Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Art of Silkscreen Printing

by Nicole Lindquist

At Allem Studio we believe that understanding the effort and process behind the creation of the beautiful things in our homes and lives really adds to their value and gives us a greater appreciation for them. And hey, who doesn't like to learn new things every now and then? With that in mind we're introducing you today to silkscreen printing, a technique Allem Studio uses to create many of the prints on our products.

A small selection of Allem Studio's silkscreen printed pillows. Clockwise from top left: Kashmir Gold PillowIndus Navy Pillow,
Chevron Orange PillowTroy Seafoam PillowSofia Sand PillowChetak Round PillowElephant Gold Pillow, and Elephant Blue Pillow

Silkscreen printing was first developed in China around 1000 years ago — give or take a few decades. It gradually spread throughout the globe and in its current incarnation has become an extremely popular printing method used in a wide variety of industries from medicine to textiles to electronics.

On the left is the computer designed circuit board layout and on the right is
the final silk screen printed circuit board

Silkscreen printing on fabric
CC Image "Fabric printing, Bikaner" by Rick Bradley on Flickr

This form of printing uses a screen, commonly made out of polyester (originally made of silk — hence the technique's name), that has a stencil applied to it which allows ink to seep through the mesh of the screen, thereby transferring a specified image to a given surface. A popular method of screen printing, developed in the early 20th century, treats the print screen with a UV-sensitive emulsion. The screen is then left to dry in a dark room. Once dried, a stencil of the desired image is then laid over the screen, and the whole thing is exposed to light. This causes the uncovered emulsion-treated area of the screen to harden, creating a layer through which no ink is able to pass. The emulsion from the stencil covered portion of the screen is then rinsed away which will allow the ink to pass through the screen in this area to create the desired image. The printing artist then lays the screen over the surface to be printed and uses a squeegee or similar tool to transfer ink through the mesh and onto the material below.

A) Ink is applied to one side of the screen. B) A squeegee is used to drag the ink across the screen. C) Where photo-emulsion has been previously washed away to reveal the image to be printed. D) Photo-emulsion preventing ink from passing through the screen. E) Screen. F) The printed image.
CC Image: Harry Wad  

Silkscreen printing using a hand bench
CC Image by Scrud123

While this whole process sounds rather technical and complex, silkscreen printing is not simply used for commercial applications but is actually something that anybody can learn to do. In fact, screen printing is used as a form of artistic expression and doesn't require a lot of financial investment, which makes it a very accessible artistic technique. When used to create works of art silkscreen printing is actually called serigraphy. And you might be surprised to learn that one of the most famous works of art in the world was created using the silkscreen method: pop artist Andy Warhol's Marilyn Diptych.

An example of simple hand silkscreening
CC Image by obin-martin

An example of serigraphy: Mißverständnis, Siebdruck, 1975 by Margret Hofheinz-Döring
CC Image by Peter Mauch / Galerie Brigitte Mauch Göppingen

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