Screen printing is one of the most versatile artistic techniques in the world. It’s a relatively simple technique that has been around for over a thousand years, but it is still a cornerstone of many industries. Artists have used that time to come up with a variety of variations on the core technique, so modern workers can use it on everything from pinball machines to balloons. The most famous use is undoubtedly the production of custom shirts, an industry that couldn’t exist without the technique.

What Is It?

Like all printing techniques, it is a method of putting ink or other materials on a surface without relying on a brush. The pattern is determined in advance, so it’s very easy to produce multiple shirts that are exactly alike. This method is particularly versatile, so the ink can be replaced with conductive materials for electrical work or protective coatings that can go on top of other designs.

Where Did It Start?

Screen printing began in China during the Song Dynasty. While the modern process usually uses synthetic materials for the screen, the original artists relied on natural silk. That meant that while the technique did spread outside of China, it only became popular in regions that had easy access to silk. That meant that is quickly became common throughout all of China, Japan, and Korea, it had a hard time becoming popular in Europe or America due to the cost of silk.

That changed when silk production increased and new transportation technologies spread it all over the world. It was one of the cheapest methods available by the 20th century, which made it popular with artists. Andy Warhol made it famous in the art world of the 1960’s, and later developments only served to make it even more popular. Now it is one of the most important industrial tools in the modern world, and it still serves as the core technique for making wearable art.

How Is It Done?

This is a relatively simple method for putting ink on a surface. It begins with a layer of mesh that is placed on a shirt or other surface. Some parts of the mesh are covered with stencils, while the rest is left uncovered. The artist puts ink on the uncovered portions of the mesh, and then presses it down to make the ink adhere to the surface.

It’s possible to expand the process to print multiple layers. Artists can also choose from a variety of different inks and other tools to create unique effects, such as deliberately cracking some of the ink. Some inks also include glitter or other particles that can add to the final design.