Choosing the Right Mesh and Halftone Dot

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Monofilament mesh is the product you will see in nearly all screen printing shops today. As the term mono would infer, this mesh is composed of single polyester threads woven together.

The different mesh numbers are determined by mesh count. This is the number of threads per inch in your mesh fabric. Lower mesh counts (fewer threads per inch) translates to more ink lay down. So, an 86 mesh will lay down more ink than a 305 mesh. Different inks, different substrates, our graphic, the color of our garment, all impact the mesh count we use.

The Right Mesh for the Right Job

The mesh you choose will depend on 1.) the ink you choose to use, 2.) the garment you plan to print, and 3.) the graphic going on that garment.
Below are some basic recommendations based on inks and images:

  • 30 Mesh: Glitter or Crystallina
  • 60 Mesh: Athletic Print (football jerseys for example)
  • 86 Mesh: Heavy Ink on Dark Garments, Puff Ink, Plastisol Transfers
  • 110 Mesh: Underbase for Heavy Block Letters or Artwork
  • 156 Mesh: General Prints on Light Garments
  • 196 Mesh: Multi-color Prints on Light Garments, Jackets
  • 230 Mesh: Underbase for Simulated Process, Suede Ink
  • 305 Mesh: Process Inks for Light Garments, Simulated Process Overprints

Don’t let the list overwhelm you. In the average screen printing shop, you will have maybe five different mesh counts on hand, depending on the markets in which you sell.

Numbers May Not Match
The numbers you see above are common in the industry, but you might very well see numbers that are slightly different. For instance, your supplier might tell you they sell 158 mesh, and not 156. As long as you are very close, it’s all the same.

The reason for the close-but-different numbers is in the fact that mesh is manufactured in Europe and Asia. Since these products are made outside the U.S., they are measured in metric numbers and not inches. When the mesh is imported, the numbers are recalculated and the product relabeled. So, some numbers will be off by a one or two, but the products are virtually the same.

The Halftone/Mesh Formulas

Halftone dots are used to either offer the perception of a shade of the color you are printing, or to blend colors in process printing or simulated process printing. Since we are printing small dots, we must use the proper mesh count that will hold these dots and allow us to print them. Here’s how we determine both the mesh and the halftone dots we can hold and print.

Let’s start with the halftone dot. To determine the proper mesh to use with a particular dot, we multiply by 4.5.

Dot Size x 4.5 = Mesh Count

For example, let’s say we have artwork with 35 LPI (lines per inch) dots:

35 LPI x 4.5 = 157.5 Mesh Count

Your mesh needs to be at least 157.5 or higher to hold you 35 LPI halftone dots. 156 mesh is close enough. In fact, some instructors will tell you to use 4 rather than 4.5 as your multiplier, so there’s some wiggle room when doing this calculation.

Now, let’s assume we have a limited number of screens available, and for this job today the highest mesh count we have on hand is a 196. We can reverse our formula and divide mesh count by 4.5 to determine the maximum dot size we can hold and print on this screen.

Mesh Count / 4.5 = LPI

As another example:

196 Mesh Count / 4.5 = 43.5 LPI

The smallest dot we can print on our 196 mesh will be approximately 43.4 LPI.

Using the proper mesh is half the battle in screen printing. When it comes to printing halftone dots, proper mesh will be 90% of our production floor battle.

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