1. Q: How do I get my image on the screen?
    A: A film positive is created from a digital art file. That film positive carries the image to your screen. Your screen is coated with photo emulsion in a "light-safe" area. The film is then applied to your coated screen and a light is turned on for a duration of time to expose the image. That light hardens the emulsion everywhere, except for where the black image is located on the film positive. The screen is then developed with water. The water carries any emulsion that has remained soft out of the screen to reveal open mesh. Anywhere light comes through the screen is where ink will come through.
  2. Q: How long will my screen last?
    A: Depends if you poke a hole in it before you get home with it. It also really depends on how often you use it. An aluminum frame will last forever unless you run it over with your car. Wood frames will warp over time and mesh will inevitably lose tension over time. But, so long as you don't do any major physical damage, your screen should last for years.
  3. Q: How long should I expose my screen for?
    A: Because of the ever changing variables from shop to shop, you're going to have to test. You could make an uneducated guess on every screen for the next six months and keep your fingers crossed, or you could do one of two things. Thing one, administer a step-wedge test (which you can make yourself). Thing two, use an exposure calculator (which we sell here).
  4. Q: Do I really need a scoop coater?
    A: Well, you can scrape liquid emulsion onto your screen with any tool that has a hard edge. But, a scoop coater is going to provide you with the most consistency, ease of use and ultimately prevent you from ripping all your hair out. You can either invest in a scoop coater now or a hair-piece later.
  5. Q: How do I register multiple colors on a t-shirt?
    A: For multiple colors, consistently registered on a shirt, you'll need a rotary press. Each color is assigned to a separate screen. Each screen is lined up and locked down on the press prior to printing. The number of colors you can print is determined by the number of print heads on your press.
  6. Q: My image is not exposing properly... why?
    A: 90% of the time, that's the problem. If more stencil is coming out that desired during development, you're underexposed. Question is, what's the reason for your underexposure. Could be as simple as not letting your coated screen dry long enough. Utilize that step-wedge test or exposure calculator to really dial in the correct time for your setup.

    If the image area is NOT washing out during development, congratulations ... you've overexposed your screen. But before you cut back your exposure time, check the image density on your film positive and make sure no white light has fogged your screen prior to exposure or development.
  7. Q: My image is not printing in some spots... what up with that?
    A: So many reasons, where do we begin ... Well, there might be scum (underdeveloped emulsion) blocking the image area, which means you've underexposed your screen and should refine technique in the darkroom. Your off-contact might be too high or inconsistent on the press. Check to ensure about a nickel's width throughout. Your squeegee pressure might be too low or inconsistent in certain areas, so check it. Your platen or printing surface may not be level or may be inconsistent. And, let's not forget during your print stroke ... you want the entire squeegee to cover the width of the entire image the entire time.
  8. Q: What kind of mesh should I use?
    A: Depends on the substrate, the pigment particle size in your ink, the amount of detail in your image and the amount of ink you wish to deposit. Higher mesh counts are best for detail. Lower mesh counts are best for opacity. The most popular mesh counts we sell for shirts are 110 TPI (threads per inch) and 156 TPI. For posters, signage, etc 195 TPI and 230 TPI.

