Screen printing is a printing method, using silk as a matrix to create a visual image. The process is also referred to as serigraphy, which has a Latin root meaning, “to draw on silk.” The first form of screen printing appeared in China during the Song Dynasty. The process was brought to Europe but did not become a major hit, as silk was rare during the 18th century. In the United States commercial artists primarily used silkscreen until Andy Warhol popularized the use of silkscreen as a high art form.
A screen print is made by stretching silk, or a similar synthetic fabric, over a frame. An image is then transferred onto the screen as a stencil or a photographic negative. An emulsion covers negative area of the screen so that the ink will only be pressed through the positive image area. Screen prints can be hand-printed with a squeegee and printers can use either water-based or oil inks. For photo silk screen, the screen has to be covered in a special emulsion; the screen is then exposed to sun or artificial UV light.
Andy Warhol is the best known Pop artist to use screen printing on both paper and canvas. Other artists who helped to popularize the medium include Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Harry Gottlieb and Robert Indiana.
Screen printed paintings by Warhol can be worth millions. Silk screen editions by other popular artists can sell for tens of thousands. The value of the print depends on the artist, the publisher and the condition of the print.