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Screen Printing/Silk Screen Origin

Today I found this article detailing where screen printing came from and the advancements we have made  today.  As some of you may know, screen printing began with cavemen printing their hands on walls in caves and continued on until the invention of the silk screening process in the early 1900’s.  Luckily for us, screen printing methods expanded on into the mid 1900’s and then all the way up until today.  Although there are many new ways of transferring ink onto a garment (direct to garment printing), we still prefer the “old fashioned way of screen printing” and continue to do it like Samuel Simon of Manchester.  Click read more if you would like to see the entire article.


“A brief history of silk screen printing:

Early origins of Screen printing can be traced to prehistoric artists who sprayed paint around their hands on cave surfaces, which can be considered as the first stencil. Early in their history, Figi islanders cut holes in banana leaves and used them to apply vegetable dyes to print designs on bark cloth. In China, cut paper designs were used to transfer patterns to cloth, while in Japan stencil makers began supporting complex stencil parts with silk or hair. Stencils were used in the Middle Ages to print images & playing cards, And by the sixteenth century stencil craft had become an established art. During the seventeenth century stencils were used to apply the glue for flocked wallpaper designs. By 1787, in America, stencils were used to apply designs directly onto walls and other house wares. The idea of using silk fabric as a screen to hold a stencil is generally credited to Samuel Simon of Manchester, who was granted a silk screen process patent in England in 1907. The basic method consisted of forcing color through silk fabric, left open around images cut out of paper and attached to the silk, thus printing the design on the surface underneath. Near the beginning of the first World War, John Pilsworth of San Francisco developed a method producing multicolored prints from one screen. Commercial shops exploited this cheap technology to produce quantity signs & posters in color. For those who insist that there is no imprinted sportswear without reference to the T-shirt, the story begins more recently. The T-shirt had appeared in more ore less its present form by the early 1930’s, and no sooner did that happen than various people began to print on them, mostly using the flock method with various colleges & athletic teams being marketed. Also someone had the idea to use the T-shirt as an advertising & souvenir item like the one printed for the 1939 film” Wizard of Oz”. Along with Roy Rodgers and Davy Crockett, a few shirts were printed with political slogans for the 1948,1952, and 1964 presidentiall race, only in youth sizes. T-shirts became standard issue for the armed forces during World War II, but it wasn’t until 1954 that plastisol inks were developed, which are the preferred inks for today’s printers. Airbrushed designs began to appear as a result of the demand by hot rod & custom car culture in the late 50’s, and by the late 60’s the printed apparel business was in full swing.”

Thank you graphicfacts.com!

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