Screen Printing Mesh Count – How To Determine The Right One

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Today you can print whatever you want, on any material you imagine, from paper, textiles, and plastic, to wood and fleece. That’s the power of the modern screen printing industry.

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 that specific material.

Ink usage and the different types

The texture and type of ink will determine what mesh count is needed for the job. Essentially, the ink type has to be able to pass through the correct mesh type so your printing can be transferred on to the fabric correctly.

Ink to mesh count ratio

A thinner ink with a mesh with larger openings will blur your design as it bleeds.
Using a higher mess count than required means the ink will transfer too thinly and may appear washed out.
A thick ink with a fine mesh can hinder the ink from passing through properly, causing a patched design.

But if you want to print correctly, you must understand how printing actually works and how to adjust your screen printer to do what you need. 

Let’s find the right mesh count for your best printing results. 

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    What Is Mesh Count Anyway?

    You must know that there are different mesh counts. Although all screen printers work in a similar fundamental way, there are differences in screen mesh counts.

    Numbers go from 25 to 280, an extensive range of usage, and you have to know what size your lucky number will be.

    Mesh count depends on the fabric and ink type being used.

    Don’t let the small differences between the mesh counts worry you because the final printed result will be the same with 120 and 130 mesh counts.

    The mesh count size is determined by looking up the number of mesh threads per inch of the screen. Some printings may require you to use a mesh of a different size than the one you intended.

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

    Determine the purpose of your printing

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

    On some occasions blurry image is ok. Usually, the clothing and fashion items permit blurry edges or lines like a cool, fashioned thing. Others will require fine mesh counts, clear illustrations, or text. In both ways, you have to use a proper mesh count.

    Printing the same image with the exact mesh count on paper, a T-shirt, or any textiles won’t yield the same results. Not every material absorbs ink in the same way. Some of them – like T-shirts or hoodies, soak more, others – like paper, soak a thinner layer of ink, and some don’t absorb at all – like plastics.

    Finding the correct amount can be challenging but not unapproachable.

    Not every material is the same

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

    Paper

    For printing invitations for your party, you’ll need a higher mesh count since you’ll need fine detail for the text, lines, or small artistic details.

    So, size from 200 to 300 mesh counts is ideal for this. The precise number depends on the quality of paper you want. The higher rate you need, the higher the mesh count is. Higher mesh count numbers give you high-detail prints because the mesh openings are thickened, and the ink can’t pass. That way, you can use thinner inks, get invitations, and place cards perfectly.

    Decor

    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 decor, use around 200 mesh counts with water-based inks because they leave the best trace on the material. Don’t use lower mesh count because they have larger openings, and you don’t want the ink bleeds through the openings and make a mess of the print layout.

    Banners are great for any celebration, but they will be a disaster if you use the wrong mesh count. There’s no point using ink that won’t be compatible with your printing goals. Inks have very different viscosities, so it is essential to use a good one. We’re sure you don’t want blurry images and smudged colors, so you won’t use thinner inks when you want finer details for celebration and nice glittery decor. So simple. Right?

    For printing puffs or glitter on different textiles, you should use glitter inks which give you the best performance with a lower mesh size. Glitter inks are a little bit different from the other types of ink – they have shiny grains that have to pass through the mesh opening. Therefore the opening must be larger, that is, the mesh count size is lower. Lower mesh count and thicker ink deposit are an excellent combination for your T-shirts, cushions, ribbons, or ties.

    Clothes and textile

    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 the high-quality print isn’t your goal, the lower mesh counts like the ones between 140 and 160 will do the job.

    Types of inks

    Inks have different textures and a diverse range of compatibility with materials. Choosing the right ink makes your screen printing process easier and faster.

    Let’s see what types of inks you can use 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, the air contacts the mesh and dries it out. You’ll continually struggle with cleaning high mesh screens for long-time use. Supplements 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 probably deposit too much ink using a mesh count that is too low. The ink deposit will be very thick, making the image look messy. This ink might fade, and you probably won’t be able to fix it consistently.

    Spoilage

    With thicker inks, using a mesh count that is too fine (up to 300) can hinder the ink from passing through the mesh, leading to 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 the bleeding of the ink and 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.

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