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A Brief Look at the History of the Screen Printing Industry

by Byrne Anderson
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If we were to ask you when the screen printing industry first started, what would your answer be?

The 1920s? The 1960s?

Well, what would you say if we told you that the screen printing industry was much, much older?

If you’re wondering where the screen printing process actually came from, then keep reading. In this article, we give you a brief history of the screen printing industry.

Ancient Beginnings: The First Screen Printing

Historians trace the first use of screen printing to China around 900s AD. This was done with silk stretched between paper stencils and ink on brushes. Stenciling is still used in many ways today and is still used in screen printing.

Following the beginnings of screen printing in China, the Japanese began to use similar simple stenciling techniques to create images. But the art form wouldn’t reach other areas of the world until hundred of years later.

The Geographical Evolution of Screen Printing

Screen printing didn’t make its way to Europe until the 18th century. But, the art form didn’t become popular until much later.

Silkscreen printing was used in France in the early 17th century. This form of screen printing gained wide acceptance in Europe in the 19th century due to silk becoming more available.

From Fabric to Canvas

Now we fast-forward to 1938 New York to when a group of artists began toying with screenprinting as a vehicle for art. Up until the 20th century, screen printing had primarily used to apply images to fabric. The artists coined their process ‘serigraphy to distinguish it from the commercial use of screenprinting and called themselves the National Serigraph Society.

Screen Printing in the Modern Era

The art of screen printing has evolved beyond silk printing and serigraphy to include many different types of screen printing.

Screen printing as we know it today has its beginnings in the 1960s. Throughout the decade, artists like Andy Warhol created screenprints, like the iconic ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans.’ Artists like Warhol are to thank for making screen printing such a mainstay of pop culture.

Around the same time, businesses started using screen printing as a smart marketing technique to advertise their businesses at large. Now, the clothing industry uses custom screen printing to create eye-catching unique garments for businesses and for fashion alike.

Embroidery Vs Screen Printing

Embroidery and screen printing are two common art forms used in the clothing industry to create custom apparel. If you’re interested in creating your own apparel, you may be asking yourself: embroidery vs screen printing; which art form is best for me? Both are beautiful art forms used to create stunning garments and which form you choose will depend on your needs.

The Future of the Screen Printing Industry

The screen printing industry has come a long way since its beginnings in China and Japan. It’s an art form that’s ever-evolving and will remain a mainstay in popular culture and the clothing industry for years to come.

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