Roller printing is a very easy activity, but one that is absorbing and encourages you to explore and appreciate your environment in new ways.
It is a good method of ‘warming up’ if you are feeling a bit lacking in inspiration – 20 minutes of roller printing will certainly lift your spirits, and you will probably want to keep going with it for longer as new ideas occur to you.
Groups of all abilities enjoy it, the equipment is simple, and the results are instant.
For example, I ran this printmaking activity with a group of people who were homeless – everybody took to the streets with rollers and paper and produced mysterious art works from the familiar walls and pavements of York.
Four things you will need
A printmaking roller; if you have hard and soft rollers these will give different results. The bigger the roller the bigger your prints will be.
Printing ink; I use Hawthorns stay open inks
A piece of perspex to roll ink on; you will be carrying this around with you.
Thin paper (lots of it). I used cheap computer paper.
Get ready to print
Be mean with the ink – you don’t need much. Roll the roller on your sheet of Perspex with ink until it is evenly coated.
Find a flat surface with a bumpy texture; lay your paper on it and roll over the back of the paper once with your inky roller.
An image will appear.
As you can see in the image of wire netting above, a soft roller gives a very different effect from a hard roller. Alternatively, pressing lightly or firmly with the roller will produce different effects.
Here’s a video showing roller printing in action
Explore the surfaces in your environment
Explore your street, garden or school yard to find different surfaces to print.
Some are very surprising, and suggest images unrelated to the original surface texture. You may find new and unexpected things appearing as your mind tries to make sense of the inky patterns; people often see faces, figures or animals.
If you are working indoors you can use all sorts of textures; torn card, textured wallpaper, the bottom of your shoe, leaves, or wrinkled up fabric as your textures.
Make double roller prints
Try rolling over your print twice using different colours and textures.
Mask areas before rolling
If you cut a mask you can control the areas the roller will touch and make different shapes.
When your ink gets a bit thin add some more of a different colour – this will mix with the leftover ink and you may discover lovely new combinations.
Piles of roller printing!
Roller printing gets quite addictive – you will probably find you produce loads of prints.
These prints make great source material for collage and chine collee. They are good to cut up and add to your sketchbook, or use in artist bookmaking projects.
Some sections of the prints may work well just as they are, or they can be combined with other forms of printmaking, for instance as a background for lino cuts.
Keep on rolling
This is one of those activities that you get the feel of as you go, there is no point in planning too much, just let your eyes and hands discover new surfaces and keep on rolling till you run out of paper!