How To Choose The Right Screen Printing Mesh Count For Your Project


Today you can print whatever your heart desires. This can be on any material, from paper, textiles, and plastic, to wood and fleece. That’s the power of the modern screen printing industry and why many are setting up shop.

Key Takeaways

Importance of material types

Each material has a different characteristic. Therefore, different mesh counts are required for different materials in order to produce the best results for specific applications.

Ink usage and the different types

The texture and type of ink will determine what mesh count is required. The ink needs to pass through the correct mesh openings for the print to transfer on to the fabric correctly.

Ink to mesh count ratio

A thinner ink with a larger opening mesh will bleed and blur your design.
Use a higher mess count than required and the ink will transfer thinly. The result: a print that may appear washed out.
Thick ink application with a fine mesh can hinder it from passing through, causing a patched design.

The level of detail of the design depends on the mesh count. For example, did you know with over 355 threads per inch, a resolution of 20 microns cab be achieved – that’s over 20 times finer than a human hair!

Let’s take a closer look at these tips for finding the right mesh count for your artwork!

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    What Is Mesh Count Anyway?

    Although all screen printing equipment works on the same fundamentals, there are differences in screen mesh counts. 

    Numbers typically go from 86 to 355, and you have to know what size your lucky number will be.

    Your mesh count decision depends on the substrate and ink emulsion used.

    Don’t allow small differences between mesh count worry you. The final printed result between 120 and 130 counts will be similar.

    Mesh count is determined by the number of openings (holes) within an inch in any direction. Some prints may require you to use a mesh of a different count than the one you intended.

    A ruler used to determine the number of opening in a mesh within 1 inch square area.
    Take an inch by inch area on your screen and count the opening amounts. This is your mesh count!

    You will learn with time to determine what mesh size is best for your needs. But there are some things to keep in mind, such as the recommendations from the screen printing industry.

    General tip:

    • Lower mesh count = more ink transfer = less detail
    • Higher mesh count = less ink transfer = more detail

    Mesh Count Cheat Sheet

    What if you are in a hurry and want a general guide to which meshes to use for your project? We stress that this is a cheat sheet and is designed as a guide only. 

    Use this as guidance, then tweak things until you are happy with the results.

    • 60 – 90: Ideal for glitter / shimmer inks as these particles can’t pass through finer mesh types.
    • 110: Commonly used when your design requires white plastisol ink (not ideal for water-based inks).
    • 160: Most common count used for a variety of ink types and substrates (if in doubt, try this mesh count).
    • 200 – 240: Used for highly detailed artwork. Great for water based inks on substrates like wood or paper.
    • 280 – 305: Used for very fine detailed artwork like signs and halftones.

    Determine The Purpose of Your Print

    Before starting your screen print, define what kind of print you need first.

    On some occasions, blurry designs are OK. Usually, clothing and fashion products permit blurry edges or lines like a cool, fashioned thing. Others require fine mesh counts, clear illustrations, or content. In both cases, a proper mesh count is essential.

    Take into account, that printing the same image with the exact mesh on paper, a garment, or any textiles won’t yield the same results. The problem is not every material absorbs ink in the same way. In the case of T-shirts or hoodies, they soak more ink. Others, like paper, soak less ink, and some don’t absorb at all, like plastics.

    Finding the correct amount can be challenging, but not daunting!

    Not Every Material Is The Same

    Let’s say you’re having a party. You need invitations, banners, glass wrappers, place cards, balloons, and other decorations from different materials. And, of course, a separate mesh count. How to decide which to use for these jobs?

    Paper invitations

    For printing invitations, you’ll need a higher mesh thread count. This is essential, since fine details are required for the text, lines, or small artistic representations.

    Sizes from 200 to 300 counts are ideal for this. The precise number depends on the quality of paper and how absorbent the underbase is. 

    For example, higher mesh count numbers give you high-detail prints because the threads are closer together. That way, you may need thinner inks to run through the mesh print over the desired areas!


    For decoration, you can use various materials, among which the most common are cotton, silk, and wood. Be careful, those are entirely different mesh counts.

    If you print on wooden, use around 200 mesh count with water-based inks. Don’t use a lower mesh count because they have a larger diameter. The layer of water-based ink is thinner than plastisol, so you don’t want it to bleed through the openings and make a mess. 

