Screen printing is a versatile medium that can be used to create fine art or commercial reproductions. Of the four printmaking methods, screen printing is the only one which can personalise a wide variety of items, from textiles to ceramics.
Screen printing has only recently become a viable medium for reproductions, despite evidence of its existence as far back as 500 A.D., according to "Printmaking: History and Process." The process is thought to have begun in China and Japan during that period, where it was used to transfer decorative images to fabric. Screen printing would become popular in the United States in the 1960s when Andy Warhol used the method in his art.
In artistic screen printing, stencils are often made by hand and applied to screens for printing. A squeegee is pulled across the screen and ink enters the open areas to create an impression of the image on another surface. In commercial printing, a chemical emulsion is applied to a screen, and then artwork printed on vellum paper is attached to the emulsion. The screen is then placed under a powerful light, which "burns" the image from the vellum to the screen. The vellum is then removed, and the screen is sprayed with water, which reveals the open image area created in the emulsion while under the light.
The screen printing process affords one the opportunity to print images and text on a variety of promotional items. Unlike other printmaking techniques, such as intaglio or relief, screen printing allows many prints to be created before a reapplication of ink is necessary, which makes screen printing very useful commercially.
Images for screen printing have to be simple in design and reduced to definite lines or shapes that will print well. While screen frames are durable, and can be reused many times, they can eventually become warped and uneven. Most hand-stencils are very fragile and break down faster than emulsion-based processes.
- "Printmaking: History and Process"; Donald Saff; 1978
- Printers National Environmental Assistance Center: Printing Industry Overview