How do I pick the right mesh count for my design?
A few factors will determine which mesh count is right for the job. The first factor you should keep in mind when choosing a mesh size is how detailed your image is. For example, your image has extremely high detail, a low mesh screen simply wouldn’t hold the detail. The fine lines or dots in the image would fall through the holes in the mesh, leaving you with a poor representation of what your image should be. If you have a low detail image and you use too high of a mesh count, you’ll run into issues of not getting enough ink to lay down on the shirt. The other important factor to keep in mind would be the thickness of the ink. Thinner inks, such as water-based ink, generally require a higher mesh count. If too low of a mesh count is used, then the thin ink could potentially flood through the larger holes, soaking your garment with more ink than intended. Flooding your garment would make your image blurry as the ink bleeds. On the other hand, if you’re trying to print with a thicker ink, such as plastisols or white inks, you’ll want to consider lower mesh counts. Too high of a mesh count and you may run into an issue with inks not easily wanting to pass through the mesh, which could lead to opacity and coverage issues. Besides those factors, here's a summary on each mesh count and their uses:
- Standard mesh sizes are 110 and 156. They lay down a fairly thick layer of ink, making it great for block text and larger spot color designs. It's also recommended to use these mesh counts for an underbase because you only have to do one pass.
- Low mesh counts consist of anything below 110. These meshes are mainly used for speciality printing like glitter or shimmer inks. These inks are made special to have flakes of glitter in them to give the desired look. These flakes can get caught in the mesh of your screen if your mesh count is too high, and none going onto the shirt itself. Glitter inks have larger, more obvious flakes to them, while shimmer inks will have smaller particles to give a more subtle look. A mesh size of 36 is ideal for glitter inks, though you can go up to a 64 mesh. For shimmers, an 86 mesh is recommended.
- High mesh counts, 200 and above, are most often used for finer detailed images and thinner inks. Graphic, discharge, and water-based inks should be printed through screens of this mesh size. The higher mesh count helps to keep the thinner inks from flooding onto your shirt. If you would like to get a softer hand feel to your plastisol prints, these higher mesh counts can help as well. Mesh counts as high as 305 are best for fine halftone jobs and simulated process prints.
If you'd like to learn more about mesh counts, please read this article.