Effectively a variation on the age-old hand block printing method, in which a pattern is carved onto a surface that picks up a paint or dye and transfers it onto cloth, or other surface. With mechanisation in particular, carved or etched rollers allowed for greater efficiency by printing many more metres over the full width of the fabric in a day than was possible with hand block work. Advances in engineering ensure that each colour can be accurately placed within the design.

As with all stamped or screen printing only one colour can be worked at a time, so many rollers may be carved to build up and create a single design. Small locating pins in each roller allow the user to position each one in exactly the right place.

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