Optimum images for thermofax screens – help, please!

I am in the process of playing with some photos in Paint Shop Pro to make them into good images to send away to make into Thermofax screens.  It isn’t easy to find thermofax machines in the UK and I’m so jealous of you in the US!!  I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, but over the last day or so I’ve sat down and made a folder full of images on my computer from my photos.

As I have been doing this, several questions have arisen in my mind.

  • Which image is printed when you screenprint with the resulting screen, the black bits or the white bits?
  • What happens to the grey bits?  Is it okay to have grey or should the photos be black and white?

For instance, which of the following two images would be best, and do you think they would make a good image?  I’m using a photo of some mud formations in the local river because that is the theme which I’ve been working through and has been running through my mind for a while now.

This is the original photo:

mud formations

I cropped it,  clicked ‘adjust brightness and contrast’ and ‘effects – photo effects – black and white film’ and got this:

mud formations

Then I altered the above photo and changed it to ‘image – decrease color depth – 2 colour palette’ and got the following:

mud formations in black and white

My question is, really, (as well as the above two questions!) which photo will print best, or do I need to do something totally different which would work better? 

I would love any feedback from people who are experienced Thermofax screen printers!! Thank you!!  And any other hints and tips would be greatly appreciated too… I want to get it right first time because I can only afford a limited number of screens and there isn’t any room to experiment.  And the number of photos in my Thermofax folder is already 35 which  I have got to whittle down to about 5….


Anne asked in the comments about PhotoEZ screens. Has anyone used these and do you know the difference between these and the Thermofax process? And do you know if they are available in the UK?

10 Replies to “Optimum images for thermofax screens – help, please!”

  1. First of all, I’m not a thermofax expert, or any other sort of expert for that matter.
    I’m very interested the screen printing process – PhotoEZ- available on Ginny Eckley’s site and wonder what the differences are between that and the thermofax process. If they give similar results, might it be easier to use the PhotoEZ?

  2. Hi Liz,
    If you are going to have them made at Thermofaxscreens.co.uk as I did, contact Claire and ask her if it is suitable. She is very helpful and looked at mine before I submitted it. The address for Claire Hoggett is

  3. Hi, I’ve been using my Thermofax for a few years now. I took a course from Jean Ray Laury. Mine only works with line drawings. If a black space is too wide, the screen tears when printing. Imagery On Fabric 1997 by Jean Ray Laury has a section on the Thermofax. My piece is on page20. All the trees are printed that way.
    In my experience, the thin line drawings work best. Johnnene

  4. You need a clear black and white image for thermofax screening. Grey doesn’t work well. The black of the image is what you will be printing with the finished screen. Hope this helps, and if you have more questions, email me.

  5. This third one is good, Liz. You need high-contrast black and white. The black will burn away the plastic and that’s where the paint or dye will be when you screen through it.

    Looks good. Reminds me of the screen I made of the cracked slate sidewalk.

  6. The third one looks pretty good although sometimes I find that if there is too much on the screen, it comes out a little too dense. You may want to try bringing the contrast up even more to reduce it more minimally if you can.

    Sometimes I find that posterizing an image on PS Elements gives me a good start, then I remove the color, and then work on the brightness levels so that there is no middle ground, ie no gray…

    Hope this helps! it is so much fun that you will become hooked!

  7. The screens used in Thermofax screens are Riso which are the ones used for Print Gocco. If you can find one of these machines you can image your own. The art work needs to be carbon based and good contrast but not too dark. I used image, reduce curves in Photoshop to tone the carbon down. Good luck, Mary

  8. HI Liz. I have a print Gocco- it works the same way as a Thermofax. I also believe Gunther from Textil und Kunst in Munich is selling a type of thermofax machine which is more reasonably priced than a Thermofax. I agree with Rayna, Karen and Liz- line drawings do work best. I find the posterizing function on PSP is the best for preparing the image and even then I will white out some more of it . As Liz said if there is too much burnt away ( the black part of your image) the ink can look too dense and depending on the consistency of the ink and can also cause bleed and the plastic may even come off the screen ( especially when using metallic textile inks).I tend to use minimalist images. You also don’t want large areas of the black part of your drawing/image again for the same reasons.

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