How to set up a silk screen for printing.
The silk screen-printing process was first developed in China during the Sung Dynasty and later appropriated by other Asian countries, particularly Japan, where silk screening supplemented block printing. When silk from China became available for trade during the late 1700s, Western Europeans began to use the silkscreen method of printing custom clothing. Samuel Simon patented screen-printing in England in 1907, and the process was used to print on linen, silk, and other expensive fabrics.
Experimentation with photo-reactive chemicals began as photography became popular, and the rudiments of making photo-reactive stencils were developed early in 1910. Over the years, as silk became too expensive to use for screens, other fabrics like nylon, polyester, and steel were used instead. The name of the process was consequently changed from silk screening to screen-printing. Andy Warhol had popularized screen-printing by the 1960s, and many artists use the process today to create original or appropriated artwork. When the rotary multicolor garment screen-printing machine was patented by Michael Vasilantone in 1960, the phenomenal growth of screen-printing onto fabrics began!
The modern screen-printing process begins with stretching a finely-woven and porous fabric (like mesh) over a wooden or metal frame. A stencil is made by blocking off areas of the mesh to form a negative of the desired image. A non-permeable resist material is used to block off the areas that will not be printed.
There are several methods that can be used to create the stenciled screen. The simplest and oldest method is to cut a design from a non-porous material and attach it to the underside of the screen. Ink is then pushed through the screen using a squeegee. Another method is to use a filler material to paint a negative image onto the screen. Artists often paint directly onto the screen with drawing fluid and then paint screen filler over the entire screen once the drawing fluid is dry. Then, water is used to spray out the screen after the screen filler dries. This guarantees that the only areas washed away are the ones painted with the drawing fluid. When ink is placed onto the screen and forced through it with a squeegee, only the original painted image drawn by the artist will print.
The photo emulsion technique is currently the commercial standard in screen-printing preparation. For this process, artwork is drawn, painted, photocopied, or laser printed directly onto transparent acetate or tracing paper. The prepared imagery is then placed on top of a screen that has been coated with emulsion, exposed to ultraviolet light (which causes the emulsion to harden), and then washed. The areas that were not exposed to the ultraviolet light wash away and leave the negative image on the mesh to form the stencil. After the stencil is made, ink is pushed through it and the ink is deposited upon the material being printed. Thousands of image copies can be quickly reproduced, without loss of detail, using the photo emulsion technique!
Despite these new techniques and fast printing presses, screen printing still remains the least expensive and fastest way to reproduce imagery onto a variety of materials.
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