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The Big Score: High-Stakes Hot-Market Printing

(February/March 2018) posted on Fri Apr 20, 2018

It takes a certain amount of skill, planning, and luck to get commemorative championship game T-shirts from screen to store to happy fan overnight.

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By Kelsey Johnson

In overtime, Georgia takes back the lead with a 51-yard field goal. As everyone in the conference room (and others around the country) watch with bated breath, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa throws a 41-yard touchdown to secure a Bama victory with a final score of 26-23. Amidst cheers of victory and yells of disappointment, I run after Smitherman as he quickly heads to the art department to finalize the Crimson Tide’s artwork and kick off the long night of printing ahead.

Tackling 14,000 Shirts Overnight
As the production crew starts warming up the presses and tearing down any Georgia screens, Smitherman fires up his computer, closes out of the no-longer-needed Bulldogs design, and confirms the final score online – three times, just to be sure. “I’ve seen people who have printed 20,000 shirts with the wrong team or the wrong score,” Scott warned me earlier in the day, and F&E is careful to circumvent such a costly – and avoidable – mistake. Confident Alabama secured victory by 26 to 23, Smitherman adds the final score to the lower right corner of the design to complete Bama’s 2017-2018 season, saves the file and uploads it the server, and hurries out to the screenroom.


A glimpse into the organized chaos of hot-market printing.

We meet Scott at the company’s i-Image CTS Imaging System as the winning design loads and is output and exposed onto the final screens. Almost dizzyingly fast, the screens go from the CTS unit to the washout booth to a vacuum and a fan for drying before they’re taped up and loaded onto the presses running the backs of the shirts: a 16-color M&R Gauntlet III and 16-color Performer.


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