Custom Thermofax Screens

Ordering Information

I will turn your original black and white images into custom thermofax screens you can use again and again to print on fabric, paper, pottery, leather, wood or any other flat surface. You can create original images using a black Sharpie, pigment pen, charcoal or black acrylic paint or manipulate your original photographs or colour artwork into black and white. Scroll down for some helpful tips. 

Simply email your images as high-quality (300 dpi) jpg, pdf, tif or gif files. Or if you prefer, you may mail me hard copies of your images that have been printed on a laser printer or copied on a photocopier machine that uses carbon toner. Please make sure you own the copyright for the images you send or have written permission from the copyright holder to reproduce them.  I will never reproduce, share or use your image(s) and will delete them from my computer when I have completed your order.

The cost per 8.5 x 11-inch screen is CDN$15.00 plus CDN $5.00 postage for up to six screens. 

My studio is located just outside of Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Thermofax Tips

Choosing & Preparing Thermofax Images

  • Black and white images with no shades of grey make the most effective thermofax screens.
  • Images with lots of texture and pattern create the most interesting screen prints. Large solid areas of black will only print solidly coloured areas of dye or paint.
  • You can create your own original images for thermofax screens using a black Sharpie, black pigment pen or black charcoal. You can also paint, stamp and/or monoprint original designs using black acrylic paint.
  • To turn your colour photograph or image into black and white using Photoshop Elements, play with the “Threshold” setting.
  • For other programs, convert your image to greyscale and increase the contrast.
  • After formatting your black and white image, print it on a laser printer or copy it on a copier that uses carbon-based toner (The large copiers found at Staples and print shops use carbon-based toner).

Using Your Thermofax Screens

  • If you take good care of your screens, they will last for a very long time.
  • Before use, mask your thermofax screen with good-quality duct tape. This gives you an edge to hold onto or pin down, ensures the screen stay flat on your printing surface, and prevents it from curling when you wash it.
  • It’s a good idea to mark the right side on the duct-tape frame so that you don’t accidentally reverse the screen while printing and end up with extra dye or paint on your print suface.
  • It’s also a good idea to label each screen. You will start out with one or two screens, but thermofax printing is addictive and it’s a lot easier to find an old favourite when you have labeled each screen.
  • Treat your thermofax screens gently. Rinse your screen (do not scrub) as soon as you are finished printing with it. NEVER let acrylic paint, screen printing ink or pigment dry on the screen. It won’t come off.
  • Do not soak your screens in water for a prolonged period of time or the screen will separate from the plastic backing.
  • If you use bleach products and/or discharge paste for printing, always rinse your screens thoroughly immediately after use to make sure the bleach does not deteriorate the screen.
  • Lay screens flat on a towel to dry and always store screens flat to prevent creases.
  • I have successfully used thermofax screens with thickened dye, Colour Vie pigments, gel bleach, discharge paste, decolourant and acrylic paint.

What is a Thermofax™ Machine?

A Thermofax™ machine is an early copier made by 3M in the 1950s and 60s. It produced copies using special heat-sensitive paper instead of toner and also made masters for spirit duplicators such as Ditto machines as well as transparencies for overhead projectors. 3M no longer makes these machines, but a company in German produces a similar version.

Today Thermofax™ machines are used to make extremely detailed silk screens very quickly. A black and white image is placed against special heat-sensitive, plastic-coated mesh and fed through the machine.  When the film is exposed to the infrared bulb inside, the thin layer of plastic covering the mesh opens up wherever there is black on the image. Thickened dye, ink or paint can then be screened through the mesh. 

My Thermofax™ machine, pictured on the left, is a vintage 3M “The Secretary.”