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How to Make Thermal Paper

By Isaiah David

Thermal paper is paper that reacts to heat, turning black or dark blue instantly. It is a cheap and simple form of printing if you need only one color, which is why it is used for printing receipts. Although the actual recipe for professional thermal paper is a closely guarded secret, any kitchen chemist can make a home-brewed variety that works nearly as well. The key ingredient is sugar, which turns into carbon when heated.

In a bowl, make a mixture of 12 parts warm water and 4 parts sugar until it dissolves. Add 1 part white glue, and mix some more.

Wet the paper. Different papers do well with different amounts of moisture. You can either dunk it in the bowl or lightly brush each side with a paintbrush dipped in the mixture. Wet it evenly.

Wring excess water out of the paper. Place it on a sheet of paper towel and lightly roll it with a rolling pin. Then, peel it off the paper towel. With delicate paper, you may want to skip this step.

Hang the thermal paper to dry. Place it over a clothes hanger until it is dry to the touch.

Heat screwdrivers or nails briefly over a burner, then draw on the paper.

About the Author

Isaiah David is a freelance writer and musician living in Portland, Ore. He has over five years experience as a professional writer and has been published on various online outlets. He holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan.