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!

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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. 

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    41 Discussions

    Wow! . Thanks so much for this instructable. Just what I needed.

    Love your beautiful paintings. Congratulations. You are a very talented person.


    1 reply

    8 years ago on Step 4

    this is amazing

    very beutifull paintings.

    nice work


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hm, I was rereading this and a thought occurred. Squeeze out silicone on a sanded pvc tube for stick toitiveness. Wrap it in saran wrap then roll the soft silicon across a real tree bark. Hang to dry so it won't get flattened. Most likely take forever to dry tho. However, it may not be firm enough to make the impressions in the cement.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, unable to breathe through the PVC pipe core or the saran wrap outside it probably would take forever to dry. Also, the saran wrap would interfere with getting a good impression from the bark.

    To get a silicone impression of tree bark, you could just smear some silicone onto the bark and then apply a layer of cloth (to prevent excessive stretching and tearing) with more silicone. When dry, peel it off the bark and clean out whatever bark flakes are sticking to the silicone.

    You might be able to make a roller out of the material by sticking it to a PVC sleeve with more silicone. Or, you might be able to just press the flat material into cement and forget the roller idea. Beats me. It would take some experimenting.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Good God, this is BRILLIANT, Thinkenstein! I am in awe.

    I wish you'd make a whole thread of all the awesome ideas you've come up with for using PVC. I'm serious, man--I think you obviously are an "out-of-box"er, and I bet you could write a book with all the stuff you've come up with to "re-purpose" ordinary items. I'm convinced--and a new fan.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, Kirnex. A book could happen someday, but the collection of instructables I've done says it already.

    You should start playing around with the material, if you haven't already. Shouldn't let that enthusiasm go to waste.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. I've been at it since third grade.

    Glass is not easy to draw.

    I guess art is not for everybody. I enjoyed it, so I stuck with it. I think everyone has the potential, though. It's a combination of thinking and feeling and a lot of practice.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I recently learned that real artists tend to be a totally different type of person. I am a full time healer and have been told for years I had a personality problem by other nonartsy healers. Seems that when I started going weekly to an art market and talking with other artists... I find we all have similar traits that apparently drive non arty type people to distraction and irritate them. Then they tell us we are screwed up when in actuality we think outside of THEIR boxes and that irritates and confuses them when we act the way we do.

    It is a normal state of being for a true artist personality type. I know this because I met about twenty or more different artists at that art market and they all acted and thought similar ways. Like I did when I was accused of ...being flighty, ungrounded, unproductive, lazy, unmotivated, having personality problems and issues. The more I was around these people, the more I realized I was NOT BROKEN. I was NOT SCREWED UP. I was NOT FLIGHTY, etc. I was a normal artist type, doing normal artist behaviour, acting just like we always do.

    We need to be careful what we accept from other people. Don't listen if someone tells you you have an issue if you are happy doing what you are doing. They just do not have knowledge of our personalities or how our minds work. They might have an issue with US is all and they will often be critical of us because we do not fit their mold. It can make them feel threatened.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hello gemtree, I am a full time artist, I make and sell paintings full time, for a living. I must warn you that thinking in terms of "artistic people" and "non artistic people" the whole "us and them" type of thinking is a very dangerous trap to fall into. Artist or not, personality traits such as the ones you attribute to artistic people ( flighty, ungrounded, unproductive, lazy, unmotivated) are character flaws and will hold a person back in life.
    An artist should always be growing evolving and becomming better than before. Now that you have recognized your personality flaws, it is your job to better yourself by challenging and overcomming them. This is the true struggle of the artist.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    ccrewe, unfortunately you totally missed what I was trying to say. I was accused of being those things. I was not any of those things. I did things DIFFERENTLY from those inconsiderate, judgmental people who tried to make me feel bad by belittling me. Just because I woke and slept at different times, I did not keep my house the ways they did nor arranged my life the way they did, THEY decided that I had a problem.

    I did not but unfortunately I was convinced for many years that I was broken, screwed up and worthless. When I finally realized they were judging me unfairly and did things my normal way and refused to allow them to put me down (by disassociating myself from them)... well, suddenly, I started making money, becoming popular and had many more friends. I have not evolved so much as accepted I am different and stopped being a sheeple and following THEIR leads and trying to fit myself into THEIR molds.

    I have never ever said that artists are any of those things.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the links Rimar. Pretty amazing violin playing. It's a great instrument. I tinkered with violin years ago, with no training, and just got background music for cat fights! Anyway, it is incredible what the human body and mind can do.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Years ago, a friend gave me a violin, I had it about a month and all I could play was "rusty hinge" and "the nail sliding on the blackboard"!!