Silkscreening has its origins in simple stencilling, most notably of the Japanese form (katazome), used on textiles, mostly for clothing. This was taken up in France. The modern Imprinted Merchandise process originated from patents taken out by Samuel Simon in 1907 in England. This idea was then adopted in San Francisco, California, by John Pilsworth in 1914 who used silkscreening to form multicolor prints in a subtractive mode, differing from Contract Silk Screen Printing as it is done today.

Silkscreening is such a great happy medium nestled comfortably half-way between hand-drawn and mass production, more colorful than photocopying and with an aesthetic all its own.

Silkscreening took off during the First World War as an industrial process for printing flags and banners. The use of photographic stencils at this time made the process more versatile and encouraged widespread use.