    Banners are great for any celebration. But use the wrong mesh count, and you’ll make life difficult. There’s no point using ink that’s not compatible with your printing goals. Inks have different viscosities. You don’t want blurry images and smudged colors. You won’t use thinner inks when you want finer details for celebration and nice glittery decor. Simple. Right?

    For printing puffs or glitter on different textiles, you should purchase glitter inks. These work best with a lower mesh size. There’s a difference between glitter inks and other ink types. They have shiny grains that have to pass through the mesh opening. As a result, the opening must be large enough (lower mesh count). Lower mesh counts and inks with thickness are an excellent combination for your T-shirts, cushions, ribbons, or ties.

    Clothes and textiles

    Screen printing on cotton is very popular and common for T-shirts and cushions. If you want a lovely, colored print with fine details, your choice must be a finer mesh count, like the size up to 200 mesh counts. This size will give you a thick color print and a clear image. Yet, if high-quality print isn’t your end goal, lower mesh counts between 140 and 160 will do the job.

    Ink Types & Their Differences

    Inks have different textures and a diverse range of compatibility with materials and fabrics. Choosing the right one simplifies your screen printing process.

    Let’s look at more information on the types of inks that can be used in screen printing.

    Glitter inks

    Glitter ink deposit requires a lower mesh count so the ink particles can get through the larger openings. The best size for their usage is around 80 mesh counts. Commonly printed glitters are puffs on athletic clothing for sparkle details on clothes or notebooks and birthday cards.

    Water-based inks

    Water-based ink is an excellent choice for simple prints. But carefully, water-based inks tend to dry out quickly on high mesh screens.

    As soon as you start working with water-based ink, exposure to air dries it out. You’ll continually struggle with cleaning high mesh screens for long-time use. Supplies like retarders, which frequently keep ink running smoothly, can help prevent dryness.

    UV inks

    Screen printers that use UV inks work better with a higher mesh count (between 350 and 400). That way, printers can easily control the thin UV ink and give the best outcome on the printed material. They are usually used for printing on plastics.

    What If You Don’t Use The Right Mesh?

    If you miss the mesh count, you won’t be satisfied with the screen printing results, and you’ll probably have to go back to the beginning and, this time, choose the right mesh count.

    So, using the wrong mesh count can inhibit the capacity of the ink to represent the image. These are the things that could happen:

    Blurred print

    A lower screen printing mesh count won’t be able to support an extremely high detail image.

    If you choose a thinner ink and the mesh with larger openings, the ink will flood through the openings and soak into the substrate or your shirt, blurring your design as it bleeds.

    Small ink deposit

    Although you can print with the wrong mesh count and get a good image, the ink deposit might not be solid.

    Using a higher mesh count than needed, you might not store enough ink. The printed ink will be too thin to be long-lasting, or the image may appear washed out.

    On the other hand, you’ll deposit too much ink using a mesh count that is low. The ink deposit will be thick, making the image look messy. This ink might fade or crack in time!


    With thicker inks, using a mesh count that is too fine (up to 300) can hinder the ink from passing through. This causes a patched design.

    With a flowing, water-based ink, using a mesh count that is too low (25–110) might cause too much ink to flow and be unable to set correctly.

    Additionally, while working on a highly detailed design, mesh openings that are too large can cause ink bleeding and a loss of detail.

    When using decorative textures, such as glitter, the finer mesh could result in the mesh becoming stuck. It will make it harder for the paint to attach to the surface.

    Be patient with finding out the right mesh count.

    Try out different materials, combine them with different printing mesh counts and see where your needs fit best.

    Watch this video: Mesh Count for Screen Printing? [05 mins 23 secs]

    To save time, skip to timeline 00:13!

    Author’s Mental Note

    In this article we give guidance as to what is the required mesh count for your print. The mesh count will depend on several factors such as the ink type (viscosity), the material the ink is applied to, and even the level of detail you want your print to come out as.

    General guides are a good starting point, but there is no “exact” mesh count for any situation. There are multiple variables that can be used and often similar results are acquired using different mesh counts.

    Like with any craft, experimentation is key to understanding that craft. What works best will be determined through trial and error.

    It is only a matter of time before you get a “feel” for what works and what doesn’t!

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