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Selecting the Right Mesh

(December 1999) posted on Wed Dec 15, 1999

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By Mark Goodridge

"What mesh should we use for this job?" That's a daily question in many screen-printing shops.

Which mesh will best meet the conflicting requirements of ink, design, and garment? Your answer to this question will have a dramatic effect on the printability, appearance, and feel of the designs you print.

Mesh selection is a series of compromises. If you select a coarse mesh, the ink will pass through the screen easily but the ink will be thick and you will be unable to print fine details. If you select a fine mesh, you will have difficulty printing a bright design on dark-colored garments. Furthermore, some types of inks will not print through fine meshes. And these are only a few samples of the many mesh-selection problems available for the textile screen printer to choose from or blunder into. In this chapter, I'm going to provide general guidelines for mesh selection and then list suggestions for common ink/design/garment combinations.

General Mesh Specifications

To start, all the screens you use should be meshed with monofilament polyester fabric. Although other meshes are available for printing garments, monofilament polyester is the best option for strength, durability, controlled elasticity, and reclaimability.

You should use plain-weave mesh rather than twill weave. Twill weave mesh is only found in the higher mesh counts (above 300 threads/in.).

High mesh count fabrics are primarily used to print fine details and halftones. Unfortunately, twill-weave mesh interferes with fine details and causes severe moiré problems.

Polyester mesh is usually available in both standard and low-elongation versions. The term "low elongation" is used to describe mesh that, either because of the chemical structure of the polyester or the way it is processed during and after weaving, or both, will show less loss of tension than standard mesh after it has been properly stretched. Low-elongation mesh is a good investment if you use a tension meter and retensionable frames. Otherwise, save money by buying regular mesh.


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