Introduction: Design Rollers -- for Painting

About: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home from discarded nylon fishnet and cement.

Texture gives life to painting surfaces and design rollers are a quick way to put it down.  These rollers use PVC pipe for the basic roller sleeves and are like rolling printing blocks.  You charge them with paint, instead of printing ink, and roll the design patterns down on your painting.  I use them with acrylic paints. 

Spread a thin layer of paint out on your palette with a palette knife, charge the roller with paint and go for it!

Step 1: Techniques for Making the Roller Designs

There are several techniques for making the rollers.  You can carve into the plastic sleeve itself with a Dremel tool.  You can also glue things to the surface. 

I sometimes use acrylic gel, or modeling paste, for sticking things like string to the surface of the PVC sleeves.  Clear PVC cement works well for sticking down shapes cut from Nagahyde upholstery vinyl.  For precise gluing with the PVC cement I sometimes use a hypodermic syringe without the needle.  The solvent in the cement eventually damages the syringe, but it is good for a while. 

Check out the pictures for ideas as to what is possible. 

Step 2: Beginner's Roller Handle

Most of my rollers use large diameter sleeves and special handles I made.  Since making the handles is a little complicated, using PVC heat forming techniques and molding, the easiest way to start right in is to use a standard paint roller handle. 

Sections of 1 1/4" PVC pipe fit on the standard paint roller handles.  In this step, you see how I made a quick dremel-carved sleeve.   After penciling the design on the sleeve, I held it in a vise while carving. 

Step 3: Advanced Roller Handles

I make special handles for any size roller, from 1" diameter wheels, to 4" diameter pipe sleeves.  The PVC pipe is cut and heat formed to make two springy arms that hold the roller sleeves.  The arms spring apart to place and remove rollers.  Bolts acting as axles for the roller are attached to each arm and protrude into a center hole on either side of the roller. 

Inside the sleeve, there are two molded end pieces with the holes for the axle bolts, and a split ring spacer sleeve to keep them the right distance apart.  These units slide into the pipe sections that are the roller sleeves. 

I made the male part of the molds for the end pieces out of plywood.  The female outer part of the mold was a section of the same PVC pipe meant to be used as the roller sleeves.  I may have wrapped that section with wire to keep it from expanding as it was in use with heated material and might absorb heat and soften during the molding process.   It was many years ago, and I threw out the molds. 

For tips on working with PVC, see my other instructable:

Step 4: Paintings Done With Rollers

These are some paintings I did many years ago on water color paper with acrylic paints.  For the most part, I put down abstract backgrounds with the rollers and then did something more realistic over it with brush work.   A couple of the paintings were done only with rollers and paper stencils -- no brush work.