A big question that every screen printer asks in his or her career is whether to push or pull a squeegee. Although there is no wrong answer because there is similar quality when the substrate is finished, this has seemed to be an ongoing debate for many years especially with beginners. Truthfully, whether you’re pushing or pulling a squeegee, there are both positive and negative effects. So, it comes down to the printer’s personal preference.
To start, the pushing method requires the least effort and stress on the wrist and body. Pushing makes it easier, more ergonomic, and causes less fatigue because the overall movement comes from the upper body pushing in a downward motion. Pushing a squeegee also increases production time with simple designs and spot color image. Another benefit of this method is the amount of control in the inkwell. Pushing causes the ink to build up at the back of the screen versus the top nearest the printer and prevents ink from getting all over the top of the screen.
The pushing method also has its drawbacks as it is only at its best when held at a 45-degree angle. If the squeegee handle is too high it can cause the squeegee blade to shutter or jump across the image creating an uneven print. If the squeegee is angled too low it could cause the handle of the squeegee to scrape along the screen into the ink. Thus causing a perfect little mess that usually transfers from the handle to your hands or to the screen then to your clothes and so on.
As opposed to the push method, pulling a squeegee is much more taxing on the body. Any screen printer can tell you that pulling a squeegee all day long is very tough on the fingers, hands, wrist, and arms. This method has been known to cause arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome after years of screen printing. However, even though the pulling method has several disadvantages to it, they’re also some great benefits. For starters, pulling a squeegee allows for more print angles and control over those print angles, which provides more styles of printing. A sharper angled and more upright squeegee will deposit less ink onto the garment, whereas a less upright angle would deposit more ink onto the garment. These squeegee angle adjustments allow for different print quality and thickness.
In summary, it seems as if pushing a squeegee is the better overall print method but, just like everything else, it takes time to develop your own way of doing things. Ultimately there is no wrong way to print with a squeegee. With that being said the majority of experienced screen printers will continue to use both the push and pull method, and they’ll know when it's appropriate to use each.