The Importance of Mesh Size for Screen Printing

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If you have read anything about screen printing you have probably noticed that people refer to their screens with a mesh size. A mesh size refers to the number of threads per inch the fabric that makes up the screen has. A screen printing screen is essentially small nylon fabric cords interlaced horizontally and vertically on a wood or metal frame. The lower the mesh size, the larger the holes in the fabric will be. These holes are what your ink will pass through to get onto your shirt. You can see that these gaps will be much like pixels in a digital picture. Using higher and lower mesh counts have different used. They also have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Purposes of Higher Mesh Counts

A higher mesh count will provide a higher level of detail. The smaller holes and threads that are closer together will be able to hold more emulsion and better control the amount of ink that passes through. You will be able to create images will smaller “islands” (places where is the emulsion is alone, not connected to other piece of the artworks negative image.) The high level detail makes it suitable for smooth surfaces such as glass, ceramic, metal, concrete and wood.

Another advantage of using higher mesh sizes are that is will take less paint for you to screen your image on the surface. You will be able to use up to 30% less ink. Also, printers use this method to reduce the presence of ink on the shirt. You may notice that on screen printed t-shirts the places that have been inked are stiff or crisp. Using less ink will make the image feel as though there is nothing there, the fabric will be uniform.

Disadvantage of Higher Mesh Counts

The main disadvantage of using denser screens are that not all inks are compatible. Using some paints will clog the screen and you will not be able to reclaim it. When choosing ink to use for a project, be sure to read the label for information referring to its compatibility with particular mesh sizes.

Photo emulsion sheets are screen printing pages that are mesh screens pre-coated with light sensitive gel. They come in to size. The 110 mesh is the low thread count and is suitable for fabric or other porous material. The 200 thread count is best for glass and other smooth surfaces.

write by Terry Apfel

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