Screen burning FAQs and Best practices

Whether you are an experienced screen printer or just starting out, this best practice will save you headache and disappointment. 

Our screens are designed to achieve superior print results using fewer and smoother pulls than what traditional silk screens require. This means, you won't have to make as many passes to get the perfect print and there will be less fatigue on your hands, wrists and forearms. In addition to reading these FAQs approach your initial prints or test prints with this in mind:

Experienced Screen Printers & Automatic Presses

For the first few pulls, start with applying only 50% of the pressure you would normally use with a squeegee. Hold the blade at a 15 degree angle. Adjust your technique from there. It is unecessary to be overly aggressive or forceful when printing with our screens. They are designed to make printing with minimal effort a reality.

Hobbyists & New Printers

If this is your first time printing, it only makes sense to get familiar with the feel before you print on garments you've purchased. We recommend test printing on Pellons or used shirts first. Make sure you have a squeegee that fits the width of your image. You will want to apply light to moderate pressure while pulling the ink evenly over the image field. Keep the squeegee blade at a 15 to 20 degree angle.

Arena Digital Screen Bruns come in only three mesh counts. The thermal print process makes it possible for our mesh to hold more "image information" to create 1200dpi, high resolution burns. If you are more accustomed to using a specific mesh count for your prints, you can achieve the results you're looking for using this comparison:

For photographs, fine lines, gradients, tiny fonts use: 

Arena Digital Mesh 200 replaces Traditional Mesh Counts of 230/280/305

For less detailed line art, or artwork using fills and fine details use:

Arena Digital Mesh 120 replaces Traditional Mesh Counts of 160/200

 For full fills, heavier inks and larger elements use:

Arena Digital Mesh 70 replaces Traditional Mesh Counts of 60/90/110 

Cleaning and maintaining your Arena screen burn is less involved than the process required for traditional mesh screens. All you will need to clean ink from the image area on our screens are microfiber cloths, ink removal cards and a non citrus based screen opener specific to Plastisol ink or Water-based inks. 

We recommend Arena Screen Wash and Camie 480 Screen Opener for all plastisol inks and AlbaChem Water Based Screen Opener for water-based and discharge inks

Whatever brand of screen opener you use, never use a citrus based screen opener. Citrus based cleaners are too acidic for the screens and will only erode the emulsion in the fibers.

Begin by removing all the excess ink surrounding the print area with the ink removal card. For water-based inks, make sure to "print out" as much of the excess ink as possible and pull the excess ink off the image to the bottom of the frame. Reclaim and save as much of the ink as you can by scooping it back into the ink container.

Spray AlbaChem Water Based Cleaner on a microfiber cloth and begin wiping clean the print side of the screen. Repeat this process with the ink side of the screen making sure ALL excess ink is completely cleared from the image area. You might have to repeat this process 3 or 4 times. Once the image area is thoroughly clean, you will still notice a halo effect around the image area but this is normal. Never use a paper towel with AlbaChem to clean the screen. Paper towels are simply not absorbent enough.  

For plastisol inks, first scrape off and reclaim as much of the excess ink as possible. Use a microfiber cloth, or as a last resort, a dry paper towel. You can spray Arena Screen Wash or Camie 480 directly onto the screen surface to create a thin even layer. Start with the print side and begin cleaning the remaining ink from the image area. Then repeat the process on the ink side. Plastisol Ink is the only ink that can be left on the screen long term.

For both Water based and Plastisol inks, there will never be a need to use a single drop of water when cleaning the mesh. In fact, using water or a damp cloth on plastisol or water based inks will only work to smear the ink without a meaningful result. 

Never attempt to clean the screen with a shower head or the traditional washout booth. The pressure from the spray will annihilate the mesh and your screen will be unusable. 

One important note:

When using water based inks, it is important that you flood the image area if you are needing to take a break during a print run. If you do not flood the image, water based ink will begin permanently setting into the mesh and your screen will be unusable. Flooding the image will buy you a couple of hours of downtime without damaging the mesh. 

Disposable microfiber cloths are the best option for cleaning both water based inks and plastisol inks from the mesh. You can also use discarded cotton t-shirts. For plastisol ink removal, only a few microfiber cloths will be needed per frame. Water based inks on the other hand, can require a dozen cloths to fully soak up the excess ink before it sets into the mesh. We don't recommend using paper towels to remove water based inks, but if you must use them as a last resort, make sure you have plenty on hand. Paper towels do not have the same absorbency of cloth and are more abrasive on the mesh.

Use the Arena supplied Vinyl Cover Sheet and Blue Painters Tape when you need to block off sections of a screen with multiple image elements. 

The Green Blockout Tape is only recommended if you need to permanently cover up sections on the mesh or pinholes that might appear during high volume print jobs. 

If you use Green Blockout Tape, never attempt to pull it from the mesh. This will permanently damage your screen burn. Use Blue Painters Tape to apply the Vinyl Cover Sheet. Tru Blue Painters tape can also be used to cover pinholes for smaller quantity print jobs. 

Important Note: 


The steps below are designed to ensure no usable section of your screen burn will be affected by the adhesive in the tape. 

