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A Brief History of Screen Printing

03/19/2019 by RushOrderTees.com

As an online retailer, we produce thousands of screen printed items on a daily basis. Screen printing is efficient, ideal for working on fabric and other materials, and yields excellent results for our customers. Today, most people associate screen printing with t-shirts – but this printing process has a much richer historical context than most of our customers even realize.

Originating in China, the screen printing process has changed dramatically with technology, demand, and primary use; however its methodology remains largely intact. Though first patented in 1907 in England, screen printing dates back to the Song Dynasty, around the year 1000 A.D. in mainland China where silk was easier to access and printmaking and inking techniques were already well formed.

working hard at the ancient screen printing project

Throughout the 1900s, the screen printing process evolved with advances in chemical sciences, with many practitioners running tightly guarded shops intent on preventing trade secrets about the process itself. Photosensitive emulsions began to be developed, specifically for the preparation of stencils. Though it would take time for the screen printing industry to accept this step forward, it eventually took hold as the most accurate and efficient way to prepare a stencil for screen printing. Today, this method remains as the industrial standard and is how we prepare each of our customer’s screens for custom printing.

early example of photosensitive emulsion print

As time progressed, both artists and artisans continued to experiment with screen printing and even developed famous examples. Perhaps the most infamous example is Andy Warhol’s popular 1962 depiction of Marilyn Monroe, a multi-color serial screen print in memorably exaggerated colors:

Screen printed Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol

Around this time, custom t-shirts began to develop as a fad, and thankfully for us, continues to live on to this day. Over half of all screen printing in the United States is done on t-shirts, and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of the industry. We take pride in taking an ancient art form, combining it with the efficiency of modern technology, and offering consumers hand-crafted artisan products of the highest quality. Whether you’re looking for a one-color design for a few people or a complex print with thousands of pieces for a retail project, we’d love to work with you and show what a thousand years of experience looks like.

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