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Troubleshooting Common Screen Printing Issues: How to Fix Bleeds, Mesh Stains and More

Posted by Jeffrey Gononsky on

Imagine you've carefully prepared your design, your silk screen printing screens are impeccably stretched, and your workspace is perfectly set up. You're ready to create something extraordinary. Then, halfway through, something unexpected happens - your prints aren't coming out as you envisioned.

The colors are off, or the design appears blurry. What went wrong?

Well, the world of screen printing ink is full of such surprises, and encountering issues is a part of the journey. Whether it's due to mesh stains, bleeds, or other hitches, troubleshooting these common screen printing issues can be a bit of a challenge, especially for beginners.

But don't let these hurdles dampen your enthusiasm. Each problem has a solution, and once you understand the cause of these mishaps, you can easily fix them and continue creating beautiful prints. This article will guide you through some of the most common screen printing issues and provide effective solutions to keep your prints clean, crisp, and exactly how you imagined them.

1. Screen Printing Bleeds

Bleeding is a common issue where the ink spreads beyond the intended area on the substrate, causing blurred or fuzzy edges. It often results from the overuse of ink, incorrect off-contact distance, or a loose substrate.

The Solution:

Achieving a screen print without bleeding requires attention to a few key aspects. First, ensure you are using an adequate amount of ink. Overloading can result in seepage and consequently, screen printing bleeds.

Secondly, adjust the off-contact distance. A proper off-contact ensures the screen only touches the substrate during the print stroke, preventing ink from being pushed too far into the fibers. Finally, keep the substrate securely fixed during the printing process.

2. Mesh Stains

Another common problem faced in the screen printing process is mesh stains. These stains are often remnants of old ink or emulsion that block the open areas of the mesh.

This issue can impede your design's clarity, as blocked areas won't allow the ink to pass through correctly. This problem is common but avoidable with proper screen maintenance.

The Solution:

To prevent mesh stains, it's vital to thoroughly clean your silk screen printing screens after each use. Using a high-quality screen wash or ink cleaner can help remove stubborn ink. It's recommended to follow this process with an emulsion remover to ensure all residues are completely eliminated.

When performed regularly, this routine can promote easy screen printing by maintaining your screens in optimal condition and help prevent common screen printing issues like mesh stains.

3. Incorrect Silkscreen Printing Ink Usage

Ink-related issues often arise due to either incorrect ink selection or improper handling. Inadequate curing, poor washability, and issues with ink adhesion are some problems that can stem from incorrect ink usage.

The Solution:

When it comes to ink, it's essential to choose the right type of silkscreen printing ink based on your substrate. Plastisol inks work well for fabrics, while water-based inks are suitable for paper, wood, and other absorbent materials. Also, ensure that the ink is properly mixed and stored, and that you're curing the ink correctly post-printing.

4. Screen Tension Issues

Screen tension issues often arise from using worn-out or poorly stretched screens. These problems can cause inaccurate colors and blurred or distorted images. A low-tension screen can also make it challenging to lift the screen off the substrate after printing, which can lead to blurred images.

The Solution:

The key to avoiding screen tension issues is to ensure your silk screen printing screens are appropriately stretched and frequently tested for tension. This task can be easily achieved using a tension meter.

Remember, a properly stretched screen is vital for high-quality prints and contributes to making screen printing an easy and enjoyable process. If you notice a considerable drop in tension over time, it might be time to restretch or replace your screens to avoid screen printing mistakes.

5. Emulsion Breakdown

Emulsion breakdown is another screen printing issue that can cause a lot of headaches, especially for newcomers to the field. If the emulsion breaks down during the printing process, the designs can be blurred, or the ink might bleed beyond the intended design. This issue often occurs when the emulsion is not correctly cured or when using an ink or a cleaning product that's too aggressive for the emulsion.

The Solution:

Properly exposing and curing your emulsion is the first step to prevent emulsion breakdown. Make sure to provide enough time for the emulsion to dry and harden before you begin printing.

Additionally, always ensure you're using the right type of ink and cleaning products compatible with your emulsion. Following these steps can help you screen print without bleeding and maintain the clarity and sharpness of your designs.

6. Incomplete Ink Coverage

One common issue that can frustrate many new screen printers is incomplete ink coverage. It appears as if the ink did not fully transfer onto the substrate, leaving parts of the image faint or absent. This issue often arises due to an improperly flooded screen, not using enough ink during the print stroke, or uneven pressure during printing.

The Solution:

To achieve easy screen printing without the problem of incomplete ink coverage, ensure that your screen is correctly flooded before each print stroke. Flooding the screen is the process of moving ink across the screen with a squeegee without making a print. It prepares the screen for the next print stroke by filling the design areas of the screen mesh with ink.

Also, use an appropriate amount of ink during the print stroke, and apply even pressure throughout. Practicing the print stroke can also lead to more consistent results.

7. Pinholes

Pinholes are tiny spots in the emulsion where ink can pass through, creating unwanted dots on your prints. They are often a result of dust or debris on your screens before coating them with emulsion, or they may occur if the emulsion is not properly dried or exposed.

The Solution:

An easy way to prevent this screen printing mistake is by ensuring your work environment is clean before you start. Allowing the coated screen to dry in a dust-free area can keep pinholes at bay. Additionally, make sure that the emulsion is thoroughly dry before exposure, and that your exposure time is correctly set for the type of emulsion you're using.

Perfect Your Screen Printing Journey

After exploring the common screen printing issues and understanding the importance of using quality materials, you are now better equipped to navigate the exciting realm of screen printing ink. However, remember that it's not only about fixing issues. It's also about preventing them.

High-quality supplies from reputable sources, like Holden's Screen Supply, can help you maintain the pristine condition of your silk screen printing screens and prevent issues before they occur. Experience the difference of our world-renowned products and let us guide you towards easy, effective screen printing.

Ready to print without bleeding and say goodbye to mesh stains? Contact us today!