Screen-printing was invented in China, around the first century AD. It was first used as an industrial printing process in the mid-1800s, as a method for printing political posters, fabrics and machinery parts.
Silk screening is able to print on paper, fabric, wood, plastics, metal, rubber and most any other smooth surface. Its direct-to-item printing nature enables many different ink formulations to be used, producing long-lasting, brilliant colour imprints.
Commonly known as a method for printing T-shirts, other everyday items are also silk-screened. Signs, electronic and appliance panels, bumper stickers, mouse pads, motor-vehicle instrument panels, store displays, wallpaper and patterned fabric are often printed by silk screen.
Silk screening has a "cottage industry" reputation. While a number of hobbyists and part-timers enjoy silk screening, it is an industrial printing method that had revenues of more than $7 billion in the United States alone in 2008.
Silk has not been used since before the 1960s, replaced by more stable and inexpensive polyester mesh, with the industry changing the name to "screen printing."
This is the oldest and most common process in which T-shirt can be printed. Silkscreen positives must be prepared, silk screens must be manufactured and these silk screens then gets set up. This is a time consuming process and therefore more expensive on lower quantities, but the unit price is lower on high quantities.
A big advantage of screen printing is that the ink penetrates into the material and thereafter goes through a heat process. This method printing last even longer than what the shirt itself will last.