My Most Expensive Mistake Ever

We’ve all made mistakes. Unfortunately, a printing mistake in the production world tends to be expensive. The most expensive mistake I ever made was on over $20,000 worth of goods. Here’s how it happened along with what I’ve done since to avoid it ever happening again.

An Expensive Mistake

I had created a design for a rather large industry event that was going to be held in San Deigo. The design was approved and we began production.

In production, the shirt was set up to print the back first, which was a 12-color print. The sleeves were next (8-colors) and then the front (also 8c).

The front had a few elements from the back and the text, “San Deigo” printed right in the middle.

During production, I got a call. The owner of the shop, a friend of mine, said that they’ve printed everything but there was a mistake. I asked him what it was and he said that I had misspelled “San Diego”.

I spelled it “San Deigo”, just like I did in this post twice already. Did you notice it? If not, don’t worry. Neither did the owner of the shop, the vendor who approved the artwork, the guy burning screens, or the press operator – and they printed them all!

I was going through the worst part of my life when this happened but that’s no excuse. The true reason this mistake was made was because I didn’t do an essential part of my job – the final spell check.

After this, you can guarantee that I read aloud every single thing I send to production. I read it once normally and then spell out everything a second time. Since that day (around 8 years ago), I haven’t made the same mistake – an incredibly expensive mistake – again.

The Cleanup

We scrambled to try to find a solution and actually ended up doing something I’ve never seen before or since—we printed over the mistake on each and every piece.

I had to come up with a way the press operator could do this without the luxury of reg marks.

They ended up burning another black screen (they were all black shirts) and printed over the mistake to make it look like it was distressed. I was lucky they had lasers to help align the already printed tees on the palettes. *I call them “palettes”, not “platens”. Both are correct.

Believe it or not, it actually worked.

The Fallout

Luckily, I was friends with the shop owner. And yes, we’re still friends to this day. However, even though we salvaged the shirts, I cost him a lot of money.

It was the worse mistake I’ve ever made BUT I hope you can learn from it.

Always check your spelling!

Remember, the art is the first part of an expensive process. Take the time to make sure what you’re letting go out onto the floor is correct. Because once it leaves the artist’s desk, the costs start to snowball.

Have you ever made a printing mistake? Share it in the comments!

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