I have a confession: I’ve had a set of Thermofax screens in my studio for a year and I’ve been too afraid to break them out of their packaging. It’s not as if I don’t know how to screen print, I do; I’m just nervous I may inadvertently ruin my screen before I can print its image of a typewriter everywhere in my studio (What can I say, I really like typewriters).
Many surface designers love Thermofax screen printing and say it’s one of the easiest ways to print on fabric. One of those designers, the one I think of as the maven of Thermofax screen printing, is Lynn Krawczyk. Not only has she has written books, taught workshops, and is featured in several video tutorials on the subject; she also creates Thermofax screens for herself and her fellow fiber artists.
In an effort to overcome my fear of demolishing my screen with the first pass of the squeegee, I decided to pop her DVD Thermofax Screen Printing Essentials for Fabric, Paper, & Mixed Media into the player for a little encouragement. Here are the three tips I think will be the keys to successfully printing using Thermofax screens:
Ditch the rubber squeegee.
Lynn recommends avoiding these screen printing staples because they can damage your screen. The friction of the squeegee can pull the two pieces of the Thermofax screen apart creating air pockets between the two layers, separation at the edges of the design, and a ruined screen. If you want to use something similar to a squeegee, Lynn suggests a plastic scraper which can be purchased at the hardware store.
No points needed.
If you’re like me and don’t already own a scraper, foam brushes are an excellent alternative. They are readily available, inexpensive, and gentle on these screens. Go ahead and cut the ends of the foam brushes off. This way you’ll be left with a flat surface that’s supported by the plastic handle which gives you the ability to apply the paint to the screen with a bit of pressure. Dip and brush the paint through the mesh of the screen until the design is covered.
Don’t leave your screen high and dry.
Wash the screen right away or have a tub of water handy so you can float your screen in water to keep the paint wet until you can wash it out. If the paint dries it will clog the mesh of the screen, which will mean anything from patchy prints to an unusable screen. Once you wash your screen, let it dry completely before you print with it again, otherwise, you’ll end up with a print that comes out blurry in the areas where you screen was still wet.
Once you’re comfortable with those basics, the world is your oyster so to speak when it comes to Thermofax screen printing. As you watch Lynn’s video tutorial Thermofax Screen Printing Essentials for Fabric, Paper, & Mixed Media, you’ll learn everything from choosing paint, obtaining Thermofax screens, how to screen print with them, plus how to get the most life out of your screen with information about cleaning and caring for Thermofax screens.
Here’s to tearing off the packaging, breaking out the paint, and a happy screen printing session!