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    Screen Printing Terminology Every Printer Should Know

    Whether you’re a complete screen-printing newbie or just in need of a refresher, you’ve found the right article.

This handy reference point is a great place to broaden your screen-printing vocabulary and provides some background to some of the most common terms and phrases heard throughout the garment industry.

We’ve divided this list of key terminology into inks and artwork/screens with some succinct definitions behind each term – which was difficult considering these are topics we could talk about all day!

Screen Printing Ink Terminology


Essentially, water-based inks use water (yes, you guessed it!) as the base or solvent for carrying pigment. This is in contrast to the other main type of screen printing ink known as plastisol, which is uses PVC resin or plasticiser as the base component. Water-based inks are known for their softness, flexibility, stretch, and their ability to penetrate right into the fabric or garment. Check out our blog post Water-Based Inks: A Beginner’s Guide for more insights.

High Solids

High solids water-based inks, often termed HSA ink (High Solids Acrylic) are one the most widely used inks for screen printing. They are largely made of acrylic resins or hybrid technology blends of acrylic resin and polyurethanes. Products like AquaFlex V2 have great opacity and are perfect for printing on dark garments, offering supreme stretch and elasticity. Our Technical Hub offers some great tips for using these inks.

Soft Bases

Soft base or low solids water-based inks have lower opacity than their high solids counterparts and are most suitable for light coloured garments. They can be printed through high mesh counts and products like ND Extra offer super fine details with no hand feel on the finished garment.


This is a category of inks that work by affecting the printed areas of reactive dyed garments and create a different colour in the dye’s place. The change occurs during the all important curing process, which allows the pigments within the printed ink to exhibit extremely bright colours with little to no handle on the finished garment. Check out our step-by-step guide to printing with discharge inks.


As mentioned, plastisol inks differ to water-based in that the chemistry is based on a plasticising base component. As such they often need to be cured at higher temperatures and because there’s no water to evaporate, these inks don’t dry in the screen and are considered to be user friendly for beginners.

Digital Hybrid

Digital hybrid printing systems combine screen printing and DTG (direct-to-garment) printing into one print set-up that benefits from both of the technology’s advantages offering a lot of flexibility to printers. Inks like Magna’s Hybrid Fusion range have been developed to works specifically with these systems.

Artwork & Screen Terminology

Mesh count

The mesh count is number of threads crossing each other per square inch or cm of the screen. The higher the mesh count, the finer the holes in the screen and the less ink that will be deposited through it. A 43T mesh screen has 43 threads crossing per square cm, which is the equivalent to 110 threads crossing per square inch. Check out our blog post on how to select the right screen mesh.


A colour or grayscale image that is made up of different dots to produce a continuously toned image effect. The dots used to create this artwork can have different shapes such as round or elliptical.


Where pixel-based files offer limited quality and scalability, vector graphics are made up of curved points and lines to provide an infinitely scalable image. This type of artwork is great for blocky graphics and logos.

CMYK or Four-Colour Process

This is a printing technique used to reproduce full colour images using only four ink colours – cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Yes… K stands for black – or in traditional printing terminology it means Key, as in Key Colour or Key Plate.

Spot colours

Where process colours are used together to create a spectrum of shades, spot colour inks are specifically prepared to show their pre-mixed colour.

Simulated Process

Simulated process printing is a technique similar to CMYK in the sense that it works through the blending and intersection of different ink colours to reproduce almost any image you desire. The techniques differ in that the halftone dots of simulated process artwork are printed using different size dots, and the colours used aren’t limited to the traditional CMYK four.

PMS / Pantone Matching System

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a system for standardising colours to help with identification across printing and graphics industries. It’s the most widely used system and helps to maintain accuracy and consistency of printed materials. It’s also the system that our MagnaMix software generates colour references and recipes for.

Until Next Time

We hope you enjoyed this sample of screen-printing terminology! We’ve only touched the surface of the industry so next time in this series we’ll cover more terms and phrases. Thanks for reading!

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