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Screen Printing 101

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Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable materials which can be pressed through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto asubstrate. A roller or squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing or pumping ink past the threads of the woven mesh in the open areas.

Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen of silk or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface. It is also known assilkscreen, seriography, and serigraph.

 History

Screen printing first appeared in a recognizable form in China during the Shang Dynasty (960–1279 AD).[1][2] Japan and other Asian countries adopted this method of printing and advanced the craft using it in conjunction with block printing and hand applied paints.

Screen printing was largely introduced to Western Europe from Asia sometime in the late 18th century, but did not gain large acceptance or use in Europe until silk mesh was more available for trade from the east and a profitable outlet for the medium discovered.

Screen printing was first patented in England by Samuel Simon in 1907.[2][3] It was originally used as a popular method to print expensive wall paper, printed on linen, silk, and other fine fabrics. Western screen printers developed reclusive, defensive and exclusionary business policies intended to keep secret their workshops’ knowledge and techniques.[4]

Early in the 1910s, several printers experimenting with photo-reactive chemicals used the well-known actinic light activated cross linking or hardening traits of potassium, sodium or ammonium Chromate and dichromate chemicals with glues and gelatincompounds. Roy Beck, Charles Peter and Edward Owens studied and experimented with chromic acid salt sensitized emulsions for photo-reactive stencils. This trio of developers would prove to revolutionize the commercial screen printing industry by introducing photo-imaged stencils to the industry, though the acceptance of this method would take many years. Commercial screen printing now uses sensitizers far safer and less toxic than bichromates. Currently there are large selections of pre-sensitized and “user mixed” sensitized emulsion chemicals for creating photo-reactive stencils.[4]

Joseph Ulano founded the industry chemical supplier Ulano and in 1928 created a method of applying a lacquer soluble stencil material to a removable base. This stencil material was cut into shapes, the print areas removed and the remaining material adhered to mesh to create a sharp edged screen stencil.[5]

Originally a profitable industrial technology, screen printing was eventually adopted by artists as an expressive and conveniently repeatable medium for duplication well before the 20th century. It is currently popular both in fine arts and in commercial printing, where it is commonly used to print images on Posters, T-shirts, hats, CDs, DVDs, ceramics, glass, polyethylene, polypropylene, paper, metals, and wood.

A group of artists who later formed the National Serigraphic Society coined the word Serigraphy in the 1930s to differentiate the artistic application of screen printing from the industrial use of the process.[6] “Serigraphy” is a combination word from the Latin word “Seri” (silk) and the Greek word “graphein” (to write or draw).[7]

The Printer’s National Environmental Assistance Center says “Screenprinting is arguably the most versatile of all printing processes.”[8] Since rudimentary screenprinting materials are so affordable and readily available, it has been used frequently inunderground settings and subcultures, and the non-professional look of such DIY culture screenprints have become a significant cultural aesthetic seen on movie posters, record album covers, flyers, shirts, commercial fonts in advertising, in artwork and elsewhere.

Screenprinting Materials

Plastisol

the most common ink used in commercial garment decoration. Good colour opacity onto dark garments and clear graphic detail with, as the name suggests, a more plasticized texture. This print can be made softer with special additives or heavier by adding extra layers of ink. Plastisol inks require heat (approx. 150°C (300°F) for many inks) to cure the print.

Discharge inks

used to print lighter colours onto dark background fabrics, they work by removing the dye in the garment – this means they leave a much softer texture. They are less graphic in nature than plastisol inks, and exact colours are difficult to control, but especially good for distressed prints and underbasing on dark garments that are to be printed with additional layers of plastisol.

Expanding ink (puff)

an additive to plastisol inks which raises the print off the garment, creating a 3D feel.

Flocking

consists of a glue printed onto the fabric and then foil or flock (or other special effect) material is applied for a mirror finish or a velvet touch.

Four colour process or the CMYK color model

artwork is created and then separated into four colours (CMYK) which combine to create the full spectrum of colours needed for photographic prints. This means a large number of colours can be simulated using only 4 screens, reducing costs, time, and set-up. The inks are required to blend and are more translucent, meaning a compromise with vibrancy of colour.

Glitter/Shimmer

metallic flakes are suspended in the ink base to create this sparkle effect. Usually available in gold or silver but can be mixed to make most colours.

Gloss

a clear base laid over previously printed inks to create a shiny finish.

Metallic

similar to glitter, but smaller particles suspended in the ink. A glue is printed onto the fabric, then nanoscale fibers applied on it.

Mirrored silver

Another solvent based ink, but you can almost see your face in it.

Nylobond

a special ink additive for printing onto technical or waterproof fabrics.

PVC and Phthalate Free

relatively new breed of ink and printing with the benefits of plastisol but without the two main toxic components. Has a soft texture.

Suede Ink

Suede is a milky coloured additive that is added to plastisol. With suede additive you can make any colour of plastisol have a suede feel. It is actually a puff blowing agent that does not bubble as much as regular puff ink. The directions vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally you can add up to 50% suede additive to your normal plastisol.

Water-Based inks

these penetrate the fabric more than the plastisol inks and create a much softer feel. Ideal for printing darker inks onto lighter coloured garments. Also useful for larger area prints where texture is important. Some inks require heat or an added catalyst to make the print permanent.

Sourced and Cited Via WikiPedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screen_printing