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What Mesh Count Should I Use?

Today back into the swing of things we’ll discuss something that every screen printer has dealt with, and usually on a daily basis. That is mesh count. Mesh count, mesh count, mesh count….One of the most important aspects of the screen printing process? Yes. Intimidating? Yes. Does it have to be? No. We’ve broken down everything (mostly) there is to know about mesh count and left you with just the important stuff. Simple, right?

Mesh count is determined by how many polyester threads intersect each other per square inch of the screen.  The higher the mesh count, the smaller the holes become. In the screen printing process, different mesh counts are used for different applications.

The first thing you should consider when choosing a mesh count is how detailed your artwork will be. For example, if your image is simple with not very much detail, if you use a high mesh count screen, you’re more than likely not going to get enough ink through the screen. Likewise, if you have a very detailed image, you certainly don’t want to be using a low mesh count screen, because you’re going to push too much ink through the screen and lose all the detail in your image.

It’s also super important to consider the viscosity of the ink you’re using. Waterbased inks for example, are much thinner than plastisol inks and will require a higher mesh count. Alternatively, if you’re printing with plastisols or white inks, you will want to use a much lower mesh count.

There are a couple of “standard” mesh sizes that are frequently used in the industry. 110 and 160. The former will lay down a good amount of ink, while the latter will lay down a fair amount if ink, but will give you higher detail. 110 mesh is great for block letters, simple one color designs and white underbase printing.

Much lower mesh counts are available and do serve a purpose. 40 & 60 count, for example, are best suited for glitter inks. For crystalina/shimmers, use an 86 mesh. Higher mesh screens, 200 mesh and beyond, are best used for fine detail images and therefore, thinner inks. the higher mesh count helps keep the thin inks from getting onto your shirt. If you’re going for a soft-hand feel with plastisol inks, these higher mesh counts may help. Much less of the thick ink is laid down when printed through a finer mesh, resulting in a thin “layer” or “plate” of ink. Keep in mind, however, that getting a soft-hand feel with this method may forfeit the opacity of your print, so if you’re going for brighter colors, watch for how much ink is being put down onto your shirt. With 200 mesh; graphic, solvent based and water based inks are recommended.

Maybe you’ve shopped around and noticed that many suppliers have different sizes available. Texsource for example, makes it easy to select a mesh count because we only carry the mesh counts that make sense. 200 instead of 196, 160 instead of 156 for example.

Used for prints with the highest level of detail including halftone four color and simulated process prints, you have the 305 mesh. The fine dots used in halftone printing require very high mesh counts in order to print and expose properly. If you use any lower mesh count, the halftones will simply fall through the mesh, leaving you with a muddy image.

Mesh counts higher than 305, 355, 380 and 400 for example, are mostly used for printing with UV inks. these inks are extremely thin and are often used for high detail printing on signs and banners. By using a higher mesh count, the automatic printers used in printing UV inks can control the amount of ink passing through the screen.

One More Thing…

Different mesh sizes hold different amounts of emulsion due to the variations in the mesh’s holes, which can affect your exposure time. A 110 mesh screen will hold much more emulsion than a 305 mesh screen, for example. Although the difference isn’t significant, you will need to adjust your exposure time accordingly for different mesh sizes and because of this, a finer mesh screen will expose faster than a lower mesh screen. Depending on the mesh size, the variation can be 5-10 % in either direction.

Mesh count is a big deal in screen printing, but don’t worry, there are tons of additional resources and information out there when it comes to choosing the right mesh count. It can be easy to get frustrated when your mesh count is too high or too low and ends up ruining your print job, so always be mindful of what ink you’re using and what kind of design you’re printing, and before you know it you’ll be the master of mesh counts.

Just Remember:

  • Mesh count = polyester threads per square inch of screen
  • Detailed artwork = Higher mesh count
  • Simple artwork/Underbase printing = Lower mesh count
  • Most common sizes = 110 & 160
  • 40-60 mesh = glitters
  • Shimmers = 86 mesh
  • Solvent and/or water based inks = 200 mesh
  • UV Printing & Halftones = 305 mesh

We carry a large selection of mesh counts in either wood or aluminum frames of various sizes. To check them out. Click here.

Since 1997, Texsource® has become one of North Americas leading provider of screen printing equipment, supplies & education in addition to serving the sign making and embroidery industries. With a combined 60+ years of knowledge and experience in the screen printing industry, our sales team will make sure you’re taken care of and are equipped for success in the decorated apparel industry. If you’re new to screen printing and are ready to make the jump, or if you’re an industry veteran looking to expand your skillset, we have plenty of classes to choose from covering a wide range of topics. From the very basics of screen printing to specialty printing, waterbased inks, CorelDraw and everything in between, we have classes available at two locations year-round to better serve you!

Let Dwayne give you the run-down on screen mesh count in this video on our Youtube Channel!

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