Which Squeegee is best for Screen Printing
What is a squeegee?
A squeegee is used in screen printing for pushing ink through a mesh screen. There are few different types of inks such as plastisol ink, water-based ink and discharge ink that need different squeegees to push ink through the mesh. I will be going into depth on types of inks in another post. Squeegees are used for automatic screen printing machines (M&R Auto) and manual machines . We decide what type of squeegee to use by its colour and it’s hardness which is measured with a durometer.
There two common types of squeegee; the standard resistance squeegee and the eco squeegee. A standard resistance rubber squeegee has a high quality blade which helps avoid bubbles and craters in the print. There are single layer rubbers and triple layer rubbers. A triple layer rubber is mostly used for fine detail and high speed machines which is useful for companies that do a lot of high speed bulk print orders.
Durometer is the measurement of hardness a blade/squeegee is; The hardness of the squeegee lets you decide how much ink needs pushing through the mesh. Durometer has a big role in creating sharp designs and durable prints depending on the type of design that is being printed. The best durometer for screen printers depends of how much ink deposit is needed for the design, if the design has fine detail you as a printer will need a durometer between 80-90 which is great at pushing less ink through the mesh and not smudging the detail. A softer durometer squeegee is between 50 and 60 durometer which will deposit more ink through the mesh. A4 Apparel will typically use this on a white base. Understanding which durometer to use is generally decided by looking at the type of design you are printing and determining how much ink is needed to be pulled through the mesh to get a flawless print.
How screen printers identify if the squeegee is soft or hard is by colour:
- Red - soft single layer (65 durometer)
- Green - single layer (75 durometer)
- Blue - single layer (85 durometer)
- Yellow - Triple layer (70/90/75 durometer)
- Red - soft triple layer (65/90/65 durometer)
Types of Mesh
A4 Apparel specialise in silk screen printing and use screens with a mesh count between 62 to 140. A screen with a mesh count of 62 indicates how many fibres are in one square inch of the screen and is used to lay more ink on the garment. By identifying what mesh count a screen has allows you to decide what type of squeegee to use. The mesh count combined with the durometer of a blade determines how the print will come out; for example if you have a solid white image with no thin lines or detail, printing white on a black t-shirt we'd use a red blade (with has softer durometer), which means less rotations and leads to a brighter print. Another popular screen we use is a 77 mesh which offers of good amount of ink deposit and allows for finer details to come out in a print design.
As a fellow screen printer my advise is to look at the design that is being printed. This could be dot work, solid vector designs or fine line work but as a screen printer you need to decide which squeegee will best suit the design and bring out the best outcome. Personally I always use a soft blade (red) for a base white to lay down as much ink as possible which will create less rotations on the machine, means the work goes out faster. While using the soft blade for a base, for a second layer which has finer detail I would use a triple layer (yellow) squeegee because these are made to lay down the right amount of ink deposit and the strokes from the triple layer rubber allows the ink to push through the mesh flawlessly without any smudging and bleeding. So look at the design, decide the durometer, test print and you’ll get flawless finished garments!