The History Of Screen Printing

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Screen Printing—A Brief History


Screen printing has been around for a long time. Its rich and interesting history includes some of the most famous works of art. From its origin in China, during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) transferring designs into fabrics, it has become a versatile mainstay in the world of printing.

Japanese prints have been some of the most recognizable forms of screen printing. Using simple stencilling techniques from cut paper and mesh from human hair, they created the imagery on fabrics by forcing ink through that mesh, onto the fabric with stiff brushes.

When silk mesh became more available as an export from Asia in the 19th Century, it became a profitable outlet for the medium and caused a new growth in popularity throughout Europe.

Two important developments took hold in the early 1900s. Squeegees were formed to pull ink through screen meshes, and Roy Beck, Charles Peter and Edward Owens are credited with revolutionizing the commercial screen-printing industry with their development of the use of photography as stencils in the screen-printing process.


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Screen printing has become a versatile way to print on several different materials like paper, metal, wood, glass, DVDs, and of course, t-shirts.

The term Serigraphy was first coined by a group of artists in 1938. Such artists as Max Arthur Cohn and Anthony Velonis formed the National Serigraph Society. The term Serigraphy combined the Latin word “seri,” meaning silk, and the Greek word “graphein,” meaning to draw. It was a way to differentiate their art from the more industrial use of the process.

Screen printing, mostly in the form of serigraphy, became an important art form in the 1960s for such Pop Artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Peter Blake.

Also, during the 1960’s a rotatable multi-colour garment screen the printing machine was created, developed, used, and sold by American entrepreneur, artist and inventor Michael Vasilantone. His garment screen-printing machine became so popular, it created a boom in printed T-shirts that has lasted through to today, making up for over half of the screen-printing activity in the United States.

Here is a quotation from The Printers’ National Environmental Assistance Center about the practice of screen-printing—

“Screen printing is arguably the most versatile of all printing processes. Since rudimentary screen-printing 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 screen-prints has become a significant cultural aesthetic seen on movie posters, record album covers, flyers, shirts, commercial fonts in advertising, in artwork and elsewhere.”


Still Popular After All These Years


It may be the versatility that has provided us with such a long rich history of screen-printing, not just in technique but also the ability to print on different surfaces. It has been a great equalizer for artists of many capacities. Now, T-Shirt Printing in Canada carries the torch.




GetBold is proud to be part of this history of individualism and self-expression. We create custom design screen-printing on t-shirts in Vancouver. We can help you every step of the way to turn your art into custom apparel. Contact us and we’ll get started working closely with you to create your own rich history.