first appeared in a recognizable form in
the Song Dynasty (960
other Asian countries adopted this method
of printing and advanced the craft using
it in conjunction with block printing and
Screen-printing was introduced to Western
Europe from Asia sometime in the late 1700s,
but did not gain large acceptance or use
in Europe until silk mesh was more available
for trade from the east and a profitable
outlet for the medium discovered.
Screen-printing was first patented in
England by Samuel Simon in 1907.
It was originally used as a
popular method to print expensive wall paper,
printed on linen, silk, and other
Western screen printers developed reclusive,
defensive and exclusionary business policies
intended to keep secret their workshops'
knowledge and techniques.
Early in the 1910s, several printers
experimenting with photo-reactive chemicals
used the well-known
actinic light activated cross linking
or hardening traits of potassium, sodium
bichromate chemicals with glues and
gelatin compounds. Roy Beck, Charles
Peter and Edward Owens studied and experimented
with chromic acid salt sensitized emulsions
for photo-reactive stencils. This trio of
developers would prove to revolutionize
the commercial screen printing industry
by introducing photo-imaged stencils to
the industry, though the acceptance of this
method would take many years. Commercial
screen printing now uses sensitizers far
safer and less toxic than bichromates. Currently
there are large selections of pre-sensitized
and "user mixed" sensitized emulsion
chemicals for creating photo-reactive stencils.
Joseph Ulano founded the industry chemical
supplier Ulano and in 1928 created
a method of applying a lacquer soluble stencil
material to a removable base. This stencil
material was cut into shapes, the print
areas removed and the remaining material
adhered to mesh to create a sharp edged
Originally a profitable industrial technology,
screen printing was eventually adopted by
artists as an expressive and conveniently
repeatable medium for duplication well before
the 1900s. It is currently popular both
in fine arts and in commercial printing,
where it is commonly used to print images
DVDs, ceramics, glass, polyethylene, polypropylene,
paper, metals, and wood.
A group of artists who later formed the
National Serigraphic Society coined the
word Serigraphy in the 1930s to differentiate
the artistic application of screen printing
from the industrial use of the process. "Serigraphy"
is a combination word from the Latin word "Seri"
(silk) and the Greek word "graphein"
(to write or draw).
The Printer's National Environmental
Assistance Center says "Screenprinting
is arguably the most versatile of all printing
Since rudimentary screenprinting materials
are so affordable and readily available,
it has been used frequently in underground
settings and subcultures, and the non-professional
look of such DIY culture screenprints have
become a significant cultural aesthetic
seen on movie posters, record album covers,
flyers, shirts, commercial fonts in advertising,
in artwork and elsewhere.
Credit is generally given to the artist
Andy Warhol for popularizing screen printing
identified as serigraphy, in the United
States. Warhol is particularly identified
with his 1962 depiction of actress Marilyn
Monroe screen printed in garish colors.
American entrepreneur, artist and inventor
Michael Vasilantone would develop and patent
a rotary multicolor garment screen printing
machine in 1960. The original rotary machine
was manufactured to print logos and team
but soon directed to the new fad of printing
on t-shirts. The Vasilantone patent was
soon licensed by multiple manufacturers,
the resulting production and boom in printed
t-shirts made the rotary garment
screen printing machine the most popular
device for screen printing in the industry.
Screen printing on garments currently accounts
for over half of the screen printing activity
in the United States.
Graphic screenprinting is widely used
today to create many mass or large batch
produced graphics, such as posters or display
stands. Full color prints can be created
by printing in
CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black
('key')). Screenprinting is often preferred
over other processes such as
dye sublimation or
inkjet printing because of its low cost
and ability to print on many types of media.
lends itself well to printing on canvas.
Robert Rauschenberg, Warhol, and many other
artists have used screen-printing this way.
A screen is made of a piece of porous, finely
woven fabric called mesh stretched over
a frame of aluminum or wood. Originally
human hair then
woven into screen mesh; currently most mesh
is made of man-made materials such as steel,
Areas of the screen are blocked off with
a non-permeable material to form a stencil,
which is a negative of the image to be printed;
that is, the open spaces are where the ink
The screen is placed atop
a substrate such as paper or fabric. Ink
is placed on top of the screen, and a fill
bar (also known as a floodbar) is used to
fill the mesh openings with ink. The operator
begins with the fill bar at the rear of
the screen and behind a reservoir of ink.
The operator lifts the screen to prevent
contact with the substrate and then using
a slight amount of downward force pulls
the fill bar to the front of the screen.
This effectively fills the mesh openings
with ink and moves the ink reservoir to
the front of the screen. The operator then
(rubber blade) to move the mesh down to
the substrate and pushes the squeegee to
the rear of the screen. The ink that is
in the mesh opening is pumped or squeezed
by capillary action to the substrate in
a controlled and prescribed amount, i.e.
the wet ink deposit is equal to the thickness
of the mesh and or stencil. As the squeegee
moves toward the rear of the screen the
tension of the mesh pulls the mesh up away
from the substrate (called snap-off) leaving
the ink upon the substrate surface.
There are three types of screenprinting
presses. The 'flat-bed' (probably the most
widely used), 'cylinder', and 'rotary'.