The History Of Screen Printing


The History Of Screen Printing

Screen printing is a process that uses a stencil and mesh to print a design on a variety of products. It is used by both fine artists and commercial printers to produce prints on t-shirts, DVDs, glass, paper, metal and wood.


The origins of screen printing techniques go back as far as 960 AD during the Song Dynasty. This was a period when China developed new techniques that allowed intricate designs to be transferred onto fabric. These new techniques used a mesh made from human hair and block stencils. Stiff brushes were also used to force ink through the mesh to create the desired design. In the 1900s, screen printing techniques began to take hold in Europe and eventually across the United States. Englishman Samuel Simon was the first person to patented screen printing methods in 1907. In 1910, a team of three printers named Roy Beck, Charles Peter and Edward Owens began using photo-reactive chemicals to improve the screen printing process. However, these chemicals were very toxic and not widely used at the time. Scientists have since tweaked these chemicals to make the process safer and more environmentally friendly. This is the process we use today.

The Evolution Of Screen Printing

During the 18th century, silk mesh made its way to Europe as European merchants traded along the Silk Road. It was only in the late 1700s that silk screening gained widespread acceptance. However, the silk trade was a major limiting factor on the spread of this printing technique. It was used primarily for art and documentation, rather than for garments. In the early 1900s, printers began using photo-emulsions to create stencils on screens and squeegees were created to pull ink through the mesh. This would revolutionize commercial screen printing. Inventor Michael Vasilantone is credited with streamlining the process in the 1960s, when he invented a screen printing machine that could be used to print logos on clothing. This allowed for a wider range of designs and more mass production.

Common Materials Used

Paper and fabric are the most common surfaces for screen printing, but it can also be used to print onto metal, wood and plastics with specialized inks. The most basic method involves preparing the stencil on the screen, adding the desired color ink to the top end of the screen and then using a squeegee to push the ink through the open areas of the stencil, imprinting the design on the product beneath. The mesh count and tension of the screen are controlled to ensure that the printed designs are accurate and detailed. The emulsion is also carefully selected to make sure that the finished products are smooth and have no creases. This is especially important for textile garments and merchandise.