Revision: Printing Our History in the 21st Century

Printing throughout history has always been the same, the only things that have changed were the techniques to make it easier and quicker to print things. Printing has always had an element and appreciation for making things by hand. It ranges from hand carving wood, to using a sharp object to carve into a metal plate, to using oil crayons to draw on stone, and  stenciling all these methods have led up to the method that we use now, silk-screening. They recently started trying to use digital printing, but that won’t catch on anytime soon, which I’ll describe why later on. I believe that the silkscreen method we use now won’t be changing anytime soon because there’s something about the traditional way that makes printing great. The main thing I want to focus on is the fact of using your hands and the handmade aspect of the overall pieces that people create.

The process of printing can be taken back hundreds of decades, the earliest known way to print was the as early 19th century. Printing originated in China, although it had first aroused in Europe in the 1400s, it was first used for stamping designs onto fabrics,and textiles. They would start with a block of wood, and would sketch out the image  and then you carefully begin carving a pattern or text into the wood, the parts that you would carve away from the wood, would be the white space, while whatever was left on the wood, represented what the ink would portray.

2013.Wood Block Printing. Amanda Gordon

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, the people had to have a very steady hand or else 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. in the video, above they show a step by step process of how an etching is made. To start with etching you to make sure that the plate you will use is clean, you then apply a “ground” to the plate. You the needle or sharp object to begin to draw into the “ground”.When it comes to this process you also need a steady hand to make sure every line is where you want it to be. Every line where the copper is showing is where the ink will be applied to. 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 gives you more control with the lines, and the lines were much thinner compared to the wooden carvings. people also prefer etching because it is a more sculptural way of making art because one is carving into the plate.

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 the 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 an 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 an 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.

Marilyn Monroe.Andy Warhol. MOMA

When it comes to present day printing, everything that has been created up until this point has been incorporated into the silk screen process. Screen printing is a form of stenciling, it was first introduced in the 1900s. By the 1960s a lot of major artists started using it, it became really popular when artists like Andy Warhol started using it to 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 wooden block that has a rubber blade at the end 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. When 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 right, sk1it 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 to 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). You then need to make sure to align the design.sk3 The design has to be in the middle and be 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 a 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 your design.

Throughout high school we had majors, and my major was digital media. In my major, we were responsible for creating 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 were 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. 

2012, 2015. Evan Webster Ink.

When it comes to digital printing there are some downsides to it. For the first example, the vibrancy of the inks, in an article by Sew Mama Sew people complain about the cost and the color quality. According to CustomInk digital printing lacks the vibrancy in certain colors, as well as printing on dark shirts. You also have to deal with the fact that the color that you might want when designing on a screen will not always come out from the printer when trying to answer why colors are different on the screen compared to the actual print there isn’t an easy answer. One main point is that the screen and the ink used to print work on 2 different color models, screens use RGB while printing uses CMYK. Another example that digital printing isn’t the best way to get shirts done is when it comes to the quality of the final product, in the image above it shows the same design printed on shirts using the 2 different methods. To the left, they used the digital printing and on the right shows the silk screen method. The silkscreen method has crisper lines and better detail. Here are some other examples:

the top pictures are the digitally printed designs and the bottom ones are the screen printed designs you can really tell that screen printing really gives to more detailed and accurate lines. It gives people more control of how they want the final piece to look. Thirdly, when it comes to the designs over time the screen print designs last longer than the digitally printed designs. You can wash the screen print design 70+ times and the shirt will still look good while the digitally printed design can fade away withing a couple washes. The last reason is the is that when it comes to digital printing you are able to only do a small order, while the screen printing can range from small to big orders.

I believe 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. Overall people should appreciate the hand-craft aspect of printing that has improved over time, instead of trying to make everything else easier.


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