    White or yellow? ... white exposes about 15% faster than yellow. But, yellow holds more detail than white. Price is comparable. White tends to be a bit less. The choice is yours.
  9. Q: What kind of emulsion should I get?
    A: It really depends on how many impressions you're trying to print, how much detail you need to achieve, what type of ink you're using and how quickly you'll use up a container of emulsion. There are other variables to consider as well but if you can answer these questions first, you'll be on the right track. There's liquid emulsion and capillary film. For this question, let's focus on liquid emulsion. There are three basic types of emulsion and the sensitizer is the main difference between the three. The sensitizer is also what gives the emulsion its shelf life DIAZO Sensitizer: diazo Must be sensitized prior to use Pro: most water resistant stencil Cons: longest exposure time most difficult to reclaim DUAL CURE Sensitizer: either diazo, SBQ or both Some are presensitized, some are not dual properties: resistant to both solvent and water based ink systems generally shares characteristics of both diazo and photopolymer PHOTOPOLYMER Sensitizer: SBQ Comes Presensitized Pros: fastest exposure easiest to reclaim longest shelf life Con: least water resistant stencil
  10. Q: Why is the emulsion not coming out when I reclaim my screen?
    A: *Are you using a high pressure washer when reclaiming your screen? (This is absolutely necessary, a garden hose will not do)
    *Are you getting all of the ink out of your screen prior to reclaiming? (Ink/ink residue left in the screen will prevent emulsion remover from working properly. Get all ink out first with screen wash/ink degradent)
    *How long are you allowing the emulsion remover to sit on the screen? (If you leave it sit too long, it too will actually lock the emulsion into your screen)
    *Have you printed or washed up with strong solvents? (Any solvent will permanently lock underexposed emulsion into your screen)
    * As a Last resort / "Kemper Cocktail": Apply our Systems product 6000 onto affected area. Then, apply Systems 2510 over the top. Finish with another misting of Systems 6000. Let sit for a good 15-20 minutes. Power wash + keep your fingers crossed!
  11. Q: Why did the ink fade/come off when I washed my shirt?
    A: It wasn't cured properly. Or, the material you're printing on requires a catalyst to be added to the ink prior to printing to ensure adhesion. In general, you'll want to ensure the entire ink deposit reaches at least 325F to achieve a full cure. There are a couple of tools you can use to check the temperature of your heat source. One way is to use Thermolabels which are "stickers" that when applied to the garment and run through the dryer, read a range of temperatures. The other way is to use a Temperature Gun. This is arguably more accurate and unquestionable more fun. Just point and shoot and this laser beam will kick back the temp of whatever it touches. For most accurate results, close range is best.
  12. Q: Why are there different meshes?
    A: For different applications silly. A more detailed breakdown to come soon. Again, higher mesh counts are best for detail. Lower mesh counts are best for opacity. The most popular mesh counts we sell for shirts are 110 TPI (threads per inch) and 156 TPI. For posters, signage, etc 195 TPI and 230 TPI.
  13. Q: Why do I see the mesh impressions/dimples when I print?
    A: Call Debra @ ext 135 :)
  14. Q: Why am I only getting 50-100 impressions from my screen?
    A: You're underexposed. Go back to the darkroom and refine your technique. Humidity might be high in your shop, depending on the time of year ... get a dehumidifier. You may not be using the proper emulsion to resist your ink system. Ensure your emulsion stencil and ink system are not fighting one another. Additionally, you might be using more squeegee pressure than necessary. Ease up a bit Hulk. Keeping your screens properly tensioned will also help to maximize the life of your stencil.
  15. Q: I always expose my screens for 7 minutes, why can't I get an exposure now?
    A: Something has changed (emulsion type, film type, coating technique, light source, mesh count, mesh color, etc). Trace your steps. If you haven't changed anything in your technique ... how old is your emulsion? It may be expired. Has any white light seeped into the darkroom? Your screens may have been fogged. Humidity ALWAYS goes unexamined! What time of year is it? What did your weatherman project the due-point to be today? Get a dehumidifier.
  16. Q: Why is my ink sticking to the back side of my screen?
    A: This is generally a viscosity issue. By reducing the ink's viscosity, you'll reduce it's tack to the screen.
  17. Q: How do I get dried ink out of my screen?
    A: Time to remesh. However, we do sell a miracle product that works well as a "last resort". It's called Screen Wash Gel and the beauty of it is that it stays wherever it's applied. Let it sit for a bit in the affected area for a few hours if need be and power wash after. No go? Remesh.
  18. Q: I printed color over this white underbase; why does the ink look pimpled and what can I do to make it look smooth?
    A: Call Debra @ ext 135 :)


ADDITIVE: Substance that is added to an ink to change its initial properties.

BREAK AWAY: The action of the screen mesh raising off of the substrate immediately after the squeegee passes. If the screen sticks to the substrate, some of the ink might not totally release from the screen causing a "mesh Mark" or blurring.

CAPILLARY FILM: Direct emulsion machine coated on a clear film carrier. This allows for a very smooth emulsion with very accurate emulsion film thickness. The coated emulsion is transferred to a blank screen with water or emulsion.

CATALYST: Chemical product that makes it possible to accelerate or complete the polymerization of a compound.

COVERAGE: Ability of an ink to cover or superimpose its own color over that on which it has been printed.

CROCK FASTNESS: The resistance of transfer of colorant from the surface of a colored yarn or fabric to another surface, or to an adjacent area of the same fabric, principally by rubbing. For pigment especially, crock fastness is of concern. Pigment particles sit on top of the fibers held in place by a resin (the pretreatment). Crock fastness determines if there is acceptable rub resistance of the pigment to friction.

CURER: Generic name by which additives for improving washing resistance of water based textile inks, are known. Normally, they are compounds based on urea-formaldehyde resins.

