Above all the noise of hilarious debate in the screen printing world, it is widely agreed that the earliest practices were introduced in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) where hair was stretched across a wooden frame. Soon after, early forms of screen printing began to take off in other Asian countries like Japan. As printing gained popularity, old methods were improved and innovated while new printing methods were eventually developed.
The name was derived from Silkscreen, as early screens were made from silk, nylon, polyester and even metal. It was patented by Englishman Samuel Simon in 1907, primarily as a way to create wallpaper.
In the 1930’s a group of artists coined the term “Serigraphy” to define the process, taking from the Latin “sericum” for silk and Greek, “graphien” for draw, or write. They would later be known as the National Serigraphic Society. Their work has been popularized by artists like Andy Warhol, particularly for his 1962 depiction of Marilyn Monroe. He was quoted as saying “It was all so simple, quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it.”
According to the Printers’ National Environmental Assistance Center — no doubt a credible name in the screen printing world — the advent of screen printing in its initial innovative phase is “arguably the most versatile of all printing processes.”
Due to the accessibility and relative affordability of screen printing, nearly everyone could do it. This is clearly evidenced in the non-professional (but still remarkably impressive) print work as seen in old-school movie posters, record album covers, flyers, t-shirts, antiquated advertisements, various artwork, and other mediums.