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How to Use a Brayer

How to Use a Brayer

Knowing how to use a brayer can add a lot to your handmade greeting cards and scrapbook pages or to your 3-d papercraft projects. If you have ever had trouble finding just the right coloured paper for a particular project you may find a brayer can solve your dilemma. If you have the ink or paint colour you
want, you are in business with a brayer.

Many crafters know how to ink up a brayer and roll some colour out on paper. For people who have never used one, just be sure to roll the ink or paint evenly on the roller by rolling the rubber across your ink pad, lifting it up and rolling it over again and again, till you can see the whole rubber piece is evenly covered.

The first layer of colour will create a hard line on your paper. To avoid this, place some scrap paper under your cardstock and roll out the first bit of colour right next to the paper. Continue to roll out the ink or paint, gradually overlapping colour on to the cardstock. You will have far fewer streaks or lines if you use this technique and will find the colours blend more beautifully.

If you are using several shades of colour, always start with the lightest colour first. You will not need to clean your roller between colours if you work from lightest to darkest hues. Just keep a roll of paper towels on hand to brayer off most of the colour between layers.

To clean your brayer, use alcohol free baby wipes (so you will not cause your rubber roller to dry out and become hard or cracked), stamp cleaning mist, or remove it from its handle and wash it under the tap. Dry it off on paper towels by snapping it back into its handle before rolling it over a paper towel.

Your brayer can work harder for you than this though. Here are a few other ideas to try for special effects.

Special Effects and Your Brayer

One interesting effect to try is to wrap the roller of your brayer with rubber bands before inking it up. Take the roller out of the handle, twist some rubber bands over the roller till you have a pleasing pattern, and snap it back into place in the handle. Ink up your brayer and rubber bands and apply this to your cardstock. The patterns this will produce can be very interesting and unique. If you do not want a shadow effect, make sure you press the brayer roller firmly into the cardstock on the first pass and avoid rolling back over the same area.

Try inking the cleaned brayer up again with fresh rubber bands and another ink colour and rolling over your cardstock after the first layer has dried.

Now try wrapping the roller with other materials such as ribbon, twine or string and see if you like the patterns made with those.

Another item to experiment with on the roller itself is paper and repositionable tape. Apply it to the rubber in a pattern you like. Ink up the brayer, then carefully peel off the paper and tape before applying the ink to cardstock. You will of course have areas that are not coloured by the brayer when you use this method.

Remember that ink will be resisted by heat embossed images even if applied with the brayer. First heat emboss your image on your cardstock, then once it is cool, run over it with an inked up brayer. You can then wipe over your embossed image with a tissue to make it shiny again and allow it to really stand out. Try this method with glossy cardstock, for example. You will have a beautiful shiny finish with this paper. Glossy cardstock is wonderful for heat embossing images then brayering them.

Brayers can be used on uneven surfaces too. Try rolling ink or paint over a dry embossed image (with the embossing facing up, you will get more ink on the hills or edges of your image. With the embossed image face down, you will get more ink on the flat paper around the image).

Try taping a pattern onto paper or directly to your craft mat and lay your soon to be inked paper on top of it before brayering. The little edges caused by the tape or even another sheet of paper or cardstock will make the brayer leave different amounts of ink behind. You can make sharp corners appear with this method.

If you do not want the edge of underlying paper to show, try padding your work surface with layers of old newspapers. They are softer than other papers and will allow you to achieve more even coloured surfaces while providing you with plenty of scrap paper to run off the edges of your cardstock with the brayer. You can colour your whole piece of cardstock this way.

Different papers will produce different looks with your brayer, so do experiment.

You can draw or colour your brayer roller with water based marking pens, just as you can colour a rubber stamp with them. Remember to breathe on your roller before brayering your paper as you may find the pens dry out a bit if you take some time to colour. Try a pattern of circles, squares or stripes with your
pens. Try rolling over the paper from several different directions.

If you want to try writing on your brayer with water based textas, remember you will produce mirror writing with your brayer unless you can write backwards.

Bubble wrap could be just the thing for applying ink to your brayer if you want an interesting background.

Try using a couple of colours of ink on different parts of your brayer, or drop ink or paint onto your work surface and brayer over it to blend them together.

Remember you can use metallic inks to ink up your brayer. Brayering with gold or silver, copper or brass colours will really add pizazz to your papercrafts. You could apply metallic inks over a painted background or around the edges of a piece to enhance it and make it stand out. Wrap the middle of your roller with paper before inking the edges with metallic ink, then roll this over your image to create a frame.

Brayer over the centre of lace or a doiley or netting that you have taped down on the edges to keep it from slipping around, then lay cardstock on the inked or paint covered lace and smooth it out with the brayer. Lift off your cardstock and see what a lovely pattern has been made.

Punch out shapes with your paper punches and lay them on your cardstock, securing them with repositionable tape or glue. Run over them with the brayer and you can create perfect negative shapes. This is how you could put a moon in a night sky background, for example.

One Last Tip

Be sure to store your brayer with the roller facing up. Turn the whole thing on its back, in other words. This way, your rubber roller will not develop a flat side. You want it to stay symmetrical and smooth.

Many crafters use brayers to create beautiful sunset backgrounds or lake reflections. I will tell you about that next time.

In the meantime, have fun making your brayer work harder for you!