Screen Printing: The Push vs. Pull Debate

The debate between whether pushing or pulling is a better method to use when applying ink with a squeegee is one that has raged among screen printers for years. This debate often became more about the merits of the screen printer (does “pushing is for the weak” ring a bell?), and less about the quality of the finished product, which should be the paramount consideration. In truth, both methods have benefits and drawbacks and either method can result in a top notch finished garment. Which one a screen printer uses is solely dependent on his or her personal preferences. For those who’ve yet to make the choice for themselves, here are some things to consider.

First, the pushing method is more ergonomic for the body. It’s easier on the wrist and makes it simpler to employ the upper body to get more downward force on the squeegee. The goal is always to get the ink onto the garment and the push method allows this to happen with less stress to the upper body.  

The downside of the push method is that it only works at a 45-degree angle. This means you can’t achieve sharper or lower angles. Also, if the squeegee is angled too low, the end result could be scraping the wood of your squeegee on the screen or the ink.

Push strokes are generally good for easier designs and spot-color images. The push method requires less effort and therefore creates less fatigue. It also allows for faster production time.  

As opposed to the push method, the pull method allows more printing angles, as well as allowing for adjustments of print quality and thickness. A more upright angle deposits less ink and a less upright angle deposits more ink. However, control of the angle allows you to create a wider range of print styles.  

The downside of the pull method is that it’s tough on your wrists and hands. This can lead to greater operator fatigue.

Pull strokes are useful when creating inside labels, which will be touching skin. They’re also good for prints that need fewer inks, designs that have small details and hard-to-navigate locations like seams.

A screen printer who’s dedicated to the craft will know how to employ both push and pull methods – and know when it’s appropriate to use which stroke. Each method has its unique benefits and drawbacks, and learning both will allow for the creation of the best quality print on a variety of garments.


Josh Wells is the instruction coordinator at Ryonet Corp. (asi/528500). A screen printer since 1992, Wells has run autos, manuals, managed production and supervised production staff. Wells shares his knowledge of screen printing through teaching classes and creating educational videos for Ryonet.