Mears, who opened his campaign in the Water Cube by finishing sixth in the 3m synchro final with Nick Robinson-Baker, scored 421.05 to just miss out in semi-final A.
With the top three from each semi-final advancing to the final, Mears was just over two points shy of doing so with Mexico's Yahel Castillo placing third in semi-final A with 423.40.
Qin Kai, who topped semi-final A with a score of 505.55, went on to win the final ahead of Chinese teammate He Chong after bettering his first effort to 548.65 in Beijing.
Starling meanwhile placed fourth in semi-final B of the women's 3m springboard after scoring 294.10 with He Zi going on to take victory with a total of 395.65.
Alicia Blagg and Rebecca Gallantree won silver in the women's 3m synchro final on day one with no Brits in action in either of the 10m platform events on day three.
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