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February 14, 2013

The History of Screen Printing

-Paint Drops II-

c/o: spekulator

Screen printing is a popular tool that is used to make large quantities of shirts, promotional items and movie posters. It’s cost-effective and efficient when done right and offers more convenience than today’s digital technology. Screen printing dates back to some of the earliest days when the Polynesian Island natives used banana leaves and ink that were transferred onto bark cloth. This practice was continued by the Sung Dynasty in AD 960 when the Japanese used stencils to make intricate designs. In the Middle Ages, these designs were used for mass production.

However, it wasn’t until the 1700s that western culture caught onto the idea of screen printing. It was patented by Samuel Simon in 1907 in England and was used to print wallpaper and other fine fabrics. The techniques used to transfer these intricate designs were kept as quiet as possible, as Western screen printers wanted to keep their discoveries as secret as possible. After all, if this technique was only known by professional printers, it would remain a lucrative business.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way things went. In 1914, John Pilsworth of San Francisco patented a multicolor screen printing process. Right after this time, screen printing was used extensively for recruiting young men for World War I (think back to Uncle Sam’s “I Want You!” slogan). As time went on, more people started using screen printing, such as graphic artists during the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements. In the late 40s and early 50s, Francis and Dorothy Carr of the UK used screen printing as a fine art, and in the 1960s, Pop Art was heavily popularized thanks to Andy Warhol.

In fact, Warhol played a major role in using screen printing as an art form, especially as he used the technique to depict Marilyn Monroe in 1962. A final movement was made in 1960 by artist and inventor Michael Vasilantone who developed a rotary multi-garment screen printing machine, allowing a boom in screen printed t-shirts. Screen printing on garments accounts for half of screen printing activity.

Some speculate that screen printing will be replaced with new technology, but for those who practice this art form regularly, we believe the opposite. Even with digital technology at its highest, screen printing is still most efficient and allows a mass production of items to be made at one time and with little to no error. When businesses need cost-effective and high-quality promotional products, the answer still lies in screen printing.

Blog sponsored by: Great Atlantic Outfitters 

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