What is a Brayer?

Sheri Cyprus

A brayer is a hand-held roller that can be used for many different craft applications. All brayers feature a cylindrical roller and handle, but the sizes and materials vary widely. There are sponge, plastic, rubber, and even leather brayer models.

Some crafters like to create designs with brayers and fabric paint on textiles, such as corduroy.
Some crafters like to create designs with brayers and fabric paint on textiles, such as corduroy.

Leather brayers are traditionally used for lithography. Lithography is the technique of printing on a metal or stone surface. Oil and water are used to create both printed and non-printed areas on each page.

Rubber brayers are often used in the craft of stamping to create different backgrounds. For instance, the brayer can be rolled on an ink pad before rolling it on the paper to be stamped. If an interesting layered effect is desired, layers of different colors may be used. Rubber stamps in colors that will stand out against the background shades can then complete the piece. This technique is popular in scrapbooking, such as when creating a background page to display photographs in an album.

After the brayer is rolled or coated in ink and used to create the desired look, it must be wiped clean so that it can be used again another time or for a different color on the same project. For a watercolor effect, thick paper or card stock is dampened with water before applying different ink colors on brayers. Many crafters experiment with different types and widths of brayers, as well as interesting application techniques, in order to create attractive patterns.

Paint, rather than ink, can also be used with a brayer. Some crafters like to create designs with brayers and fabric paint on textiles, while others paint furniture or other items using acrylic paint on a brayer roller. Sponge brayers leave a mottled pattern, while plastic or rubber types give a denser finish. Textured fabric, such as corduroy, wrapped around the roller will create a lined look. Many crafters wrap elastic bands around rollers to get an interesting texture.

If a textured material such as ridged metal or embossed plaster is placed under paper before color is applied with a brayer, the texture becomes a pattern in the craft project. Brayers can also be used as a spreading or flattening tool for many different projects. When making a collage, a glued-on collection of photographs or magazine clippings, the rolling qualities of brayers help flatten down the ends of the cut-outs or pictures. They can squeeze out air bubbles for a smoother look to collage crafts.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - It's pretty easy to get the art supplies you need for printmaking these days. I've seen rubber brayers of various sizes in art supply shops so you don't really have to worry about finding supplies.

Just remember, as you say, to make as many copies of the the initial color as you want as there is no going back once you've carved the next layer onto your board. You can do it with linoleum as well, if you're interested in that.


I used a brayer as a student, in art class. It was one of the things I most enjoyed about class, which was making woodprints. We would cut out a stamp from a block of wood, gradually adding layers depending on what kind of pattern we wanted.

After the first layer, we'd use the brayer to layer on a light color of ink. Then we'd stamp a bunch of papers.

Then we'd carve the next layer. This method means that you can only ever have a limited number of copies of the final product.

I never knew what the brayers were called, but it's good to know now because I've always wanted to do that again.

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