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Managing Mesh, Ink Film, and Screen Life

(July 2006) posted on Tue Aug 08, 2006

Davis explains why you should resist the temptation to overload your mesh inventory and discusses ways you can make the most of what you already have.

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By Rick Davis

There are two types of garment screen printers when it comes to mesh: those who keep a wide variety of mesh counts on hand and those who get by with three or four mesh counts for the majority of their work. Each approach has its benefits and trade offs.

Printers who have lots of mesh choices benefit from the wide selection, but they also may suffer from additional overhead costs associated with holding excessive inventories. Smaller shops typically make a more conservative assortment of mesh counts work for most of what they do and usually only order specialty meshes on an as-needed basis. They benefit by not having to store lots of mesh, but the lack of a broad mesh selection may slow down turnaround time on a job or make the job impossible to handle. The trick here is to find the happy medium between the two.

Identifying your mesh needs

Printers who are just starting out need to determine which meshes will suit their primary needs. Novice printers who don't already have a working knowledge of the relationship between mesh counts and ink-film thickness will have trouble at first. Printers must consider the types of jobs that account for a majority of the shop's business. These jobs dictate which mesh must be kept in stock.

Identifying the right mesh types for printing on light and dark garments is essential. You'll need mesh that is capable of properly covering a dark substrate, underbase, or high-opacity print, as well as finer mesh counts for light-colored garments and overprints. You'll also have to consider mesh selection in terms of minimizing your ink-film thickness. Careful control of ink film reduces the print's hand and increases ink mileage.

A large facility with automatic presses may stock monofilament polyester meshes in 86, 125, 140, 160, 180, 230, 255, 305, and 420 threads/in., as well as one or two meshes for glitter. Such an inventory really is overkill for all but the biggest garment printers, and that wide array of materials must be managed carefully. Garment printers who use manual presses can get by with the following mesh counts:

• 86 threads/in. for metallics and some special-effect inks

• 125 threads/in. for underbases and high-opacity prints

• 230 threads/in. for overprints and light-colored garments

• 305 threads/in. for fine halftones and photographic reproduction


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