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How to Achieve High Resolution Prints in Screen Printing?

How to Achieve High Resolution Prints in Screen Printing?

How can you make your prints look crisper, high resolution, sharper edges, cleaner print, less dizziness, and more detail? Many variables in screen printing determine the proper print quality, such as fabrics, squeegee, mesh count, screen size, emulsion, and artwork. At the same time, the artwork is a specific subject. It may be a simple or complex one. Further, a brilliant artwork is only worth it if you have the right screen printing variables. Again, the ink has the least contribution in determining your print quality—all it depends upon how to utilize the ink with the right screen printing variables. So, let us discuss each in detail.

5 Tips Achieve High-Resolution Prints in Screen Printing:

It is not only the ink responsible for achieving high-resolution prints in screen printing. Ink plays the least role in achieving good prints. Therefore, follow the essential steps below:-

1. Squeegee:

What is the best squeegee size & durometer to use for screen printing? There are three durometers squeegee. They are 60, 70, and 80 durometers. Where 60 is the softest and 80 is the hardest. In contrast, the squeegee color varies with the brand. It doesn’t have to anything with its quality or benchmark.

So what is the best durometer squeegee to use in screen printing? The answer is, there is not necessarily any particular squeegee to be the best. So, a lot of screen printing suppliers and people will tell you to use 70 durometers.

But the truth is that we choose squeegee based on the print job. 60 durometer squeegee being soft will print more ink with less detail. And when the squeegee gets harder, like the 80 durometers, you will print less ink with more detail.

For instance, if you were printing a black halftone on a white shirt, you might go with an 80 durometer squeegee. Further, if you are printing white ink on a black shirt, you might go with a 60 durometer.

But in the middle of the road, the general 70 durometer squeegee is an all-purpose that works well for many different things.

Squeegee size:

The other thing is squeegee size. Do people ask what the best size is? Is it a 16-inch squeegee used for everything? And the answer is that you probably could use a 16-inch squeegee, however, it is probably not going to be that convenient as you may need to push a lot of ink. Further, it will also increase the stencil track.

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So, we try to reduce the stencil track using a squeegee of the appropriate size for the artwork. For instance, if your artwork is 10 inches, an 11-inch squeegee is ideal for the design. That is to say; the squeegee should be 1/2 an inch over each side of the design, which would be the ideal size.

To sum up:

  • If you print on multiple substrates, 60 or 70 durometer squeegee is an ideal one. Whereas if you are specific to printing on a substrate with a detailed or complex design, 80 is perfect. Further, 80 durometer squeegee is suitable for printing on posters and related signage products as it requires low volume ink in high detail.
  • Again the squeegee size. It should be half an inch bigger from both sides than the total length of the design. So, if it is a 5-inch design, a 6-inch squeegee would be ideal for it.

2. Fabrics:

To achieve a higher print resolution, the substrate has a lot to do with that. We assume that you begin printing on the t-shirt. Tees with loose or wide-open knits, it is difficult to achieve sharp prints.

Therefore, shirts with fine tight-knit surfaces like Hanes tees are a good surface to achieve high-resolution prints.

While if we talk about the screen printer’s choice, then ringspun natural cotton fabrics come in the first place. Because they readily absorb more ink than other man-made fabrics like polyester. Nowadays, it has become easy to print on 100% polyester garments provided if you are using special inks and additives.

3. Mesh Count:

What is the best mesh count to use for screen printing? With plastisol inks, we use the lowest mesh count possible that you can render the artwork. That is to say, if you couldn’t achieve a high-resolution print of the painting on 110 mesh, jump up to 130 mesh. If you can’t get it, then move to 160. If the image renders on 160, then that is the right mesh count for that artwork.

Correct mesh count depends upon the artwork and its detail. And it is liable to vary from one to another. Therefore, all you have to do is perform a couple of experiments and record results for future reference.

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Especially plastisol inks are thick. So, try using the lowest mesh count possible. Whereas water-based inks are thinner, and we tend to use a higher mesh count like 160. Most importantly, mesh count depends upon the thickness of the ink. If the ink is runny, you may require a 200 mesh count. The best mesh count is one with which you can render the artwork perfectly in detail.

To sum up:

  • The best mesh count for your print job is the one that you can render the artwork perfectly. When the mesh count is higher than required, you work hard to print the ink. However, if the mesh count is too low, it results in printing too much ink that blurs the print through flooding.
  • Secondly, if the ink is thick like the plastisol, use a lower mesh count, whereas for thin inks like water-based, use a higher mesh count.

4. Screen Size:

What is the frame size to use for screen printing? There are a lot of small wood screens that you can find at the art and craft stores. So, you may find very small eight by 10 or 12 by 14 wood screens, and Speedball has been the most common one.

But when we are talking about commercial screen printing, we usually use a 20 by 24 screen. We use big frames for the big screen as it allows us to place the artwork in the right spot. So, if we are using tiny little screens only 10 inches long, it will not have space to put the design in the right place. You can freehand with these bit of small screens, but they will not work very well with the manual screen printing press.

So, a 20 by 24 screen is ideal or standard for a manual rotary screen printing machine. If you use an automatic screen printing press, then a 23 by 31 inches(outer dimensions) screen is the standard one.

5. Emulsion:

We coat our screens with emulsion so that they become photosensitive to create the stencil. When the artwork printed transparency positive gets embedded onto the screen due to emulsion, it is called a stencil.

There are two significant types of emulsion. They are:

5.1. Photo-polymer emulsion:

The photopolymer emulsion is premixed with the sensitizer/activator. It doesn’t require you to perform this step while screen printing. Moreover, it has a long self-life, fast exposing, and great for high production. However, it may face some difficulties printing halftones. As a preventive measure, you may increase the image DPI to hold fine halftones. Further, phot polymer emulsion can have higher solid content, and it has a nice build-up on the screen. Overall, photopolymer emulsions are great to have for large productions.

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5.2. Diazo emulsion:

Diazo emulsions are less expensive, and you can print detailed images, especially the halftone work. It also allows you to have a little more room for error. If you underexpose the diazo emulsion, the chances are that you still have a great screen. However, it takes a longer time(3 times longer) to expose screens than photopolymer emulsion. But it all pays off because you achieve greater detail.

Further, the diazo emulsion is not premixed. That is to say; it requires mixing an activator/sensitizer before you apply it onto screens. While this is not the case with photopolymer as it comes premixed. On the downside, diazo emulsions have a short self-life which is nearly about three months. So, you have to use it before it expires.

To sum up:

If you want good halftone prints with great detail, go with the diazo emulsion. Otherwise, photopolymer emulsions are great for other high-volume productions with a long self.

Conclusion:

To achieve a good quality print with high resolution, it is most important to follow the technique, tension, mesh count, screen size & frame, off-contact, squeegee, and the last one is ink. Because you can work with different ink and obtain good results, it won’t be a significant concern to achieve high-quality prints, and it varies with the type of substrate and artwork.

Written by Davis Brown

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