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The Reality of Screen Mesh in Screen Printing

The Reality of Screen Mesh in Screen Printing

Screen printing isn't an exact science, but using the right materials and tools for your screen printing project is important. If you're new to screen printing, or if you haven't had much training, one of the subjects that you may be unfamiliar with is screen mesh count and mesh sizes.

Using a screen with the right mesh count can help you achieve the look that you're envisioning for your screen printing project. Using the wrong mesh count could lead to missing details, poor image quality, more misprints, wasted materials and ink, and overall poor results in your printing project. Here's what you need to know. 

How Does Screen Printing Work?

In case you're very new to the screen printing process, we're going to explain a few things about screen printing. This information will help you understand what we're talking about when we discuss screen printing mesh in later sections of this article. If you already feel familiar with screen printing, you can skip this section and move on to the next. 

Screen printing starts with a drawing or design. A negative of the design is printed onto a screen that has been covered in a layer of light-sensitive emulsion. The green areas of the screen remain impassable by ink, while the negative is ink-penetrable.

The screen is laid over a paper, t-shirt or some other printable surface (this can even be wood or metal). The printmaker uses a squeegee to roll ink over the screen, and then push or pull the ink through the ink-penetrable parts of the screen. Ink is pushed through the screen holes, producing a design on the surface beneath the screen. After this, the paper or printable surface is set aside to dry. 

What Is Screen Mesh Count?

The mesh count of the screen is like the thread count for your sheets at home. The higher the count, the more threads per square inch in the screen. So, for example, a 200 mesh screen has 200 threads per square inch. Higher counts correspond to smaller holes in the screen, and more of them. 

Why Does Screen Mesh Count Matter?

Screen mesh counts determine the amount of ink that will pass through the screen onto the surface being printed. Screen mesh counts also control the level of detail that you can achieve in your design. 

Screens with high counts have many small holes. High count screens are used to create a very detailed and precise image. Meanwhile, screens that have a lower thread count have fewer holes, and the holes are larger. These screens are used to create images with fewer details. 

Match the Mesh to the Ink

The type of ink you're using for your project is another factor to consider when choosing a mesh screen. Some ink is very thick - too thick to be pushed through the tiny holes in a fine thread count screen. Meanwhile, some types of ink contain big particles, like glitter, and require bigger holes. 

But Don't Be Too Picky

Beginning printmakers often become needlessly caught up in the mesh count of their screens, agonizing over two screens of relatively similar mesh count. A 195 screen and a 200 screen are similar enough that the difference is too minimal to detect. If the difference in the mesh size is greater than 10 or 20, then the difference will be more pronounced.

Which Screen Count is Right For You?

While it's impossible to make any chart that shows which screen is best used for every situation, the following rules of thumb can help you choose the screen with the right mesh count for your project. Over time, you'll develop an instinctive understanding of which mesh sizes are best for your project.

1. 20 to 40 mesh count screens: These screens have a very coarse mesh count - so coarse that you can easily see through the holes between the threads. 20 to 40 count screens are used for glitters, shimmers and inks with high density. Glitters must be used on screens with mesh of this type, as glitter will become caught in finer screens.   

2. 60 mesh count screens: 60 mesh count is still very coarse, which allows for a great deal of ink but not ink with large particles, like glitter. 60 mesh count screens are typically used for jerseys and t-shirts with block letters. 

3. 86 mesh count screens: This coarse mesh provides for high opacity, heavy ink deposit. Typically, this mesh count is used to print white ink onto dark fabric. Often, you'll see these screens used when printing athletic shirts. 

4. 110 mesh count screens: This is a multi-purpose screen with a medium coarseness. This screen is considered the ultimate screen for various purposes, allowing for some level of detail while also allowing for different colors to pass through, including white. 110 mesh count screens can be used to print large, bold shapes and text. 

5. 156 mesh count screens: This mesh is medium coarseness, but allowing for finer detail than 110 mesh count screen. Use this type of screen to print images onto light fabrics with a medium ink deposit. This type of screen will allow for a medium amount of detail. 

6. 180 to 200 mesh count screens: These screens are used to print detailed, light images on dark fabrics and dark backgrounds.

7. 200 to 240 mesh count screens: This fine mesh is perfect for images with high levels of detail. These screens are considered good for printing onto white or light-colored surfaces.  

8. 305 and higher mesh count screens: These very fine mesh count screens are used to produce an extreme amount of detail. You can use these screens for fine halftone four-color processes. 

Know Which Mesh Sizes Are Right For You? We're Your Source for Screen Printing Mesh

If you know which type of screen printing mesh is right for you, then you've come to the right place. To order your screen printing mesh in varying mesh sizes, contact Total Ink Solutions. With attentive customer service and good quality products, we can help you get started with your screen printing project. 

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