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Turning a Paint Roller into Gel Printing Tool

An interchangeable rolling pattern making tool for gel printing? That you can put any pattern on? YES! Just a paint roller and some PVC pipe! If you can stick it on the tube, you can make a print with it! I’m sharing what you need to know to create these, because there were a couple of stumbling blocks I ran into and I want to save you that time!

BEWARE! PVC pipe sizes are nominal which means they aren’t exactly the size they say. You’ll need to take your paint roller with you and actually test it on the PVC pipe to be sure it fits. It should be tight enough to stay in place when you slide it on but not so tight it’s difficult to put on. I bought some that I thought was the same size (the label said it was the same) but it wasn’t!

When you’re at the hardware store, the PVC pipe will come in lengths longer than your paint roller. That means you’ll need to cut it to the length you want. There are several ways to do that so when you’re at the hardware store check out the options to find the one that is right for you.

Draw a pattern directly onto the PVC pipe using hot glue. Does my design look a little wonky? That’s because when the glue is hot is more likely to drip or run a bit. I like the look it gives it but if you don’t, just let it cool a bit before turning it.

Once you’ve got your roller ready, put a thin layer of paint on your gel plate and roll on that texture!

When I’m gel printing, one fun way to add a little something to yoru print

When you’re attaching something to the PVC pipe, you’ll need an adhesive of some kind. I find double sided tape is fastest and in the video you see me use this super wide tape. I’ve got the link to it below and one thing I found wonderfully surprising about this tape is how easy it was to remove the backing.

But what if you don’t a jumbo roll of tape? Then just put several strips of normal sized double sided tape on there or any other adhesive you like!

When I’m attaching something to the roller, like bubble wrap, I work carefully to make sure there isn’t any overlap where the ends meet. The overlap can create a line in the pattern which I don’t like usually.

Die cuts are another great source of patterns to stick on the roller. I die cut craft foam and use the double sided tape to stick it on there. Don’t have a die cut, then hand cut any pattern in craft foam and stick it on there!

These three ideas are by no mean everything you can do with these rollers. Corrugated cardboard, yarns and fibers, anything you’ve got! The sky’s the limit!

Want more ideas for gel prints? I’ve got 600 of them for you all in one video and a printable quick reference too. If you’d like me to send that to you, just use this link and let me know which email you’d like me to send it.

Here are the supplies used. Some of these links may be affiliate links which means I get a small percentage and it doesn’t cost you anything extra! And you get a really good feeling knowing that you are helping keep the free tutorials coming!

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  • Jennifer September 30, 2022, 8:36 pm

    I love gel printing and your videos! I’m getting quite a collection of colorful work. I have enjoyed the video series I bought into!

  • Mary Irene Lee September 30, 2022, 9:26 pm

    What great ideas ! Wish I was still teaching! My students, and I, would be very creative with these ! Cannot wait to try these !

  • Maureen Bartling October 1, 2022, 7:08 am

    Great video ! What a clever idea! Once again you have created something affordable and fun and a must have to try. Thanks. I love your enthusiasm.

  • JANET SCHAEFER May 1, 2023, 9:47 pm

    I tried to register for one of your workshops but was unable to do so. I couldn’t even do it through Pay Pal.

    • Carolyn May 1, 2023, 10:38 pm

      I need more info to help you Janet so I just sent you an email.