MAU Art & Design Glossary

Screen Printing


Screen Printing

Screen printing is a typical form of stencil printing. It uses a stencil made from a mesh of tetron or other smooth fiber stretched on a wooden or metal frame. Emulsion is used to block up this mesh, leaving openings in the image section only. Ink is pressed through these pin holes in the image section to print out the image on paper or other substrates.

The formal name for screen printing is “silkscreen process printing” but it is often just called “silk screen” or “screen process” printing. It is also sometimes referred to as serigraphy (French: sérigraphie), particularly in reference to printed artwork. Screen printing is said to have its origin in the dyeing technique which uses stencils and patterns but the history of this technique itself is relatively new, devised in Europe in the 19th century and then established in England as screen printing in the early 20th century. The technique burgeoned in the field of commercial media as it facilitated mass printing regardless of the material. It then started to be used for producing artwork too and gradually spread into the field of contemporary art. Silk was originally used for the screen but chemical fibers such as tetron (polyester) and nylon are now more common. The screen is basically a mesh woven in a uniform pattern. A finer mesh produces a sharper print. It should be selected based on the substrate on which it will be printed, the viscosity of the ink and how detailed the image is going to be.

There are different ways of preparing the stencil. In the photo emulsion method, the screen is coated with photosensitive emulsion and then exposed to light. Another way, the cutting method, is to cut out a piece of paper and paste it onto the screen. Yet another method, the blocking method, is to use an oil-based drawing liquid to draw on the screen and then to coat the screen with a water-soluble filler. Whichever method is used, the basic principle is to block up the holes in the non-image sections to create areas where the ink will either be allowed to pass or be blocked. When printing, oil-based or water-based ink is placed on the screen and then forced through the openings on the image with a squeegee. Unlike other types of printing where the image is transferred from the plate to the substrate, a feature of screen printing is that the image is not printed in reverse because the ink passes through the stencil onto the substrate. Also, the printed surface will become a uniformly colored surface without any inconsistency.


  • Screen Printing: Production Process (Photo Emulsion Method)