The History of Printing
Ever wonder what the history behind printing is? Well…
Printing began in parts of Asia as a means for documenting the history and creating art. It spread west to parts of Europe and eventually (much later) to the Americas.
Year 200: Woodblock printing, one of the oldest printing forms, is believed to have been invented in China. Woodblock artists carve an image into a woodblock, then ink up the surface and press it into fabric or paper. If the artist wants multiple colors, they can paint them on the wooden block or print layers for each color.
Year 711: The Moors invaded Spain and brought Eastern paper-making techniques with them.
Year 932: China adopted woodblock printing for mass-producing classical books. By 1041, they had invented movable typesetting.
Year 1309: Paper is starting to be produced and used in England. Printing has not yet become widespread, though – books are still typically handwritten.
Year 1403: Movable metal type starts being produced in Korea as a more sturdy alternative to its wood counterpart. The Guild of Stationers is also founded in London; it is a collection of booksellers, scribes, illustrators, and more. Books in Europe are still generally being handwritten out.
Year 1420 to 1445: Woodblock printing finally caught on in Europe, and Johannes Gutenberg began printing text with his movable type press. (A good 400 years after China…)
Print houses (small, 1-5 man print “companies”) are now beginning to pop up! Artists with the financial means would print their works; the wealthy would also fund the printing of specific books from print houses, commissioning illustrations from specific artists.
Year 1462: The first printer’s mark is used on a print (like a logo). It belonged to printer Johann Fust and his assistant Peter Schoeffer.
Year 1529: Champfleury by Geoffery Tory is printed in Paris. It promoted grammar and punctuation – something that is not yet developed and made reading difficult.
Year 1563: Printing is forbidden in France unless approved by the monarchy. (If you didn’t listen, the crime was punishable by death)
Print techniques were rough, and so printers started refining these and inventing new ones. Newer techniques started allowing color printing in a single printing pass.
Year 1642: Mezzotint was invented – the first tonal method for creating half-tones without crosshatched lines or dots.
Year 1690: Papermaking comes to Philadelphia!
Year 1750: John Baskerville invents the first typeface.
Year 1751: The first encyclopedia was printed in France.
Year 1796: Lithography invented by Alois Senefelder
Year 1814: Frederik Koenig and Conrad Bauer built the first steam-powered cylinder printing press in London.
Year 1820’s: the photoengraving process becomes more popular.
Year 1827: The New York Sun became a popular mass-produced newspaper.
Year 1837: Chromolithography (full-color printing process) becomes popular.
Year 1855: The Bank of England issued modern paper money.
Year 1879: The Benday process for creating color images in newspapers is invented.
Year 1886: The linotype, the first successful automatic typesetting machine, is set up at The New York Tribune.
Year 1902: Air conditioning was accidentally invented while Willis Carrier developed a dehumidifier for a New York printer (thank god).
At this point, printing started to resemble what it is today. Many of the processes and techniques developed in the 1900s are either still used today or expanded to become current technology.
Year 1906: CMYK four-color wet process inks were developed by the Eagle Printing Ink Company.
Year 1907: The modern screenprinting process was developed. (Ink is pulled across a sheet of fabric that has been stretched across a canvas, coated with chemicals, and light-exposed in the shape of the desired print image. The image prints on paper or fabric beneath. It is used widely for art, advertisements, logos, fabric, etc.)
Year 1938: Xenography, or photocopying, is developed. (It is not distributed widely until 1959.)
Year 1939: The “first” printed tees in American culture appear in The Wizard of Oz.
Year 1951: Inkjet printing was invented!
Year 1960 to 1970: Screenprinted tees became a fashion choice as art, advertisement, souvenir, or protest mediums.
Year 1969: The Xerox laser printer was invented. Large companies (like Disney and Coca-Cola) also started regularly selling printed tees as products and as a form of advertisement.
Year 1985: Scanning reaches 300ppi. Also, the Apple Laser Writer desktop printer was introduced!
Year 1993: The Indigo digital color printer was introduced (for reference, two years after the World Wide Web was launched).
Year 2003: Hewlitt Packard’s wi-fi laser printer was introduced.
Year 2005 to current day: Direct to Garment Digital printers begin popping up.
Direct to Garment printing (DTG) is the process we exclusively use at InksterPrints. By comparison, it is a very new process still and shows a lot of promise for growth in quality.