Here are 3 of the biggest factors making it difficult to get fine details with Yudu screens:
1. The mesh of the screen itself is simply too low resolution to hold the image.
2. The squeegee used to pull the ink is poor quality.
3. The frame of the screen is too flimsy to hold adequate screen tension.
Screen mesh comes in a variety of resolutions (known in the industry as “mesh count”) from 33 or less all the way to 300 and higher. Commonly, among screenprinters who don’t do a lot of specialty work, three mesh counts are used: a low resolution, a medium, and a high. We have a blog post here that shows a little more about screen resolution.
Low resolution (around 110 mesh) screens are used for thick inks, light colored inks (like white and athletic gold), and for low detail prints. They are generally easier to get the ink to flow through and less expensive than their higher resolution counterparts. It may be worth nothing that if you have a good burning unit you can get better detail on all your meshes, but there is an upper limit.
Medium resolution (around 160 mesh) is used for smaller type (down to about 12 point) and thinner lines (down to about 1 point). The medium resolution can serve as a sort of most-purpose screen unless you are using a lot of specialty inks.
Higher resolution screens range from around 190 and go up from there. They are able to capture very thin lines and small dots, and when used in conjunction with automatic screen printing presses can even achieve photographic quality images.
So what kind of screen comes with the Yudu? Not a medium resolution, but a low resolution mesh count, a 110. Even if the screen was perfect in every other way, a 110 mesh simply does not hold thin lines and small type. If you don’t mind burning a bunch of screens doing trial and error, you can push the envelope to see how small you can get. Recently Yudu has released a 220 mesh screen that will be a much better choice for high detail. Here’s one way to save money making screens if you decide to go for it. But there are other factors as well.
Like screen meshes, squeegee blades also come in a variety of types. While there are many aspects of squeegees, including handle characteristics, blade structure, and composition, our main point here has to do with flexibility. Since the Yudu is designed for manual screenprinting, and it is for general purpose use, let’s examine what makes a decently flexible most-purpose manual squeegee.
The flexibility of a squeegee is known as durometer within the screen printing industry. Most suppliers carry three durometers of blade, a soft (60 durometer), a medium (70), and a hard (80-90). While the softer is used for laying down a larger volume of ink, the harder varieties are used to achieve more detail and also for depositing a thinner layer of ink.
If a screenprinter were to choose a most-purpose squeegee blade for the kinds of screenprinting you are likely to do with the Yudu, he most likely would choose the medium or 70 durometer. If you want to be able to pull the widest range of general purpose inks through a screen holding the broadest range of images, the medium is your best choice. Provocraft doesn’t specify the durometer of their Yudu squeegee, but whatever it is, it’s less than 60 for sure. To recap, that means it’s way too soft.
But, even if you re-stretched the screen with 160 mesh (or got the new 220 mesh screen) and bought a professional grade squeegee of medium durometer, there is still yet another problem that hinders quality screenprinting with the Yudu screen: screen tension.
The Yudu screen is very loose. Lower tension screens can make for smeary imprints and poor quality images. They lead to a variety of screenprinting issues because, if the mesh is loose enough, it snags and drags along with the squeegee when you’re printing. Even if the screen has a good stencil with thin lines in it, the lines smear and drag along the print when the squeegee passes, causing a blurry image. That said, even fresh out of the box, the Yudu screen is under-tensioned and may be a little tricky to use for a novice.
Given the limitations with the Yudu screens, one may wish to stick to thick lines (3 points or more) and large typefaces (20 point and up) in their designs. It also may be helpful to upgrade the squeegee to one using a professional grade squeegee blade (preferably one with a cut edge). While your results will vary according to your skill level, it certainly will be easier to get more crisp images. If you find the aforementioned limits unacceptable, however, you may wish to abandon the Yudu as a screen printing press altogether. But don’t toss it off the peer just yet. It is an excellent solution for burning your screens.
For more indepth tutorials about screenprinting visit diyTeeShirts.com.