For orders with multiple images burned to a single frame, Arena will arrange your image elements to accomodate a center channel where none of the printable areas are present. 

To tape off sections that won't be used during the first part of your print job:

1. Start by placing a strip of the Green Blockout Tape in the center channel, ensuring that the tape spans from frame edge to frame edge. Arena will stage the center strip for you; in the case of
multiple image elements, there might be a need to apply additional
channel strips. Once tape is placed in the center channel, it should never be removed. 

2. When applicable, Arena will supply a Vinyl Cover Sheet to block off the sections of your screen that you won't be printing first. Place the Vinyl Cover Sheet over the section you won't be printing first. Tape the vinyl down on each of the frame edges using Blue Painters Tape. When done, you will have applied tape to three sides of the frame. 

3. The final exposed edge of the vinyl cover should now be resting on top of the center channel strip that was applied in step 1. Secure this edge with another strip of the Blue Painters Tape being mindful to center the tape on the channel strip. 

4. You are now ready to print with your blocked off screen. 

After printing, remove all of the excess ink with an ink card and follow the instructions for thoroughly cleaning the remaining Plastisol or Water Based Ink from all areas of the mesh. Slowly peel the Blue Painters Tape from the frame edges and the vinyl cover. The Vinyl Cover Sheet can be used again for future prints. DO NOT REMOVE THE CENTER CHANNEL STRIP THAT WAS PLACED IN STEP 1.

Plastisol inks are thicker than water based inks- especially white plastisol. Before using any plastisol ink, make sure to mix it to the point where its consistency is 'creamy' in texture. If you try to print without mixing the ink to a smooth, even texture, you will have trouble pulling the ink through the mesh. To mix plastisol ink, simply use a wooden stir stick.

For smaller amounts (pints, quarts) a stir stick or knife will be fine. Larger buckets of ink will require the use of a hand drill and mixing tool attachment. You can save and reuse any residual plastisol ink you have scraped from the frames you are planning to store.

Water Based and Discharge Inks are technically the same.

Discharge inks are commonly used when printing on dark garments. It's still water-based, but it contains a few more pigments that allow the color to "pop" on dark garments. Discharge Inks use an activator additive to soften the dye in the shirt. This activator, or discharging agent, brings the shirt back to its natural bone color so the inks, when cured, appear more vibrant.

If you use discharged inks without the activator, the print result will mimic traditional water based inks. You can use discharge inks with or without the activator on light garments.

Like plastisol inks, we recommend mixing water based inks to the point where its consistency is even in texture. To mix water based ink, simply use a wooden stir stick. For smaller amounts (pints, quarts) a stir stick or knife will be fine. Larger buckets of ink will require the use of a hand drill and mixing tool attachment- especially if you're adding the activator.

Camie480 ande Arena Screen Wash can only be used to remove plastisol inks from the mesh. You will need a microfiber towel, used T-shirt or dry paper towel with this product.

Plastisol inks are not as sensitive to air drying as water based inks are. In fact, you can leave the unused plastisol ink on your frame for months without any effect on the image field.

When you are ready to store or change the color for a new print run, simply "print out" as much of the excess plastisol ink as possible from the image burn and pool the remaining ink to the bottom or top sides of the screen (depending on your pull direction). Remove the excess ink with an ink removal card and transfer the unused ink back to its container.

You can spray the Camie480 or Arena Screen Wash directly onto the mesh. An even coat across the print side of the image burn is all you need. Try not to saturate the mesh. With Camie480, less is better. Using the microfiber cloth or paper towel, start by cleaning the ink from the image burn using circular motion. You can apply medium pressure to clean the ink from the screen burn elements. Once the print side is clean and visible, apply the same application to the ink side of the screen.

Under no circumstance should you use a shower head, sink faucet or spray bottle to apply water to the mesh. Water will only succeed in spreading the ink you're trying to clean and can ultimately damage the image burn.

We advise using protective gloves whenever applying cleaning agents to the screen.

AlbaChem can only be used to remove water based inks from the mesh. You will need a microfiber towel or used T-Shirt with this product. Do not use paper towels as they are not absorbent enough to properly clear the ink from the image field.

After you have fully "printed out" as much of the excess water based ink on the image as possible, push any remaining ink to the bottom or top sides of the screen (depending on your pull direction). Remove and transfer the excess ink back to the ink container. Do not spray the AlbaChem directly on the mesh. Instead, saturate the microfiber cloth or T-shirt with AlbaChem and clean the print side first using a circular motion.

You will need to apply the same application to the ink side of the frame. Make sure you begin applying the AlbaChem immediately after printing out and removing the excess ink. Without flooding the image, water based inks dry quickly into the image burn. Cleaning your screen exactly as described above will ensure the life of your image burn and allow you to print multiple color runs.

Under no circumstance should you use a shower head, sink faucet or spray bottle to apply water to the mesh. Water will only succeed in spreading the ink you're trying to clean and can ultimately damage the image burn.

We advise using protective gloves whenever applying cleaning agents to the screen.

