Draft: Printing Our History in the 21st Century

[I didn’t know how to paste the links into the actual captions so I put them below the image.]

The process of printing can be taken back hundreds of decades, the earliest known way to print was as early 19th century. Printing originated in China, although it had first aroused in Europe.

2013. Wood Block Printing. Amanda Gordon. http://www.amandagordonmiller.com/blog/woodblock-printing-workshop-june-8

The image above shows the shows the space that was left on the block of wood to be able to make the image, and what part of the wood was carved away. When it came to carving away the work it had to be precise, one small mistake and the whole block of wood would be ruined.

Another strategy that was used back in the day was etching. It was discovered in the 16th century, when it was discovered people such as Picasso, Francisco Goya , etc  began to use it to create some of their important works. captureTo start with etching you needed to apply a waxy, acid resistant ground to a metal plate. After the wax is dry, you would take a needle and begin to draw into the metal. The plate is then submerged into a pan of acid  and the acid eats up where the metal was exposed.  After all of that you are able to ink the plate, wipe off the excess ink and you were able to print that image as much as you wanted to. Etching gave you more control with the lines, and the lines were much thinner compared to the wooden carvings.



The image on the left  shows a copper plate that Picasso himself used for one of his paintings back in 1934. The image on the right shows the way that it came out once it was printed.  Another thing that had to be taken into consideration was that you needed to reflect whatever drawing you wanted to produce. Paying close attention to the line, and the way he composition everything, the little detail is what makes the etch so powerful. You could see that he really put a lot of thought into the image.

The final method that they used to use before creating it the way that we do it today was Lithography. Lithography was invented in 1748 by a German actor and writer, Aloys Senefelder. First you would take a oil based crayon or tusche, greasy ink, and draw the image on a slab of limestone. Then you wipe the stone with a chemical solution that would cause the image to attract the ink you would be using to print. The reason you would want to use a oily, or greasy ink to draw on the stone is because it attracts the ink you would be using to print. All the blank space is then cleaned by the water which repels the oil causing only the image that you drew on there to stay. The stone then is put on a lithographic press and a damp paper is put on top it then it put through the press which applies even pressure throughout the canvas.



The images above are provided by a interactive project created by the museum of modern art. They created animations to show the step by step process on how lithography is made. The first image shows the way that they drew the elephant, with a crayon. The second image is showing the stone being cured so that the image would grab the ink. The third image is the ink being rolled onto the stone, and the fourth image shows  the stone being put through the lithography press so that the image could be transferred onto the paper.

When it comes to present day printing, everything that has been created up until this point has been incorporated into the silkscreen process. Screen printing is a form of stenciling, it was first introduced in the 1900s. By 1960s a lot of major artists started using it, it became really popular when artists like Andy Warhol started using it tosk5 make the Campbell soup, and all the celebrity art he created.  When it comes to early screen printing, you first start off by cutting out the stencil, depending on how you want your design to look. You then put the stencil under the screen (a screen was often a mesh fabric stretched on a frame), and put ink on top of the screen. You then pull the ink through with a rubber blade called a squeegee, the stencil underneath the screen would block whatever ink you didn’t want to get through the screen.

In the video “How To Screen Print -Step by Step process” it  shows a step by step process of how to do silk screening, which is present day printing. You first start off  with designing what you want to print, you can design it on the computer and print out on see through paper, making sure that the print was as black as possible. You also have to separate  different colors onto different layers. sk1When doing silkscreen, it is better to have as little color as possible, because the more color that is used the more time it takes to get the process done. In the image to the left it shows the two different layers that are going to be used to make the one silkscreen the one with the silhouette is going to be black while the sheet with the plus sign is going to be red. After you print the design you want print  you have to expose the design onto your screen. When putting your design on the screen you have to place it as if you’re reading it like normal (left to right). sk3You then need to align that the design is in the middle and that it is as far down as you want your design to be on the shirt or page. You also want to make sure that there is equal space on the right and left side of the design. After it is all aligned you then have to put it under high beam of light so that the black designs transfers onto the screen. You then wash the screen off with a water pressure hose so that the place where the designed was exposed could show and the paint could go through. After you let the screen dry, you are able to apply the paint and start printing you design.

Throughout high school we had majors, and my major was digital media. In my major we were responsible to create logos, poster designs, business cards, and shirts for different clubs and events that the school was having. I was one of the top designers in class, and when it came to designing my teacher would depend on me and 2 other classmates to execute what  the “client” wanted to be done. Designing shirts was my favorite part of that major for the fact that I knew people would be wearing the shirt, and it would be showing off my work.  There was always something great when it came to seeing your designs come to life. Or bringing other people’s ideas and making the become reality.


One of the biggest orders that I had to make once was a shirt design for the girls’ volleyball. I had to design what was going to go on the shirt, as well as silk screening the design onto the shirt. I had to make 150 shirts for this order and they sold it at our school bookstore. One of our biggest orders that I had to create was an order of 500 shirts for a school assembly, I got so many blisters from the wooden squeegee, but regardless of how much pain I was in,  I was proud of seeing those 500 shirts be given out at the pep rally, There has always been some great feeling when you see your work out there. The fact that you put your heart and sweat into something is the best feeling of all.

When it comes to the way that silk screening has become compared to how it used to be, I believe that it has came a long way. I also believe that it will continue to be this way because of the fact that the people will want to continue putting effort into their work. In my opinion things are better when they are handmade because they have more authenticity compared to having a machine do all the work. The process of printing gives you complete control over the way that you want your finished product to look. The product has a certain aura, of the person that made it, and the time that it was made in that it wouldn’t get from a printer.

When it comes to printing on fabric, silk screening has more of an advantage than digital printing. For example, the colors that will appear more vibrant on the shirt because you are using the paint directly onto shirt instead of using the fabric ink which often times doesn’t color match what you have on your design and the final product because of the printer. Another thing is that digital printing is only used for small quantity of orders, while silk screening you are able to make a large quantity of prints. The most important aspect in my opinion is the quality of work,  when it comes to silk screening you are able to wash the fabric over 70 + times before the design begins to get ruined, when it comes to digital printing after the first few washes, the design will begin to fade. The image below is a perfect example of the quality of silk screen vs. digital printing. 

2012, 2015.  Evan Webster Ink.



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