Screen printing is a meshy business (see what I did there?).
Too many shops don’t take their screens or mesh as seriously as they should.
I’m not sure where the disconnect is, after all , its is called SCREEN printing, so shouldn’t the screen be treated as the priority? Yes, it should!
And the shops that have come to realize that, are the ones that are getting the results and posting them to instagram that the other shops are seeing and wished they had.
What is screen printing mesh?
It’s made out of woven nylon thread, not silk.
So what do you need to do to better understand your screens? Let’s start with a rundown on what mesh is! First off, mesh is no longer silk…its nylon. So please refrain from calling what you do “silk screening” cause its not anymore, and hasn’t been for a few decades. The mesh is a woven nylon thread. This is meant to be sturdy enough to hold tension, but pliable enough to allow normal printing wear and tear.
What is mesh count?
The biggest and most noticable difference in mesh is going to be what we call “mesh count”. The “Count” is how many threads are in a 1”x1” area. So, for example, a 156 mesh is saying that in every square inch, there are 156 strands of nylon creating opening in you mesh. If that number goes higher, that means they are fitting more threads in that same 1×1” area. Doing that means that the amount of openings in the mesh will increase, however the size of all the openings will decrease. So a 156 has less openings than 230, BUT the 156 has larger openings than the 230.
The other factor that has become much more popular over the last few years is mesh diameter. This is usually the second set of numbers you read when looking at mesh counts , ex: 200-45, means that it is a 200 mesh count, with a 45 micron diameter. These numbers can jump around all over the place, but standard mesh usually has around 60-70 micron diameter, and thin thread meshes have 35-45 on average. Does this actually matter? Yup, sure does. Think about it this way…build a tic-tac-toe pattern with lincoln logs and look down at the openings. Then, build one out of uncooked spaghetti noodles. Same amount of openings, but the spaghetti one has larger openings. So that can make a big difference in what you ink deposit actually looks like. Thin thread mesh has become very popular with people for white inks and underbasing. Having something like a 135 mesh that has thin threads will allow you to hold the details of close to a 156 mesh, but lay down a horizontal spread of ink that is close to what a 110 mesh is. This is great, this means you can cover your shirt fibers evenly and hold line resolution, without having to do multiple hits of white as an underbase. What are the results you ask? MUCH softer prints AND you are going to conserve some of you ink usage and have longer yields on you white underbase inks! Why don’t we just make all mesh that way you ask? Well…..think about that same tic-tac-toe pattern you built (in your head) and karate chop the lincoln logs…it stayed in tact right? Now do it with the uncooked pasta one…yup….it broke. So that is the biggest downfall to thin thread mesh, it WILL pop more frequently. Many shops often times just like to use those mesh counts as there white screens. That being said, a few of the top aware winning shops DO use them for ALL mesh counts, they just understand they will be re-meshing their screens a bit more frequently than standard mesh, but for them, they feel it is worth it.
Now that you know what Mesh count and thread diameter are. Utilize the Mesh Cheat Sheet attached to help you and your staff pick the best screen for the job!