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Screening Messages With Computers

June 22, 1995

Want to express your opinon to, say, thousands of people? John McDonnell of Pacific Moon Activewear in Laguna Hills suggests one way is with wearable messages.

His company screen prints and embroiders slogans on golf shirts, Polos, T-shirts, sweats, jerseys, jackets, tank tops, uniforms, dresses, shorts, caps, pants, aprons, tote bags and you name it. Clients include San Clemente and El Toro high schools, Merrill Lynch and Marriott Hotels.

This is another in a series of first-person columns that allow people connected to the fashion industry to talk about their encounters.

I work a lot on computers with CorelDraw, an IBM-based art software program. We can get color separations for screen printing and embroidery right from the computer.

What clients like is [that], when we design on the computer, they can see the color image on paper prior to printing on fabric.

Typically it takes two weeks to go from initial contact with the client to art concept to finished product. Once art is approved, to screen-print an order you separate the artwork into two films, either clear positive or negative, depending on the art and if you're trapping color within another color. Then you expose the films onto screens.

The screens are taped and set up on the press. The ink colors are mixed. We can mix up to 750 colors. Then we're ready to go. We set the shirts on pallets, and we screen print one color at a time. I used to do the screen printing myself, but now others do it.

A shirt is pulled off the pallet and set on a dryer belt. It runs through a dryer that's set at 800 degrees. The inks are drying, however, at 330 degrees, because the shirt's running through the dryer, and the motion cools it down. If the shirt goes too slow, it will burn. We can run about 120 shirts through the dryer each hour.

As far as embroidery, for a nice logo, after the art concept is approved, we take the artwork, enlarge it, then digitize it onto a computer disk. That digitizing tape is fed into the embroidery machine. Everything is preset. You can't compare this high-tech method to the old-fashioned way of having a person embroider by hand. With a machine, you can have underlaying stitches that round out the design and other types of effects.

The T-shirt brands I prefer are Hanes' Beefy T and Oneita Power T. Both are good quality and keep their shape after washing and won't shrink. The two top inks are Wilflex and Union. Those inks will last longer than the clothes.

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