Rika Youngblood (liveavatar) wrote,
Rika Youngblood

Field trip to the T-shirt printers

Yesterday my T-shirt printing class took a field trip to San Francisco to see bigtime shirt printing in the real world. The father of a friend of one of the class members owns a shop that prints a lot of shirts for companies like Live Nation, so that was our backstage pass. The company's been in business for more than 30 years; some of the original employees and working methods are still around.

The building itself is an underlit one-room cavern divided by stacks of boxes and punctuated by shelves. Three mechanized shirt presses chugged away. Our group was very impressed with the huge 16-color stations that automatically re-inked and flash-cured every color. Seemingly haphazard rows of metal-frame screens were clustered everywhere. It looked random, but they assured us they knew what was in every row, in the way you know what's in every pile of papers on your desk. What surprised us most was the amount of white light allowed in the screen burning room. Our class is used to needing to work fast in dim light to make sure we don't overexpose our screens -- here they just use pale orange ambient light and a screen emulsion exposed with 15-second bursts of intense UV.

But the part that cracked us up the most is shown below. Yes, they do have a regular pressure-wash room for cleaning out used screens, but apparently over the years traffic sometimes simply backed up too much and they had to use the men's room for screen rinsing. (The women's room sink suffers from a few ink tracks but is nothing like this.) Now you know the soft low-tech underbelly of the modern shirt-printing business.

Double-purpose bathroom
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