Matching Stencil Thickness to Ink Viscosity

Taking One Stroke White to The Next Level

Picking up where we left off last week with matching your emulsion to your film output media. Same concept here; it’s just as important to match the thickness of your stencil with the viscosity of your ink. This is just the next step in the quest for the perfect screen print with maximum efficiency or speed.

After matching your emulsion and film output device the next step is to determine the proper stencil thickness for your inks. Since the most challenging ink to print is white I recommend starting there. Depending on the thickness or viscosity of the white ink and the amount of pigment content I recommend using a mesh count between 110 – 125. However, there will always be jobs where the white screen mesh is contingent on the amount of detail in the design. In such cases you might need a higher mesh like a 156 or 195. Anyways, back on track; if your white is thick or has a very high viscosity I recommend going with a 110 and a nice thick stencil. If your white has a lower viscosity I like a little more resistance from the mesh so a 125 or 156 will do the trick depending on how low the viscosity is. However, even when I mesh up to accommodate a white with a lower viscosity I still prefer a nice thick stencil.

The stencil thickness can be difficult to get right. You have to find a good balance between getting a thick enough stencil and maintaining your wash out image clarity.

I won’t give up anything about the coating procedure for getting a nice thick stencil for two reasons:

  1. Controlled testing is the only way to match your emulsion thickness and white ink to your film output device and printing press.
  2. If I give away too much information it might reduce the value of any consulting services that we might be providing in the future. (semi funny but also kind of serious)

Once your able to get the correct stencil thickness and pair your white with the perfect squeegee you’ll be able to print industry best white without losing any production speed. Are you spending a lot of time double stroking or running your print heads slow with significant angle to get a nice white and mat down those pesky shirt fibers? If so, I recommend that you spend some time re-working your processes.

If you want to keep your production speed up and maintain a high level of quality with maximum efficiency you will need to do some kind of testing. You can do the testing yourself and hope for the best or you can call a seasoned vet also known as a consultant and let them troubleshoot your issues.

I’ve found that in house testing works the best since you’re custom tailoring the process to produce the results your clients prefer. If you bring in the wrong consultant you might end up worse off than when you started. Everyone has products they like (bias) and having someone push the wrong products onto your process just makes a mess.

I hope that you find some value in this content. Feel free to contact me with any additional questions about screen coating, selecting squeegees, fiber mat down or white ink at Ben@shirtshackia.com.

Ben Kremer

Vice President at The Shirt Shack Inc.
Screen Print Enthusiast
Print Engineer and Production Artist