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Predicting and Managing Dot Gain

(December 2011) posted on Wed Jan 11, 2012

The advice shared here will help you anticipate the dot gain you’ll experience in your garment-printing work and minimize its ne


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By Screen Printing's Solution Sourcebook

Dot gain is the amount that a halftone dot will increase in size during a printing run. All printing of halftone dots creates this spread to some degree; the challenge is to control and manage it to reduce the amount of unpredictable shifts in the finished imprints. The more separation issues you can deal with on the computer, the less you will have to address when it’s time to print T-shirts.

Garment screen printing tends to produce more dot gain than graphics screen printing. The primary cause is the garment’s uneven printing surface. When a halftone pattern is printed onto a woven surface, some of the dots may not make good contact with the fabric, and the ink will remain in the screen. When the next several prints are made, these dots will stack up with new ones and begin to spread out as more ink is pushed through the screen.



If your artwork changes with almost every job, you will need to have flexible methods for estimating and controlling dot gain, with checks and balances in several departments. The best way to manage dot gain in a screen-printing environment is to isolate and control the production variables, then run some print tests to determine when and where dot gain occurs so that your artists can compensate for the gain in the artwork itself.

Production variables
Off-contact impacts dot gain in production the most. If you can control and standardize your off-contact distance to the minimum level necessary for proper ink release, then you can master dot gain. To do so, you must have consistent screen tension, screen leveling, press alignment, press leveling, print pressure (minimum required), flood pressure, and enough experience to adjust for different garment types and printing speeds.


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