A commonly known rule of thumb for screen printing goes something like this: The more detailed the picture is, the more difficult it will be to print. On the flip side of that aphorism is TITO. TITO simply means Trash In, Trash Out. In other words, if you provide your screen printer with a low resolution image to work with, chances are, things are going to come out bad at the other end.
With this article we will attempt to separate fact from fiction, incident from apocrypha, and get down to the brass tacks of what screen printing can do or, as the case may be, what it can’t do.
So how much detail can this thousand year old method of transferring an image onto a substratum capture? For the answer to that, we have to start with the image itself. A professional screen printer will not take one look at a complex picture on a computer screen, scream in terror, and run away. He or she will put a great deal of thought into what needs to be done. Possible outcomes will float through their minds. Rarely will they back down from a challenge, or tell you flat out that it can’t be done.
To quote cartoonist Bill Watterson: Nothing’s impossible! What you will probably be told upon submitting an image more suitable for other methods of printing (such as direct to garment) is that it can indeed be done through the use of a more tightly-knit screen that contains a higher mesh count than standard screens. Mesh count defines how many fibers there are in one square inch of a screen.
The standard mesh count, we might add, is between 110 and 160. This range is quite versatile for most orders and produces excellent results. For high-detail images, however, the mesh count may increase to as many as 280. Just keep in mind that such a tight screen may not permit as much color permeation, which in turn reduces the vibrancy of that color.
The right mesh count for the job
- Low mesh count screens (25-40) are typically used for ink that contains glitter or other sparkly decorations, as these tend to get trapped in tighter screens
- A 60 mesh count permits strong, heavy ink passage for blocky lettering or numbers; sports jerseys often use this grade
- An 80 to 86 mesh count gets used for the printing of large underbases upon which another image will be set
- 110 to 160 has been mentioned above as being the most common and versatile grade for print screens
- As has the 280 count for detailed projects where every tiny nuance matters
Regarding TITO: The ideal resolution for an image—preferably a vector image over a raster one—to be screen printed is 300 dpi. Again, a professional printer with experience beneath his or her belt can provide satisfying results from just about any start point. Do some homework on who knows what, and for how much money.
Today we’ve dispelled a myth or two about the limitations of screen printing Atlanta. Indeed, there’s a reason the craft has been in practice for so many centuries. With patience, care, and a passion for traditional methods, the best artwork comes to us, one layered color at a time.