DEGREASING: Removal of grease material before fabricating the screen frame. Degreasing will help to improve the curing of the screen emulsion.

DIAZO: A photosensitive chemical or process by which screen printing emulsions are made sensitive to actinic light; characterized by its controlled definition, low toxicity and useful life.

DUROMETER: A measure of hardness used in describing squeegee stiffness. Typical squeegees are offered in durometers of 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, and 90. The higher the number, the stiffer the squeegee. The most popular are in the 60 to 80 range. 70 to 75 are most commonly used with softer degrees primarily for textile and harder degrees for graphic, UV, and three dimensional printing.

DISPERSION: A uniform suspension of fine, solid materials in a liquid medium.

DPI: Dots per inch; refers to the definition of digital or computer printing (arranged).

DUROMETER: A measurement of the hardness of a material, that is, it’s resistance to permanent indentation. In screen printing, this term is used to define the hardness of the squeegee rubber typically made with silicone rubber. Dual or multiple DUROMETER is used when the squeegee rubber is made with different rubber compositions to get multiple end performance parameters.

DYE: A coloring material that can be dissolved in a solvent or water. Sometimes used in conjunction with pigment. Generally not as light fast as pigments.

FISHEYE: A flaw in an emulsion coated screen that results in a generally circular thinning defect of points in the emulsion film, which are the result of dust on the screen fabric, insufficient degreasing of the screen or insufficient emulsion sensitizer mixture.

FRAME: Frame support for silk screen printing It is understood to be fabricated from finished tubing, which has the function of subjecting the fabric to a strong tension. The frame must resist mechanical deformation whilst forming the screen and during the printing process, insofar as it is possible. It must withstand the chemical agents and maintain good dimensional stability. It may be made of wood, metal, aluminum or steel. There is also a “Retensionable” type”.

FIBRILLATION: Fibrillation in screen printing is when the fibers of a fabric stick through the ink deposit, giving a faded or even hairy look of the fabric surface.

GHOST IMAGE: Vague image of the design which remains on the screen mesh after having been reclaimed.

HALF-TONE OR “NETWORK”: Image in which different tones are obtained by dots of different sizes and concentrations according to the amount of light or shade of the areas represented.

HAND: This refers to how the print feels in your hand. Soft-hand means you can’t feel the print; harsh (or hard) hand means you feel the print or the print feels stiff/thick, etc.

HEAT CURING: Application of heat to textile printing to obtain polymerization of the ink. Its parameters are temperature and time.

LIGHT FAST: Fade resistant

LPI: Lines per inch; lines formed by rows of dots on an original, a film or a print. The number of lines in one inch are counted.

MATRIX: Image recorded on a screen by means of a photolith, which enables the passage through it, of the silkscreen inks, it comprises two zones: printed and unprinted.

MESH: Precision woven fabric that is stretched on a frame.

MESH COUNT: The number of threads per inch. A fabric with a mesh count of 195 would have 195 threads per inch.

MESH MARK: A visable difference in the level of ink deposit on the substrate, usually caused by lack of break away.

MIGRATION: The movement of ink into another ink, coating, or substrate causing unwanted color change, caused by a reaction between the ink and the fabric dyes, or could be from the fabric fibers to the printing or from the printing to the fibers. This phenomenon also occurs between coats of different inks.

MISREGISTRATION: An incorrectly positioned image during printing or finishing; or the failure to be properly registered, one color imprint to another.

MOIRÉ: An undesirable optical pattern that occurs when one regular set of parallel lines or dots crosses another set, at various angles of intersection or by the regular pattern of mesh threads intersecting the halftone screen pattern. This problem is more acute when the number of threads per cm of the mesh is a multiple of the number of dots per cm of the half-tone network. There is a series of methods for reducing this problem.

NEWTON: A measurement of deflection used to measure the tension of screen mesh (fabric). Always check for manufacturers recommend tension.

OFF CONTACT: The distance between the screen bottom and the substrate. See Break Away.

OPACITY: Light blocking. An opaque ink film will not allow light to pass through a transparent substrate, or allow the color of the substrate to be seen through the ink.

PHOTOGRAPHIC EMULSION: Product which, on being mixed with a sensitizer, will be used for recovering and recording screens by the direct die-cast method.

PHOTOLITH: Transparent material containing the graphic that serves for the preparation of silk screening frames. It must be prepared directly, that is to say looking from above the emulsified side. The photoliths may be manual, photographic or digital. The sheets on which it is made must be the most transparent possible.

