In order to find the perfect screen for the job, don’t just consider what you’re printing – consider what machine you’re printing with!

As we discussed in an earlier blog post, choosing the right screen mesh is very important to achieving quality screen printing results. It’s common knowledge that different mesh counts are more suitable for some jobs than others, but did you know that your screen printing press is a key factor in deciding what mesh to use?

Two of the most important characteristics that define your screen mesh are the mesh count (measured in amount of threads per square inch) and the thread diameter. These are the factors that determine the size of the openings in mesh, through which your ink has to pass as cleanly and evenly as possible to ensure high print quality.

Manual vs. Automatic Screen Printing

When you’re screen printing manually, the biggest question on your mind is probably “Which mesh can I print the fastest and easiest with?” The answer is usually the mesh that lets you put down the most ink without sacrificing print quality – likely a screen with a low mesh count. However, if you’re using an automatic press, muscle fatigue and print stroke consistency are not issues during production. An automatic press doesn’t get tired like a human operator, and it’ll reproduce the same print stroke time after time, allowing you to use screens with higher mesh counts. As a result, your ink deposits will be more uniform, even as mesh count increases.

Boosting Emulsion Performance

In addition to more consistent ink deposits, another benefit of using higher mesh count screens with an automatic press is that your emulsion performance will improve. Mesh with more threads per square inch gives your emulsion a better chance to bond, creating a stronger stencil. As a result, screens with a higher mesh count provide high quality prints with less ink buildup over the course of a print run, and they generally give you a softer hand than with coarser mesh. Mesh technology continues to improve, with more precise square openings and tension memory enhancing halftones and dot-to-dot registration.

Here’s a table that may be helpful in determining what mesh count is right for your print job, depending on whether you’re printing manually or automatically. As with most things in screen printing, there are no hard-and-fast rules, so consider this a general guide. All numbers are in threads per square inch:

PurposeManually use…Try on automatic…
Spot Color125/140156/180

Remember that no two screen printing jobs have exactly the same requirements, so experiment with different screen meshes to find what works best for you. Whatever you try, make sure you maintain records of what works and what doesn’t! You can save yourself valuable time if you know in advance what screens work best with certain jobs.

For more information about finding the right screen mesh for your print jobs, check out this blog post:

Screen Printing 101: Choosing the Right Mesh Count