How to use thermofax screens

Follow the steps below to start printing images onto fabric, paper, felt, leather and lutradur. You can also download our guides: How To Use Your Thermofax Screen (PDF) and Print Media (PDF).

If you’re thinking of getting started with thermofax screens, have a look at our starter kits. For more about suitable images and ordering, take a look at our frequently asked questions.

Set up your workspace (1)

You will need a suitable print surface (e.g. felt covered board) covered with a washable drop cloth. Gather all the things you will need before you begin: screen(s), squeegee(s), ink, cloth, pins and some kitchen roll. A container such as a cat litter tray is handy for keeping everything tidy and preventing spillage.

Thermofax screens workspace

Set up your workspace (2)

Pin your chosen fabric to the print surface. Push the pins in almost horizontally so that they don’t stick up too much.

Thermofax screens workspace

Printing (1)

Place the screen on the fabric ready for the first print. Spoon the ink at the top of the screen – be reasonably generous and make sure there is enough ink to avoid running out half way down the screen. Fine line designs will use less ink and require less pressure on the squeegee than chunkier designs.

Printing with thermofax screens

Printing (2)

It can be helpful to do a test print on the drop cloth or an old piece of fabric first. You will be able to guage the amount of pressure / ink required.

Printing with thermofax screens

Printing (3)

Hold down the edge of the screen with one hand (use your left hand if you are right handed) and pull the squeegee towards you with the other hand.

Printing with thermofax screens

Printing (4)

Scoop up the remaining ink at the bottom of the screen with the squeegee and deposit it back at the top of the screen ready for the next print.

Printing with thermofax screens

Printing (5)

Lift the screen carefully to reveal the print. If you still have the squeegee in your hand make sure it is held over the screen to avoid dripping ink onto the fabric.

Printing with thermofax screens

Printing (6)

Place the screen down in position for the next print. If the screen overlaps the first print you may pick up wet ink on the back of the screen which will print as a ‘ghost’ image the next time you place the screen down.

On a large piece of cloth, you can avoid ghost prints by leaving space between the second and subsequent prints and then filling in the gaps as the earlier prints become touch dry. However, if you need to print close to the wet print without waiting for it to dry, you can lay a piece of kitchen roll over the wet print to prevent the ink being picked up.

Sometimes ghost prints are a welcome addition – if you are printing a textured background for example.

Printing with thermofax screens

Washing the screen (1)

Always wash the screen as soon as you have finished with tepid water and a soft sponge or cloth. Don’t use detergent or anything abrasive as it will damage the screen. Don’t allow ink to dry in the mesh as it will permanently damage the screen. If you want to have a break always wash the screen.

Washing your thermofax screen

Washing the screen (2)

Pat the screen dry with an old towel after washing.

Washing your thermofax screen

Washing the screen (3)

Squeeze any residual moisture from the edge of the tape with the corner of the towel.

Washing your thermofax screen

Printing shapes (1)

Cut shape(s) – in this case fish – out of a piece of freezer paper and then iron the sheet of freezer paper on to the fabric (you can also use sticky back plastic). Print over the hole(s).

Printing shapes with thermofax screens

Printing shapes (2)

Allow the ink to become touch dry and then peel off the freezer paper to reveal the shape(s).

To print negative space around a shape, cut shape(s) from freezer paper or sticky back plastic and iron or stick the shape(s) onto the fabric. Print the fabric and when the ink is dry, peel off the shape(s).

Printing shapes with thermofax screens

Screen placement (1)

Stretch some thread between two pins to act as a guideline when you want to print a row of images. Place the edge of the screen against the thread.

Thermofax screen placement

Screen placement (2)

Printing your image at regular intervals along a row, e.g. 15cm apart, can be done by placing marker pins along the guideline. Place the screen ready for the first print (start at the left side) and put a pin at the top right hand corner of the screen. Measure 15cm intervals from the first pin along the guideline and mark with more pins. As you move along the row, align the top right corner of the screen with the pins.

Thermofax screen placement

Screen placement (3)

Printing off the edge of the fabric will avoid creating dead space around the printing and the whole of the fabric usable.

Thermofax screen placement

Screen placement (4)

Rotating the screen to vary the angle will help to achieve a random allover design.

Thermofax screen placement

Screen placement (5)

Two or more screens can be used to create a multi-layered fabric. Print background texture(s) first and then print motif(s) over the top.

Thermofax screen placement

Screen placement (6)

Two or more screens of varying scale can be used to provide extra interest.

Thermofax screen placement

Screen placement (7)

Place a piece of plastic or acetate between the front and back layers of a bag or t-shirt to avoid ink going right through to the back of the bag or t-shirt.

Thermofax screen placement