PIGMENTS: The part of ink that gives it its color. Pigments are particles that can't be dissolved in a solvent or water.

POLYMERIZATION: Chemical reaction initiated by a catalyst, heat or light, consisting of the chemical union of two or more molecules, to form bigger and more complex molecules, obtaining a compound with improved characteristics of cohesion, adhesion, stability and resistance.

PRE-DRYING: Partial drying of a printing before printing the next color or total drying.

PRESSURE: The amount of vertical force required to pass the ink from the screen mesh to the support.

4COLOR/QUADRA COLOR (QUADRA-CHROMIC): Reproduction process using dots that, using only four colors (cyan, yellow, magenta, and black), succeeds in printing the optical illusion of possessing all other colors in the spectrum.

READY FOR USE: In relation to inks, this means the ink can be printed without the addition of another ingredient. A common example of inks that are not ready for use would be air-dry epoxy inks that must have a catalyst added for the ink to cure.

RECLAIMING: 1) The process of removing the emulsion, ink and stencil from the screen mesh after a printing in order to obtain a clean screen for preparing another screen mesh. 2) The process of cleaning used solvent to obtain a reusable product.

RECLAIMING SOLUTION: Liquid chemical product, gel or paste used to remove a screen printing film or emulsion from screen mesh to make the mesh useful again.

RZ FACTOR: A measure of the smoothness of the emulsion on the print side of the screen. The smoothness will effect the quality of the print.

SAWTOOTH: A stairstep appearance on the edges of a screen print; the effect of stencil material that conforms to the threads of a screen printing mesh rather than the contours of the design on the film positive from which the stencil is produced. The main reason: the coat is too thin. To avoid this, it is recommended to use a multiple damp, over-damp emulsifier or after drying, emulsify once again on the frame print face.

SCREEN: This is the combination of a screen mesh and its tensioning support frame.

SCUM: Thin transparent coat of emulsion that blocks the passage of ink in a screen mesh. Can be due to multiple causes, mainly under-exposure.

SHADING EFFECT: Gradual variation of hue or tone of a printing, obtained by adding dots on an otherwise transparent sheet until obtaining another color. The mixing of different colored inks to achieve a gradual lightening of color is known as stumping.

SHORE HARDNESS: An international scale for measuring the indentation hardness of the material as determined by tests made with a durometer gauge or scleroscope. (Consists of a ball for deflection or pin point for depression into the material, which is at least 100 mils thick – Instrument manufactured by Shore Instrument Manufacturing Co., Jamaica, New York USA). The hardness of squeegee blades is measured in Degrees Shore. A higher number indicates greater hardness. The hardness recommended in serigraphy is generally 60D- 80D Shore.

SCREEN MESH: Technical fabrics made of polyester or nylon fibers. Polyester meshes, which are less elastic, are used for printing on flat or cylindrical surfaces whilst those of nylon, that have good elasticity, are recommended for printing on uneven surfaces.

SOLID CONTENT: Usually related to direct emulsions, stating the percent of solids is a particular emulsion. The higher the solids content, the thicker a coating of emulsion can be.

SQUEEGEE: Instrument consisting of a wooden or metal support with a flexible rubber blade used to force ink through the openings of a screen printing stencil when in contact with a substrate. The edge, pressure, angle, material, as well as the hardness, all contribute to producing a good final print.

SQUEEGEE ANGLE: Angle between the squeegee and the screen frame which helps to control the amount of ink forced through the screen. The usual angle is 75°.

SUBLIMATION: Process where dye pigments change from solid to vapor without passing the liquid state and back to solid again with the application of heat. In textile printing, the technique of sublimation consists of printing on paper with sublimation ink (Sublisol, Subliset or Pgm Subli) and then transferring it by applying pressure and heat (190-210 °C) for one minute. Printing by sublimation is only possible on polyester, lycras®, acetates and mixtures of cotton with a high percentage content of these fibers.

SUBSTRATE: The material on which the printing is to be done.

TENSIOMETER (OR TENSIONMETER): 1) an instrument used to measure the tautness of screen mesh in Newtons per centimeter; 2) an instrument to measure surface and interfacial tension of liquids, or tensile strength of solids.

THERMOCOUPLE: Used to measure the temperatures in the screen printing process using a thermocouple probe such as Atkins probe.

THIXOTROPHY: The property exhibited by certain fluid compounds to reduce their viscosity, when shaken and to recover it when subsequently put at rest, without having changed the temperature.

