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T-shirt printing - how much detail in a screen print?

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How much detail in a screen print?  Of course, there are lots of factors to take into account:

1. What kind of ink will be used?

Inks for printing onto light or white garments tend to be thinner and can create finer lines, especially when used on a higher resolution screen (which these inks can be). Printing onto dark colours requires thicker water based inks to create an opaque print and may require more than one layer of ink to create that strong colour.  The second layer of ink may create a slightly thicker line so slightly less detail can be achieved.

2. What type of mesh is on the silk screen?

For very finely detailed designs a screen with a higher mesh count (more threads per cm) may be used.  However, higher mesh count screens work best for printing onto light coloured garments using thinner inks and may not always be appropriate.

3. What is the fabric type (substrate)?

A thinner fabric with a smoother surface can take more detail than a thicker fabric or a fabric with a rougher surface.  

4. Are the lines in the design positive, or negative?

If a design is made up of lines, it's easier to print fine lines than if the design is a block of colour with three negative lines (just the T-shirt showing through).  This is especially true of a print that requires more than one layer of ink, as the second layer may start to encroach slighty on the negative space, making a very fine negative line harder to maintain on a long print run.  

5. Font type used

Serif fonts have curly tails with tapered ends, which are more difficult to print well at a smaller size.  Sans serif fonts can be printed at a smaller font size.  


If you can print your design out onto paper (on a standard laser or inkjet printer) at actual print size and the lines are clear, it should be OK screen printed onto most fabrics.  If you're not sure, send over your design by email and we'll be happy to advise.


We LOVE this Hamza Hand print by Wolfe Academy on light heather vests by Continental Clothing. Another great design by Wolfe Academy team Charlotte and Oly and the detail looks great against the flecks of grey. We used two coats of Supercover white ink.

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