3D Printed Texture Rollers

The 3D printer can be a great tool to make texture rollers to use on the surface of your clay forms. Whether it is for pots or sculpture, a strong and relevant texture on your work can be critical to creating an engaging piece. In this exercise, we’ll learn to create a digital model of a texture roller and then print it with a 3D printer.

What you will learn:

– How to duplicate and repeat forms in Tinkercad
– How to stack and group many shapes into one shape
– How to adjust the size and proportions of an object in Tinkercad
– How to cut cylindrical voids out of the solid digital model
– How to prepare your digital model for 3D printing in the slicing software Cura
– An assortment of techniques for applying your 3D printed texture roller to wet clay to create unique textures

1) You will use a free 3D modeling program called Tinkercad. Go to https://www.tinkercad.com/ and click “Join Now”. Then click “Create a personal account”. Follow the steps to make your own account. Tinkercad is a web-based modeling tool, so you don’t need to download software – it works all in your web browser.

2) After you have an account. You should see a dashboard where you’ll see some links along the left side of the page and some across the top. As you make designs in Tinkercad, you’ll see them automatically saved to this screen. To access the modeling section and create your first design, click on “Create new design”

** Tinkercad is fairly easy to use, but you should first become familiar with the basic tools and principles of how it works. For a general overview of Tinkercad, head over to this page first

3) Tinkercad is best used with a mouse, so you will find it much, much easier if you connect a mouse to your computer.

4) To create your digital texture roller model, follow the steps in this video:

Once you have completed your digital model in Tinkercad, you will need to download your file as an .STL file. This will enable you to then open the file in a “slicing” program that will prepare the model for your particular 3D printer.

A great (and free) slicing software is Cura and you can download that HERE.

This is a tutorial on how to prepare your texture roller digital model for the 3D printer:

Once you have prepared the file and “sliced” it with the settings you need for the 3D printer you will be using, the next step is to save it as a .gcode file and load that file onto the 3D printer.

This is a timelapse video of this file (from the tutorials above) being 3D printed:

Once you have your texture roller 3D printed, the only thing left to do is print a dowel insert. The dowel insert just needs to have a slightly smaller diameter, as well as a “stopper” on one end, so that it’s easier to hold and have the roller spin when you roll it across the clay.

Now that you have a 3D printed dowel insert for your texture, you’re ready to go! So, get some clay wedged up and experiment! Here are two ways to use your new texture roller on the potter’s wheel!

This video walks you though one way of using your texture roller on handbuilt vessels …


1) Quality of the digital model: (20 points) — The digital model should not have holes or imperfections in the surface. It should be well suited for the 3D printer and not have extraneous undercuts or other features that would make it impractical to 3D print.

2) Quality of the 3D print: (20 points) — The 3D print should be well printed with no holes, gaps, or voids in the surface. The slicing software settings should be well suited to the 3D printer so that the resulting print is of high quality. The print should spin freely on the dowel insert.

3) Detail and finishing in application to clay: (20 points) — The textures created on the clay from the texture roller should be well defined and aligned with your expectations. The texture roller rolls freely across the surface of the clay and does not drag or otherwise fail to perform as a roller.

4) Creativity in application of the 3D print to clay: (20 points) — The student has used the texture roller creatively to make surfaces on their clay objects that extend their visual capacity and enhance their goals with the object.

5) Ambition and participation in learning: (20 points) — The student has has pushed themselves to be creative and ambitious in the project. They have incorporated suggestions made by others, and helped others during the project. The student has actively contributed to class discussions and provided feedback for others.

18-20 – The objective was clearly and convincingly met.
14-17 – Most of the objective was met, however there were some small areas that were not met.
10-13 – Parts of the objective were met, but there were significant areas that needed improvement
6-9 – The objective was approximately 50% met.
2-5 – Some of the objective was met, however, most of the objective was not met.
0-1 – The objective was not met at all.