As this blog is still in its infancy I thought a post about the origins of screenprinting might be apt.

Ancient China

Screenprinting, as with many forms of art and printing originates in Asia. The simple processes involved have changed little but over time the materials and how we achieve various effects has changed.

Stencilled artworks from the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) are the earliest example of screenprinting in China.


Japanese artists developed their own stencilling tradition known as Katazome. Although the date Katazome was first invented is hard to determine, the earliest relic has been dated as being produced in the 6th century.

Katazome is a method of printing on fabric using a stencil, ‘paste resist’ and paint. The stencil is referred to as Katagami. The stencil is used to create a reverse image by applying the paste resist into the cut out areas over the garment or cloth. We still use resists today and create reverse images in the same way using screen filler.

Katazome is a highly skilled process carried out by skilled craft persons. Each step of the process requires precision and accuracy. Although Katazome is said not to have travelled outside Japan it’s clear that the principles of stencilling and printing have.

Travel to Europe

Screenprinting, or stencilling as it was at the time, migrated from Asia into Europe in the 18th century. However uptake was slow due to lack of silk mesh, which was required for the screen.

With a new market for silk in Europe traders increased their supplies and screenprinting took off. In the early 1900s screenprinting evolved further and was widely used in commercial printing. Printers developed chemical compounds to produce photo-reactive stencils.

Wartime use

WW1 created the need for many flags and banners to be produced. As such industrial screenprinting was put into action to produce these. Propaganda posters were also produced by countries on both sides of the fighting. You’ll surely be familiar with posters like ‘Dig for Victory’ and various conscription posters from the time.

Pop art

The king of pop art, Andy Warhol, popularised screenprinting in an unprecedented way. He and other artists used screenprinting to produce art that subverted the commercial focus of 1960s America.

Today artists and commercial enterprises alike use screenprinting.