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Screen Printing 101 - Blog 1 The History of Screen Printing

This is the first in a three part series.

One of the early printing techniques that is still popular today is screen printing.

According to Wikipedia “Screen printing is a technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas that transfer ink, which is pressed through the mesh as a sharp-edged image. A squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing the ink into the mesh openings for transfer during the squeegee stroke.”

Screen printing is also commonly known as silkscreen printing because prior to the use of the polyester, nylon and other synthetic materials silk was the kind of fabric being used for this printing technique.

It was in China that screen printingfirst appeared around 960 to 1279 AD. At that time, human hair was used to form the screen. Other Asian countries then followed suit, developing more techniques and better methods, taking this printing technique to a completely new level.

The Western world did not see screen printing until the latter part of the 18th century. However, it was not widely accepted until silk fabrics were more available and accessible in trades and fairs.

Three names are to credit are Edward Owens, Roy Beck and Charles Peter (see “Popularity” section of the link), for modernizing the marketable screen printing production by introducing photo-imaged stencils during the 1910’s. It was then, that a handful of printers tested the possible uses of photo-reactive chemicals. The printing industry, though well established, did not see screen printing accepted by a wide market until some years later.

Enter the 1930’s. It was during this time that artists who formed the National Serigraphic Society as to distinguish the artistic purpose of the screen printing process from its industrial one coined the term ‘Serigraphy’.

Since then, screen printing has been widely used as a favorite printing technique because of its versatility, ease of use and application. The artist Andy Warhol has also been famous among the industry and screen printers primarily because it was Warhol who popularized serigraphy in the United States of America, during the 1960’s.

Also in the 1960’s, a multicolor piece-of-clothing screen printing machine was invented by Michael Vasilantone and used to print and produce logos on garments and different kinds of fabrics, but later on, focused on t-shirt printing. It revolutionizes the multi-colored printing and more than doubled the screen printing movement in the US.

As of today, screen printing is widely used all over the world in making graphic designs on posters, t-shirts, garments, bags and more. The use of screen printing also translates well to printing on canvas. Notable artists like Andy Warhol, Rob Ryan and Harry Gottlieb, have used this medium to create artistic masterpieces and unforgettable images.

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