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Ulano 925Choosing a Screen Printing Emulsion

Choosing the right screen printing emulsion (also known as photosensitive emulsion) is a little like buying a car, they all effectively do the same thing but have different features, methods of use and performance factors which differentiates them.

All of the emulsions react to UV light causing the emulsion to cure and harden. If you are new to screen printing check out our tutorial on youtube which covers the basics and shows you how to create a stencil using photosensitive emulsion.

There are three main groups of emulsions on the market:-

  • Diazo – been in use for many years, the emulsion needs to be sensitised before use. They come with the sensitiser is a separate pot or sachet.
  • Photopolymer, sometimes referred to as SBQ Photopolymer (Styryl Basolium Quaternary). The manufacturers mix in the sensitiser with a polyvinyl base meaning that the emulsion is ready to use and you don’t have to mix in a sensitiser. Commonly known as ‘One Pot’ emulsions.
  • Dual Cure – a combination of both types of emulsion but mostly (there are some exceptions) need to be sensitised before use. Dual Cure emulsions are the most popular as they incorporate the strengths and weaknesses of Diazo and Photopolymer emulsions.

Ulano 925WR classic premium Diazo Emulsion (Authors favourite when using waterbased inks)

Diazo Emulsion – Pro Con
They have a wide exposure latitude (so very forgiving if you have not got your exposure timings spot on)

Cost effective and reliable

Can be formulated to be water resistant or solvent resistant e.g. if you use waterbased inks you need a water resistant emulsion and if you use plastisol and solvent inks you need a solvent resistant emulsion

We sell Ulano 925WR (DP9250) and Sericol Dirasol 25

Less light sensitive than the other emulsions so if you light source (exposure unit / lamp etc) is not stronger you could be exposing for a while!

Not so good for fine detail and halftones (often subject to much debate), Diazo emulsions are normally quite thick but this is not always the case with all of the Diazo emulsions on the market.

Chromoline CTCMore difficult to reclaim than the other emulsions especially the water resistant variants.

Chromaline CTR Photopolymer Direct Emulsion

Photopolymer Emulsions – Pro Con
One Pot – you don’t have to mix in with Sensitiser powder which is unpleasant stuff and is fraught with health and safety issues.

Good for high production print shops

Easy for reclaiming the screen

We sell Chromaline, Ulano, Sericol and Macdermid ranges of Photopolymer emulsons

Very light sensitive – you also need a strong reliable light source e.g. Metal Halide / LED and in some circumstances Actinic / Tube units.

Your exposure timings have to be spot on.

Typically the most expensive emulsion

Diazo Emulsion – Dual Cure

They are relatively quick to expose and work with most light sources

They have a wide exposure latitude (so very forgiving if you have not got your exposure timings spot on)

Good for fine detail and half tones

Easier to reclaim the screen compared to Diazo emulsions

We sell Ulano Proclaim, Macdermid Autosol and a wide range of Sericol and Chromaline emulsions

Shelf life is not so good as Photopolymers

Ulano ECMost Dual Cure emulsion need to be sensitised, but one pot solutions are now on the market such as Ulano EC

Ulano EC one of the first ‘one pot’ Dual Cure emulsions on the market, also has 18 months shelf life. No need to add sensitiser – ready to use straight from the pot.

Tips

  • Choose the emulsion which gives the right stencil resistance e.g. if you are using Plastisol then choose an emulsions which gives a solvent resistant stencil and water resistant if using waterbased inks. Otherwise you will find your stencil starting to break down.
  • Some dual cure emulsions can be used with both waterbased and Plastisol inks, however if you are using the same emulsion we recommend that you ‘double bake’ – expose the screen again after it has initially dried to strengthen the stencil.
  • If you are using waterbased discharge inks for large scale production then go for an emulsion which is explicitly designed for discharge inks.
  • Keep the emulsions in the fridge (but don’t freeze) it will extend the usable life
  • If you use sensitiser powder emulsions always follow the instructions and mix the powder in well and leave for a couple of hours to let the air out the emulsion before use
  • If you don’t have a strong light source, don’t want the hassle of sensitiser powder or don’t expose many screens then try out a one pot dual cure such as Ulano EC it is rather good
  • High Opacity inks Super Silvers in Shimmer and Mirror, Gorgeous Golds in Shimmer, huge range of Plastisol inks in great colours.
  • Five different fluorescent colours Green, Magenta, Orange, Red and Yellow
  • Premium Mixing Plastisol Ink Range suitable for matching Pantone range
  • 4 colour process inks for CMYK printing

Guide to Mesh Count

Count Type Ideal Uses
10t coarse glitter
15t
21t
32t textile maximum opacity on dark fabrics
43t bolder graphics
55t finer detail
61t
77t finer fabrics, halftone graphics
80t
90t extremely light material, general graphics
110t
120t paper general process
140t
160t photographic detail

What is the difference between the mesh counts different meshes on the screens?

A lower number means a coarser mesh count, a higher number means a finer mesh count. You will need to select the correct mesh count for the artwork you have produced. 43T is used most commonly for general textile printing. Please note that we use the European system therefore mesh counts is threads per cm, sometimes you may see the American system being used which is threads per inch.Read our online buyers guide – page 15 for a breakdown of each count and their ideal use.

What is the difference between Yellow and White mesh?

Generally speaking there is very little difference in the performance of the mesh unless you are using 90T upwards. Yellow mesh absorbs more light and stops light scattering, this helps expose those very fine lines and intricate details. We use Italian mesh yellow and white, they are great for fine halftones with high resolution and has the greatest possible exposure latitude with unsurpassed protection against light-undercutting.

Which Mesh Count?

Once you have selected your screen you will need to select a mesh count. The mesh count will depend what substrate you are printing onto, what ink you are printing with and how detailed your artwork is. The mesh counts range from 15t which would be used for glitter printing, or highly absorbent surfaces, to a 200t which would be used for extremely fine and intricate lines, hand drawing and photographic work. The most popular textile mesh count for either Waterbased or Ink is between 32t and 65t, and a mesh 77t / 90t upwards would be advised for paper and card printing with a water based ink. FROM OUR FREE BUYERS GUIDE

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