Learn How To Screen Print With Catspit Productions, LLC
Detail And Halftones Using Higher Mesh Counts

As beginning screen printers, many people start with one or two screens of the same mesh count. Some people buy used equipment with a few screens and may have more than 1 mesh count on hand. Yet other people printing at home may not even be using screen printing mesh. But it is important to understand what the mesh count means and how you can use mesh counts to make printing your designs easier.

We will try not to get technical here at all. But there are certain principles you must understand in order to choose your mesh appropriately for the job you are printing.

Mesh geometry is the description of all two and three dimensional aspects of the mesh construction. The two basic factors in mesh geometry are the mesh count and the thread diameter. The mesh count refers to the number of threads per inch contained in the mesh. The thread diameter refers to the diameter of the thread before it has been woven into the mesh.

It is important to remember that mesh geometry will define the characteristics of the mesh. The mesh opening, mesh thickness and the theoretical ink volume obtainable by the mesh are all determined by mesh geometry.

Mesh geometry affects:

  • Printability of fine detail, lines and halftones
  • Crisp resolution of edges in the design
  • Ink release properties
  • Printing speed in relation to your ink viscosity
  • Ink volume thickness
  • Ink consumption during printing

Please note that this article is geared more for manual screen printing as opposed to automatic screen printing. The same printing application will call for different mesh counts when the job is printed manual or automatic. More specifically mesh opening rather than the mesh count can be the determining factor in automatic screen printing.

Generally, a lower mesh count like 110 will be easier to print with and deposit more ink. But when you want to print fine lines and detail, the 110 mesh becomes difficult to work with. 110 mesh is not the default mesh for textile screen printing. You need to choose the mesh appropriately for your printing application. The emulsion is not able to stay adhered to 110 mesh in finely detailed areas and often produces jagged edges in the final print. And 110 mesh is most always white. White mesh causes the light to bounce off and scatter in the exposure unit when burning your artwork. This can affect your ability to render detail as well. This will always occur with white mesh of any thread count. Having a point source exposure unit is better for fine detail and halftones as well.

An easy way to obtain the detail you want is to move to a higher mesh count like 195 or 230. Once you get to 200 mesh counts and above, they are most often dyed yellow or amber/orange. The mesh is dyed in order to eliminate or reduce the light scattering effect of white mesh. To render fine detail or halftones a dyed mesh is preferred so that stray light is actually absorbed into the dye, rather than bouncing around.

Working with higher mesh counts that are dyed is a little different in a few aspects. It is less forgiving all around.

Some important notes to remember with higher mesh counts and dyed mesh:

  • The dyed mesh will increase your exposure time.
  • Pinholes and premature stencil wear or breakdown can be a problem if the screen is not well prepped for coating with emulsion.
  • The thinner stencil, necessary for fine detail, wears quicker over longer print runs.
  • Higher mesh counts hold less emulsion creating thinner stencils. Strong adhesives like tape can pull the emulsion off of the mesh thus ruining your stencil. Proper mesh prep can eliminate this as well.
  • Halftones need to be created specifically for the mesh count being used to avoid moiré patterns.
  • Higher mesh counts generally cost more.
  • Higher mesh counts are harder to stretch without tearing or popping.

If you choose your mesh appropriately for the artwork you are printing, then you will have an easier time achieving your end goal.

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