Screen Printing: What Is It, and How Did It Get Here?


Printing is by far one of the best inventions and practices our society has ever pursued. It has allowed us to do so many things—while most applications are just for fun, printing also has plenty of practical uses that have approved us to build a stable society. To most people, printing may be a simple practice, but there are many different types of printing that are used in different ways. Some printing methods are more versatile, while others are particular in their purposes. FESPA have compiled a synopsis of the future of the industry.

What Is Screen Printing?

You may have seen businesses offering screen printing services or screen printing supplies recently and wondered about this printing method and what it is. Screen printing also referred to as silkscreen, serigraphy, or serigraph printing, is a very versatile method of printing that can be used on many different materials such as glass, paper, plastic, cotton, and even metal. The process uses a stencil and a screen, typically made of polyester and stainless steel threads that have been woven together and stretched tightly across a frame. The stencil is used to mask areas of the screen where ink should not be placed, thereby creating the image that will be printed as the ink passes onto the exposed parts.

A Brief History of Screen Printing

Although the modern method of screen printing has only been around since the early 1900s, screen printing as a whole is an ancient method of printing designs onto various materials. In fact, the printing method dates back all the way to 221 AD in China, where it was used to print designs onto different fabrics. Back then, the stencils were made of paper, and the mesh screens were made from woven human hair. Silkscreens were first incorporated into the process in the seventeenth century by French printers who started stretching silk across a frame, much like modern methods, although stiff brushes were still being used to push the ink through the screen and onto the fabric.

It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that the modern method of using squeegees was introduced to push ink through the screens. After this, in 1938, a group of artists in New York began to experiment with screen printing on paper as a way to make art; they called this printing method serigraphy, and it was made famous in the 1960s by artists such as Andy Warhol. After this, screen printing continued to adapt and evolve to meet society’s needs and has efficiently been established as the go-to method of printing for contemporary art.

Advantages of the Screen Printing Method

There are many reasons why screen printing is such a popular printing method in a modern society where printing occurs every day. Its benefits include the following:

  • Versatility: It can be used on many materials and with many different mediums such as traditional ink, adhesive, lacquer, and even conductive silver.
  • Customisation: Ink can be applied in thick layers, unlike with other printing methods, which means that printers can customise designs easily.

Next time you see something printed, whether it be a circuit board or a graphic tee, you may think about the printing process and the significant likelihood that screen printing was used in the production.

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