A new tool produces new ideas and can encourage you to explore a different path, it is also a good way to help you look again at your familiar printmaking habits. So in the spirit of your creative evolution I want to inspire you to explore new and unconventional tools.

This post is about discovering new printing rollers inside old toner cartridges!

an old toner cartridge

What is inside a toner cartridge?

Changing the toner cartridge in the laser printer I noticed what looked like a rubber roller inside it. It was the work of a moment with an old screwdriver to crack it open and find out that it contained not one but 2 rollers! There was also quite a bit of black toner powder left in it, so if you try this remember to use some protection for yourself and your table.

Promising printing rollers

These long elegant rollers looked promising; one is nice smooth soft rubber, the other is foam rubber.

The delicate spindles are close to the bench and this means adjusting my usual robust rolling technique, so its rather like drinking from a fine tea cup instead of a mug. The light touch this called for introduced a new approach to rolling ink, and focussed my attention on the details of the process.

two printmaking rollers from toner cartridge
print from the roller in an old laser toner cartridge

New printing rollers = new results

I added solvent to the ink to make it much more liquid. This is the kind of messing about you do when cleaning up and the inks all puddle and colours mix on the bench……

I made this print with the smooth rubber roller on the rough surface of cartridge paper. Notice the difference between this print and the one at the top of the post which was done on smooth paper.

print from the foam roller in a toner cartridge

New dimensions

As the dimensions of the rollers are long and thin they create quick repeats over a wide area, and the intensity of ink fades out in satisfying stripes.

Here is the effect of the foam roller on smooth coated paper.

twisted print from foam roller


The easy manipulation of the rollers means fine straight lines and twisting curves are fun and easy to do.

linear prints from toner cartridge roller

Rhythm and repetition

I have been exploring repetition in prints recently, and I especially liked the effects from the foam roller. This print shows  regular patches amidst what looked like interference on a tv screen.

foam roller print
roller print with added mono print

A starting point

This initial session was just a starting point, who knows where it will lead. I am going to keep my thin rollers handy, and continue with mono print experiments.

This one is a roller print with mono printed mesh added……

Have a look at the roller printing blog post for more ideas.

foam roller print 2

Cheap alternatives to conventional printing rollers

Good printing rollers are expensive, so I am always on the lookout for cheap alternatives. My collection includes little wallpaper rollers (£2.99 ) which are very handy.

I have also tried silicone covered rolling pins. I thought these looked very promising, however while they may be good for baking, the ink wouldn’t stick to the silicone, so pretty hopeless for printmaking.

Be curious and inventive with your printmaking rollers

If you do get your hands on redundant toner cartridges it is definitely worth extracting the rollers; their unusual shape may bring a new element to your printmaking.

I hope this post will encourage you to play about with rollers of different types, and if you discover any other unconventional sources of printing rollers please let me know.