MAU Art & Design Glossary




A roulette is a copper plate printing tool for making areas of regular lines and dots on the plate surface by rolling and pushing the toothed metal wheel on its tip.

The shape of this toothed wheel is cylindrical (drum shaped). It has small protrusions of dots or lines on the surface, similar to those on metalworking files, and produces dot and line patterns on the plate accordingly. The teeth of the dot-type wheel comes in a variety of grades such as fine, medium and coarse, and the lines on the line-type wheel can also be of varying thickness and numbers. A similar tool is the moulette, which has a spherical or spindle shaped (egg shaped) wheel. Because the toothed wheel on the moulette is spherical, it creates more random dot patterns than the roulette.

When using a roulette, the toothed wheel is pressed against and rolled directly on the plate surface. The handle is held with one hand, pressure is applied on the shaft with the other, and the wheel is moved back and forth over the plate surface. Alternatively, it can also be held in the same way as a stick of charcoal and used with just one hand. The parts roughened with a roulette form a satin finish which, when printed, produce soft tones. Besides drawing, a roulette can be used for preparing mezzotint plates and making corrections. It is also used in etching and soft ground etching. When used on ground, the wheel must be wiped clean with a solvent such as a print cleaner before storing. A small amount of machine oil should be applied on the wheel axle for maintenance.

Roulettes can be purchased at art supply stores that handle printing supplies.


  • Line and dot texture typesLine and dot texture types