20 September 2011

how to print text with thermofax screens

Thermofax screens are really groovy. You all know my feelings on them. I don't really think there is anything in this world that shouldn't be screen printed and I think thermofax screens are just the ticket. (Yes, I am obsessively geeky about them and proud of it.)

I get asked quite often if they can be used to print text.


But (isn't there always a "but"?), you have to be mindful of a few things. I thought we'd have a little chat about it since its something that I answer several times a week so its obvious that inquiring minds want to know.

Successful printing of text with thermofax screens depends on two things:

(1) The font you are using for your words.


(2) The size of the font (referred to as "point").

Its pretty logical actually - the smaller and more complicated the font, the harder it is to print. Of course, its easy for me to tell you that but much easier for you to take a look for yourself so I did a couple of example prints.

I typed up some sample text (including numbers) in two different fonts that pretty much everyone has on their computers: Arial and Lucida Handwriting.

Arial is a basic, simple font. Lucida Handwriting is frilly and sweepy so its more complicated. Then I changed the sizes of the text so it ranges from 9 point to 18 point (each one is labeled) so you can see how it progresses.

Here they are (click on them, I left the images godzilla size so you can get a better look at them):

Arial font example print


Lucida Handwriting font example print


Its pretty clear to see that the 9 point font doesn't come out crystal clear. You have better clarity at 12 point and above. And the Lucida Handwriting font didn't perform too shabby. (Super fancy fonts can be a pain, though. Just sayin'.)

I do have a trick for printing teeny text because sometimes you just gotta go small. Here it is:

In my video tutorial where I demonstrate Basic Screen Printing Using Thermofax Screens, I use a sponge brush and just squirt the paint all over the screen. (Check out the video if you're new to Thermofax Screens, I babble a lot about everything you need to know to get started.)

But you can see from the picture above that I've forsaken my trusty sponge brush in favor of a regular paintbrush. And I squirt the paint on the side where the image isn't (the well of the screen) to dip the brush into.

The biggest reason I do this is so that I can control the amount of paint I'm using. Too much paint will give you smudgey prints when you're working with tiny text. And using a regular paintbrush limits how much pressure you use when you print - another factor that can make your text prints come out unclear.

You also need to watch how many passes you make when you print. I've been known to just go back and forth over the image as many times as I want but as I print art cloth and rarely strive for a perfect print, this isn't an issue. But if you're going for a very clear concise outcome, the fewer times you go over image you're printing, the better chance you have of being clear.

Oh, and here's the real secret to printing text - practice.

Not too magical, is it? As with anything, you need to find your comfort zone and figure out what gives you the best outcome. But the tips in this post will help set you on your way.

So what kind of text might you want to print?

How about a wedding invitation? I've sold many custom screens from the shop that were purchased for creating wedding invitation, often for printing on hankies. Here's an example one of my customers created (she blotted out some of the information, she didn't want all of us showing up):

Other examples are business cards, labels for the backs of quilts, care instructions for the fabulous clothing you like to create, advertising your business by printing on tote bags - pretty much anything you can think of.

I have a screen that I use to make the labels for the backs of my little stuffed owls:

I wish I could say that every label I print is perfect but the honest truth is that it isn't. Its not the fault of the screen, its totally operator error so that's why I'm saying that practice is really important to produce little prints like these.

And one of the great things about Thermofax screeens is that you don't have to fuss with reversing the text to make the screen. You just make it look how you want the print to be and the screen is made that way. No fussing around trying to imagine how things will look backwards.

So there you have it. That's what I know about printing text with Thermofax screens so I hope you'll give it a shot and as always, if you've got any questions, don't hesitate to shoot me off an email and ask! FibraArtysta@earthlink.net


Linda Branch Dunn said...

Great post. I find printing text wildly unpredictable, but even the fuzzy results make good art. I like to use hand-writing samples - more forgiving than typeset, perhaps?

I think Thermofax printing is so much fun it might be illegal.

Robbie said...

What wonderful info, Lynn!!! I'm bookmarking this post for sure!! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge!!

Deb H said...

Thanks Lynn, like Linda, my text is not always a success when screen printing. Thanks to your hints, I expect to have a better success rate. I've book marked this post for future reference!

HollyM said...

I have finally gotten around to using the thermofax screens that you did for me. I'm addicted and very pleased with them.