Screen Printing Frames
How to Choose the Right Screen Mesh Size
For newer screen printers, choosing the right screen mesh count often presents the most concern and confusion. Because of that we have put together some tips on choosing the correct screen mesh.
Screen Mesh Count Basics
Understanding screen mesh count begins with understanding what the count means. The mesh count indicates how many fibers there are in one square inch of the screen, so a 160 mesh count screen has 160 fibers in one square inch of the screen. Lower mesh count screens have larger openings that allow more ink to flow through, while higher mesh count screens allow for finer details in your printing but with less of a coating of ink.
Experience will help you determine which mesh counts you prefer to use on individual projects, but there are some guidelines that will help you get started with using different mesh counts.
- 25 to 40 mesh count screens are ideal for glitter or shimmer inks, as these inks contain particles that can't pass through finer mesh.
- 60 mesh count allows for a heavy ink deposit. It's often used for block numbers and letters on athletic jerseys
- 80 to 86 mesh count is often used when making heat transfers, printing heavy underbases and when using some specialty inks, such as puff ink.
- 110 to 160 mesh count screens are the most versatile and the most commonly used in manual screen printing. Screens on the lower end of the mesh count spectrum put down heavier ink deposits and are ideal for printing an underbase bold colors on dark fabrics. At the higher end of the mesh count spectrum, you can print a more detailed image while maintaining a fair ink deposit.
- 180 to 200 mesh counts are perfect for printing somewhat detailed images in light inks on dark fabrics.
- 230 to 280 mesh count screens will deliver detailed prints with a softer hand feel; however, because they allow for lighter ink deposits, prints created with these fine screens won't be as bright or vivid.
Other Considerations When Choosing a Screen Mesh Count
When you're experimenting with different mesh counts in your screen printing, there are some other considerations to bear in mind. First, screens of different densities will hold varying amounts of emulsion, with lower mesh counts holding more. That means that when you're using a lower mesh count screen, you'll have to expose your screens longer to allow the emulsion to properly set.
Also, if you're printing with water-based inks, the ink will dry out faster on finer screens. To combine that, you might want to add a retarder to your water-based ink to keep the ink transferring and your job moving.
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