based ink.

If you’re starting to print, these rollers are excellent options to consider, whether you’re interested in purchasing all models as a set or individually.

Prices range between ~$7-$10 per roller.

Japanese Soft Rubber Roller / Brayer: 30 Shore 

Japanese soft rubber rollers and brayers

Japanese soft rubber rollers are more high-end than the previous brayers but will last a lifetime if well cared for.

This 165mm soft 30 shore black rubber roller is compatible with lino and wood printmaking. It’s recommended for top-quality gripping of thick layers of ink as it leaves little to no roller edge marks on surfaces, thanks to its generous 45 mm diameter.

Read also: Essential printmaking tools for block prints

Its robust metal frame and beautiful wooden handle ensure durability and add a touch of elegance to any toolkit. As for all rubber rollers and brayers, maintenance is critical. Luckily, all required for this item is a quick cleaning after use, whether with a solvent or mild detergent and dry cloth.

This roller can be used with water-based and oil-based ink and is more expensive than the previous rubber rollers and brayers, priced at ~$35. Unfortunately, this item is often out of stock, but by clicking the link below you will get 10% off your first order!

Japanese Hard Rubber Roller / Brayer: 60 Shore

Japanese hard rubber rollers and brayers

Our next suggestion is the first of hard rubber rollers and brayers on our list and, like the previous product, is also a more pro-level Japanese model.

The 210mm hard rubber roller is compatible with water and oil-based inks, which it picks up beautifully with its wide 45mm diameter. Durable and sturdy, this roller is ideal for enhancing fine detail, whether on lino sheets or in wood engraving.

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This is one of the more costly print rollers on the list. Therefore, it tends to be best suited for more experienced printmakers who have tested the benefits of hard rollers and are familiar with their applications.

So, if you’re a beginner and still grasping technique, this is probably a better purchase to make down the line as you evolve in the craft. As a more exclusive product, this roller goes for ~$50 and can be purchased on Jackson’s.

Like the previous item, this roller is frequently out of stock. However, you can sign up to be notified when it’s back in stock and get your 10% off by clicking below!

Essdee: Black Handle Professional Ink Rollers: 60 Shore 

Essdee-Professional-Ink-Rollers-edit

These professional deluxe Essdee printing rollers are not only aesthetically pleasing but offer an appealing medium-hardness that is compatible with a variety of surfaces.

Thanks to their EDPM rubber, these rollers ensure resistance to weathering and guarantee excellent pickup and deposit of all types of ink. In addition, the largest version of this roller is 20cm (~8 inches) wide, providing convenient coverage, whether for lino or large woodblock printing.

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Their ergonomically-designed handles make them easy to hold and their unique molded pressure point aids in applying pressure evenly with little effort vs. traditional hard rubber rollers and brayers.

You can find these Essdee models in eight different sizes on Jackson’s and three different sizes on Blick. Prices will vary accordingly.

Speedball: Deluxe Hard Rubber Brayers: 80 Shore

Speedball deluxe rubber rollers and brayers

Last on our list is Speedball’s hard rubber brayers, featuring a high-quality grip handle and synthetic rubber rollers.

You can find these rollers in two versions: with a heavy-duty steel frame or a wireframe — both models are available with 4-inch rollers (~10cm). The heavy-duty frame model is especially recommended as it has fewer chances of breaking or bending (see image above).

Read also: Best wood for woodblock printing

The 80-shore printing roller is particularly ideal for delicate carving and will make an excellent addition to your toolkit if you already work with Speedball’s soft rollers.

Cleaning is also made easy with this roller; all you’ll need is soap and warm water to wipe down your tool after use. This is also one of the more affordable quality hard rubber brayers available, at roughly $14.


That’s it for this list of the best rubber rollers and brayers for printmaking! Do you have any favorite linocut tools, blocks, inks, or other products? Let everyone know in the comments below!

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