The History of Screen Printing

The Silk-Screen Printing is one of many Printing Techniques.

The Silk-Screen Printing is one of many techniques of printing used to reproduce images or documents on any material. The origin of the term Serigraphy derives from the combination of the Latin word “seri” (silk) and the Greek word γράφειν (gràphein, writing) : from those words generated the word Sericum-graphé.


In China, where the silk was produced 12 centuries before Christ, there aren’t any big screen printing traditions, but in countries of Indo-European, Arabic and Mediterranean Origins, had been found more proofs of Serigraphy. This practice came from a technique based on the repetition of very simple designs, done through a particular inked matrix, or “stamps”.

The Phoenicians, people of sailors and merchants, introduce in the Mediterranean Countries spices, textiles and silk. Probably the Phoenicians found a way to reproduce design and drawing on textile, with techniques that surely have nothing to do with the modern ones, but that gave birth to a system of repetitive printing of an image typical of Silk-screen Printing.

This practice came from a technique based on the repetition of very simple designs, done through a particular inked matrix, or “stamps”.

We may suppose that serigraphy was the next step from the Stamp-printing, where the figures weren’t flat but more detailed and stylized.

The Birth of Screen Printing


A Phoenician matrix found in Tharros, in Sardinia, proved the existence of repetitive printing and stamp-printing, considerate the mother of what it will become, many centuries later, Serigraphy. The populations that even now, continue to use this printing method, aren’t of Oriental Origins, but the ones that came in contact with the Phoenician Civilization.

Printing with a stamp was problematic because of the poor ink that the tool was transmitting to a surface, especially on absorbent and thick textiles.
This Technique was perfectioned with the introduction of masking.



Japanese Improved the Techniques by using Human Hair in the Screen

An Improvement of this technique was made in Japan around the 1185. The image was glued on a specific frame, where the threads were made of human hair tensioned to a wooden frame. In this way the picture could hold together, and the presence of the hair became invisible when a tampon full of ink impressed the design on a surface.

Later on the hair were replaced with very thin silk threads:  Serigraphy starts to become the one we know now.

Old Printing Tool Found
Silk-Screen Printing

In Europe this method became very popular in England and France, where they started to use silk-screen printing to produce wall paper. From the 18° Century this practice started to spread all over the world, more than ever in the USA where everyone was using it to decorate furniture, textiles, walls and metals.

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