Sunday, April 26, 2009

From Photograph to Thermofax

The majority of my thermofax screens are created from my own photographs, and I often get questions about how to do it. Here are the easy steps, with photos of each step. Normally I use Photoshop, but I know that more artists have Photoshop Elements, so that is what I am using here. The steps are almost virtually the same in both programs. I know there are probably better ways to do this, but this way requires very few steps and is easy to accomplish.


Here is my original photograph of a fire escape in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska. I haven't cropped it at all, because I like to work with the entire photograph initially. When you get to the final steps, you'll be better able to see if there are areas that lose their interest and should be cropped out.


Here is the second step. Choose Image, Mode, Grayscale. This removes the color from the image and starts to prepare it to become a completely black & white image, which is what is needed for a thermofax screen.


The next step can be done two different ways, and I usually try out both ways to see which one I like better. The image above was done by using Filter, Sketch, Stamp. This method usually retains more of the fine line details --- for example, the stair railings in my photograph.


The other method is to use Enhance, Adjust Brightness/Contrast, Brightness/Contrast. I slide the Contrast all the way to the right to +100. Then I slowly slide the Brightness to the right until I like the amount of detail in the photograph. I stopped at +50 on this photograph. This method tends to lose the details in fine lines, like the stair railings, but because you have some control over the amounts of detail remaining, you can frequently get more detail in areas that show up solid black in the first method --- for example, the edge of the building on the right-hand side of the photograph.

Now it is a matter of choosing which black & white print you like the best, printing it out, and running it through the thermofax to make your screen. Feel free to email me if you have any more questions.

7 comments:

Margaret Ryall said...

I found this very helpful and will experiment. I am hopeless in Photoshop except for the basics. I'm excited to start in and follow your directions.

Mary Buek said...

Karen, this is too cool. Love the photo as well as the end product. What will you do with the print?

Kay Koeper Sorensen said...

Wonderful tutorial Karen.

Regina said...

Karen, I agree. It's a great tutorial. Thanks for posting it. I don't have a thermofax, but I can see using this technique to prepare images to make acrylic transfers.

Liz said...

Great tutorial, Karen! If anyone has Paint Shop Pro, I did a similar one using that earlier this year on my blog: http://lizplummer.com/blog/2008/09/06/altering-photos-to-make-gocco-screens/

(It says for Gocco screens but it's essentially the same stuff...).

Nanc said...

Happy Birthday, Karen! Thanks for the tutorial. I finally learned how to use a thermofax machine. Now, I just need to figure out how to buy one! I love this process!

Gail P said...

thanks for the tutorial. Do you make the thermofaxes too? Looks easier than I thought, getting the photo ready that is.
Being 50 isn't bad! But the decade flew by fast for me!!!