EnviroLine® D-Powder Discharge Activator is used to activate water-based inks to discharge. Stir in 3-6%, by weight, of EnviroLine® D-Powder Discharge Activator and mix well. Different percentages of the Activator will affect the discharge results. Increase or decrease in order to achieve desired results. Mix only enough for current production requirements. Activated ink should be used within 8 hours.

We do not recommend printing more than 3000 prints with a single screen burn. Let us know if you have a multi-color print job that requires more than 3000 total prints.

We do have the ability to double the life of the screen burn if you are printing vector art files or are using an automatic press.

Arena Digital Screens NEVER need to be reclaimed. In fact, if you try to wash our screens in a wash booth, you'll destroy the mesh. The frames we ship you can be re-stretched with traditional mesh if you needed to reuse the frame. Once you are completely done printing, simply cut out the mesh from the frame and run it through your oven. The heat will shrink it into a tiny ball that can be thrown away.

We also buy back used frames in exchange for a discount on your next burn order.

Orders placed and approved before 11am PST can qualify for Same Day Turnaround. In most cases, your screen burn will be ready to ship by the "end of business" within 12-24 hours from the time you approve your digital mock-ups or print proofs. We will not burn your screen until we receive your email approval. Failing to approve the digital mock-ups will delay your Same Day Turnaround. Orders placed on weekends, holidays or after the close of business on Fridays will be pushed to the next business day. Approval delays will affect turnaround time.

If your order is placed within normal business hours, the Standard Turnaround time takes 3 - 4 days from the date you approve the digital mockups or print proofs, excluding weekends, holidays and delivery time.

We do offer expedited shipping as an option. Neither the Standard nor the Same Day Turnaround options include expedited shipping. UPS Standard Ground Shipping is the default shipping option offered at checkout for orders that qualify for Free Shipping and requires 4-5 business days. If you need your screen burn delivered Next Day Air, 2 Day Air, or Priority Express, you will be solely responsible for selecting and paying for those options at checkout.

We highly recommend using professional printing equipment to help you achieve consistent results, especially for multiple color image burns. In this case, image alignment is critical and large quantity print runs always work best when the screens can be properly set and aligned. If you do not have a manual or automatic print wheel or table top station, make sure your garment is placed flat on the print surface and ensure that the item you are printing on will not slip or move when applying the ink. Some inks will require two or more pulls and the slightest bit of movement between pulls can create ghosting or blurred results.

The Arena Digital Screen process uses a CTS (computer to screen) system with a thermal head that heat perforates an image onto mesh laminated with film. Arena Digital Screens drastically simplify the work flow required to burn a 1200 dpi print image without a need for the emulsion or film positives conventional screen making uses. Arena Digital Screens do not require light exposure, chemical cleaning or wash-out.

The best part about our digital screen service is that we are able to print an exact copy of what your image will look like once after you print. We send digital mock ups with every order to confirm the image size, resolution and placement. For more complex artwork, you can request thermal print proofs of each screen burn layer. With these print proof images, you will literally be able to see fine lines and half tones.

Arena will buy back each used frame for a $2.50 credit on your next screen burn order. If have 3 or more used frames and want to send them back, let us know when you're ready to return the frames and we'll send you a pre-paid mailing label. Please visit our Frame Buyback Contact Form.

Pre-burned screens are custom items and non-returnable and non-refundable.

If you have supplied the print ready art files and approved the Print Proofs with a verifiable email confirmation, your Pre-burned screen is replaceable at a discounted rate only if:

1. The reburn request is made within 10 days from receipt of merchandise unless stated otherwise.

2. The reburn is for the same exact image previously burned.

3. Arena has received payment for 50% of the original frame cost + shipping.  

Email to get the process started.

Replacement Screens:

Unless new artwork is supplied, replacement screens ship within 2 business days from the day we receive the request. All replacements will be shipped via UPS Ground. Expedited shipping options are available for an additional charge. Arena is not responsible for user error or lack of user experience. Arena provides both email and chat support and can advise on how to use our products prior to printing on purchased apparel and all orders require acceptance of our Terms of Service, FAQ's and best practices. 

Standard Shipping & Free Shipping is done using UPS Standard Ground Shipping. We are located in Phoenix, Arizona and depending on your distance from us, it can take 3 - 5 days for your frames to arrive.

Alternative shipping options for overnight or 2 day delivery are available at checkout. Feel free to Live chat or call us at 602-357-3288 if you need expedited shipping or have special shipping instructions.

Quick Turnaround

We know deadlines are important. While we advertise a 3-4 day turnaround on any size burn, our average turn time is a 3 day out the door experience. Standard UPS Shipping is FREE for orders over $250. We also offer rush & expedited delivery options and local pickup if needed. Don't forget to checkout our Frame Buyback Program.

Worldwide shipping

Arena Digital Screens aren't made from the same fibers used in traditional mesh. This means your pulls will be fewer, smoother, and easier - making the entire print process faster, more efficient and physically less demanding. Visit our FAQ Page for more info.

High Resolution Print Proofs

There is no better way to guarantee the accuracy of your print ready image files than to view an actual printed proof. Arena Digital Screen Burning makes it easy to print a single copy of your image. We can send you print proofs that you can use to confirm resolution, dimensions and placement.