THREAD COUNTER: Magnifying glass or lens used to determine the number of threads (strands) per cm (or inch) of a screen mesh.


TRANSFER: Process of printing a mirror image of a design on transfer paper. The ink is partially cured, then transferred to the substrate by applying pressure and heat. Also called “textiles decalomania” or “printing by heat transfer”. Procedure which is widely used in textile printing.

TRANSPARENT: Something that will allow light to pass through.

UREA: Also known as carbamide, urea is an organic compound used in textile dyeing.

VEIL: Thin transparent coat of emulsion that blocks the passage of ink in a screen mesh. Can be due to multiple causes, mainly under-exposure.

VISCOSITY: Thickness or fluidity of inks. It is any property that determines the amount of resistance opposed to the shear forces. High viscosity means it is thick and low viscosity means is is less dense (liquid).

Same Day Shipping Deadlines

To insure that your order will ship out on the same day, it must be placed before:

  • UPS: 2:00 PM
  • SPEE-DEE: 2:00 PM
  • FED-EX: 2:00 PM

Orders may still go out on the same day if placed after the times above, as we always try our hardest to ship promptly, but it is not guaranteed. If it is after a deadline and you need to confirm same-day shipment, please call customer service to discuss your options.

Vector Formats

  1. supported file formats: .AI, .EPS, .SVG, .PDF, .DXF
  2. outline all text (in Adobe Illustrator: Ctrl/⌘ + A, Type > Create Outlines)
  3. set all areas to be printed solid to 100% K (in Adobe Illustrator: Ctrl/⌘ + A, Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork...), all other values will have a corresponding halftone applied
  4. unless specified, right-reading image orientation will be assumed
  5. make sure graphic is at print size, or include desired dimensions in your e-mail

Bitmap/Raster Formats

  1. supported file formats: .PSD, .TIF, .PDF, .PNG, .JPG, .GIF, .BMP
  2. 300 DPI or higher at print size
  3. unless specified, right-reading image orientation will be assumed
  4. set all areas to be printed solid to 100% K without anti-aliased edges (the easiest way to be sure in Adobe Photoshop: Image > Mode > Bitmap...), all other values will have a corresponding halftone applied

Common Adjustments to incur art time

  1. resizing
  2. recoloring
  3. removing drawing information, dimensional marks, etc. from file
  4. removing/cleaning up anti-aliasing (gradient-smoothed edges) from bitmap files
  5. manual spot color (non-CMYK) separations from flattened composite images
  6. creating a film positive from a provided paper graphic (scanning, cropping, graphic treatments); this almost never requires more than 15 minutes

Common Adjustments, Preparation that will not incur art time

  1. adding standard crop marks or registration marks (custom configurations may incur art time)
  2. standard CMYK separation
  3. spot color separations (if spot color swatches are defined in the file)
  4. setting halftone properties such as dot shape, LPI, screen angle
  5. setting right or wrong reading graphic orientation
Series Color Width Length Adhesive Type Tack Level Solvent Resistance Removability Price
6321 White 2", 3" 110 yds Full Medium Medium Easy $$
6200 White/Clear 2", 3" 108 yds Full Medium Medium Medium $
6451 White 2", 3", 4" 60 yds Split Medium Med-High Easy $$$
6451F White 2", 3", 4" 60 yds Full Medium Med-High Easy $$$
6476 Blue 2", 3", 4" 50 yds Full High High Medium $$
RT-2000 Blue 2", 3", 4" 36 yds Full High High Medium $$$
GF-S2 Silver 3" 200 yds Full High High Medium $$$$$
6221 White 2", 3", 4" 60 yds Full Highest Highest Difficult $$$$

Film positives are printed on Afford-A-Black waterproof film. Film rolls can accomodate image widths up to 1/2" less than their own widths. Choose the narrowest roll that will accommodate the width of your image (think about rotating your images or doubling-up images to minimize your film usage).

What is your image height?


Choose the width of your roll


Your estimated film cost*:

* The minimum film charge is $10 + $15 OPEN & OUTPUT fee, which is included in the above estimate. Ready to print? Email your artwork to (art@nwgraphic.com) Northwest Graphic Supply Co.

Mesh Price Estimator

Enter your frame height and width in the appropriate fields below, then click the button that displays the mesh count you wish to use on your frame and your cost estimate will appear in the designated area below.



Your estimated mesh cost*:

*This estimate is for monofilament polyester meshes only.

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