What is… Print Series | What is Screen Printing?

The History of Screen Printing

Screen printing has evolved from the ancient art of stencilling that took place in the late 1800’s and over time, with modifications, the method has evolved into an industry.

In the 19th century it remained a simple process using fabrics like organdy stretched over wooden frames as a means to hold stencils in place during printing. Only in the twentieth century did the process become mechanised, usually for printing flat posters or packaging and fabrics.

Initially, although it was not a well known process, screen printing bridged the gap between hand fed production and automated printing, which was far more expensive. It quickly transitioned from handcraft to mass production, particularly in the US, and in doing so opened up a completely new area of print capabilities and transformed the advertising industry.

Today it has become a very sophisticated process, using advanced fabrics and inks combined with computer technology. Often screen printing is used a substitute for other processes such as offset litho. As a printing technique it can print an image onto almost any surface such as paper, card, wood, glass, plastic, leather or any fabric. The iPhone, the solar cell, and the hydrogen fuel cell are all screen printed products – and they would not exist without this printing process.

Production

Screen printing is a technique that involves using a woven mesh screen to support an ink-blocking stencil to receive a desired image.

The screen stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable materials, by pressing through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate (the item that will receive the image).

A squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing ink through the mesh openings to wet the substrate during the squeegee stroke. As the screen rebounds away from the substrate, the ink remains. Basically it is the process of using a mesh-based stencil to apply ink onto a substrate, whether it is t-shirts, posters, stickers, vinyl, wood, or other materials.

Screen printing is also sometimes known as silkscreen printing. One colour is printed at a time, so several screens can be used to produce a multicoloured image or design.

When & Where is Screen Printing Used?

Screen Printing is most commonly associated with T-Shirts, lanyards, balloons, bags and merchandise however this process is also used when applying latex to promotional printed scratch cards or for a decorative print process called spot UV.

All using the same process of squeegees and screens, the clear coating is then exposed to UV radiation lamps for the drying process.

Primarily used to enhance logos or depict certain text, spot UV is a great way to take your print to the next level.

Author: Gavin Ellis, Print & Studio Manager Far’n’Beyond

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