Thermochromic Imaging




Introduction: Thermochromic Imaging

About: Parsons MFA Design & Technology

This instructable is part of my thesis project using thermochromic pigment to silkscreen receipts.  The use of the pigment is to portray an image of a subject on the back of the receipt, over narrative text.  The idea is that when the image of the subject is touched, the image fades and a quote from their narrative is revealed underneath. This interaction allows one to have an immediate and subtle understanding of the subject encountered through the existing artifact (the receipt) collected everyday.

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Step 1: Clamp Screen & Tape

The first step is to clamp your screen down on the table. Make it tight so that the screen may be lifted like a cover over the table.  Tape over the immediate parts that you do not want to screen, leaving the part you want to print exposed.  In this case, we start with the text that will be underneath the photo.  

Step 2: Line Up Paper

Next line up your paper where you think it should be placed under the screen.  You can put the screen down over the paper to eye where it should be placed. When you have it where you want it, place tape to mark the edges of the paper so that you have a consistent edge to place your blank pages for multiple prints.  It may take some trials to get the paper positioned correctly.  Have newsprint handy to test out your prints before you use your good paper!

Step 3: Ink

Now to get the ink ready for the text.  I used about a half cup of silkscreen base with a half teaspoon of black ink.  Add a drop each of reducer and retarder and mix well.

Step 4: Silkscreen Text

With your screen down over the paper, blob pour the ink mixture below the exposed text.  Using your squeegee, pull flood the ink to the top of the screen.  Then push stroke hard and consistently down the screen to make your print.  Then pull flood the remaining ink back to the top of the screen for the next print.  

Lift your screen to see your text printed.  Do not reprint because it will not be a crisp print for the text.  If it didn't come out right, try again with a new piece of paper.

Step 5: Thermochromic Pigment Mix

Repeat Steps 1 & 2 for exposing the image on the screen for printing.  This is the layer that will go over the text.  

Now for the key moment:  For the heat sensitive image, I mixed a half cup of silkscreen base with two tablespoons of black thermochromic pigment.  Do not add ink if you want it to fade clear when touching the print.  Mix the base and pigment with a drop of reducer and retarder.

Step 6: Silkscreen Image

Repeat Step 4 with the pigment mixture over the image.  

Step 7: Drying and Testing

Tada! After it dries you can test out your heat sensitive print :)

Final result:

Clarisa Diaz

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    6 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Clarissa,

    I am touched by your project. I was wondering if you could help me by telling me where you found the thermochromic pigments. I am looking for ink that would be activated above 20°C, so it's the opposite as you but usually, companies sell both. I found just a company in USA and they don't sell ink for small orders.

    Thanks a lot for your help.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for checking out my project, I found the best pigment being sold on eBay by someone in Australia named Joey Richter (, the pigment fades at 86 or 87 F (about 30 celsius). You can also order small amounts from RobotShop (, it works at 92 F so needs a bit more heat but also works well.

    Final result is here:

    For the ink as the text beneath I used regular silkscreening ink, I added a bit of white to make it a dark grey tone to blend in more with the image on top. I was working in a lab where we had access to power sprays and sprayed some detergent on the screen to clean it (or you can use a degreaser used to remove emulsion). Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions. Would love to see what you make!


    Reply 2 years ago

    Hello! My girlfriend is doing her final project using thermochromic pigment, and she's having trouble getting it to trigger with touch and body heat. It looks like you've had great success with this, so I was interested in the pigment you used.

    I noticed you mentioned your source, which I appreciate, but you described it as "the best pigment" and I was wondering how you were judging them. Did you try out a few or is this purely based off metrics like transition temperature?

    Thank you, and I think this project is a really beautiful application for thermochromic pigment! It's very similar to what my girlfriend is doing right now (though with a different message I think).