Screen printing first appeared in the Song Dynasty of China, which was between 960 and 1279 A.D. It was refined by a range of different Asian countries, including Japan. It finally came to Europe at the end of the 18th century. However, the Europeans were not overly enthusiastic about the technique at first. It’s popularity didn’t really start until 1907. This is the year that Samuel Simon, from the United Kingdom, placed a patent on the technique. The technique, at this point, was used to create expensive wallpaper, as well as beautiful and exquisite linens and silks. It was not something suitable for everyday people, in other words.
It only took about three years for the printing world to change once more. During this time, printing experts started to look into the usage of photo-reactive chemicals. Three scientists in particular Edward Owens, Charles Peter and Roy Beck, made great strides in the usage of this product. Their photo-imaged stencils were at the heart of the screen printing industry we know today. However, once again, it took many years for this technique to become popular. In those days, the sensitizers that were used in the printing process used dangerous chemicals and presented all sorts of dangers, which has all changed now. For a long time, nobody was able to find out what was actually in the chemical mixture. During the 1960s, the technique was popularized in mainstream society and people started to demand more transparency. The technique became truly popular when Andy Warhol released his Marilyn Monroe image. However, more work needed to be done to improve the technique. The main problem was that it was excruciatingly slow.
However, this all changed when American inventor, artist and entrepreneur Michael Vasilantone started to become interested in improving the technique. He released a patent on a screen printing machine with rotary multicolor garment in 1960. His goal was to facilitate the printing of logos on bowling balls, sports t-shirts and other such things. Once he noticed that printed t-shirts were incredibly popular, he focused on that a lot more. Various manufacturers joined in, licensing the Vasilatone patent. It is still the most popular tool that is used for garment printing in the screen printing industry. Today, around 50% of all screen printing industries print garments, which demonstrates just how important the Vasilatone machine actually is. Clearly, screen printing has come a long way from its humble and secretive Chinese beginnings. What pleases most people is the fact that screen printing is no longer exclusive, but rather something that can be accessed by people from all different walks of life.