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Art is work. It's fun, but it's actually hard work. I share my trade secrets, research, and observations about building a freelance art career.
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1. Wear your Sparky tees and get a FREE print!

tofu-strong_ltblueGot a Sparky Firepants tee? Put it to work for you to get free stuff!

Yup. We’re offering our loyal fans a free print or $5 off a stock tee when you wear any Sparky tee to Vegan Oktoberfest. We’ll be performing our world famous, live screen printing magic throughout the festival. We’ll be printing two Vegan Oktoberfest commemorative logos and our own unique designs on blank stock tees and on any apparel you bring!

If you’ve never experienced our live printing, it’s a blast. We’ve printed on skirts, blazers, leggings, vests – you name it. Exhibitionists welcome (we’ve had people strip). For the more modest, you can change in a port-a-potty like a superhero. Either way, you get to see the awesome spectacle of ink being laid down on a shirt right in front of your eyes!

This year, we have a super secret new design just for our vegan friends. I can’t tell you what it is yet, but I have a feeling it’s going to be crazy popular. Psst – keep an eye on our insta and you may get a sneak peek.

BONUS FUNlogo-1

We’re also partnering with our very favorite vegan apparel friends, Cowhugger and Threads for Love. Our free print offer is extended to their tees as well! Yup. Just wear one of their super cool vegan tees and we’ll give you a free live print, or $5 off a stock tee.

Come join us at Vegan Oktoberfest. It will be a ton more fun with you there.

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2. Sparky’s T-shirt Review: Bella+Canvas 3001 Unisex

You can have my shirt when you pry it off my cold, dead torso.yellow bella 3001 copy

That’s how strongly I feel about the Bella+Canvas 3001 Unisex tee. In fact, it’s our go-to shirt for screen printing.

Here’s Bella’s description of this awesome tee:

This updated unisex essential fits like a well-loved favorite, featuring a crew neck, short sleeves and designed with superior combed and ring-spun cotton that acts as the best blank canvas for printing. Offered in a variety of solid and heather colors.

This shirt feels super soft to wear, it’s light (4.2 oz) and it’s 100% cotton. I love 100% cotton because it’s easy to maintain and breathes better than many blends. Plus, it looks fantastic on me. They don’t mention that on their website, but it’s true. Actually, this shirt looks good on every person we’ve sold it to or printed for. It’s just a great choice of tee when you need something that fits a wide range of bodies.

They also have some fantastic color choices in this tee.

For some reason, the pale yellow (pictured) feels a tiny bit lighter and easier to wear than darker colors like black or orange – but I allow for my imagination to have taken over here because I love the color so much. Some of my favorite printed Bella tees of ours are black.

The counterpart for the 3001 is the Ladies 6004. It’s basically the same shirt, but with slightly shorter sleeves and a tighter fit. Even so, the unisex t-shirt looks great on feminine bodies, which I can’t say for many other brands where frumpy seems to be an okay standard. This one I can actually suggest and still sleep at night.

If 100% Made in America is important to you, you’ve got options. They also have the 3001U, which is the same shirt but 100% made in the USA. There are fewer color choices, but maybe you can sleep better at night. Still, their policy on only working with overseas factories who don’t use sweatshop conditions makes me feel good about the brand in general.

This is a super value shirt, which is another reason I recommend it to our custom print clients. I believe it’s the lowest-priced shirt in the Bella+Canvas brand and for the money it’s far superior to similarly-priced brands like Gildan or Jerzees.

There are also some reasons I love this tee that only have to do with the screen printing process. These shirts are super easy to print on. First, they’re light (4.2 oz), so getting them on and off platens, folding back into boxes and all the other handling we do doesn’t make us feel like our arms will drop off after a run of 50. They also have a tight weave, so the ink goes on smooth like buttah.

We also have very few loose strings, holes and sewing weirdness when we get the blanks in our shop. Their consistency in quality is nice to rely on. We have had some issues with certain colors (you know, the exact ones we needed at the time) being out of stock at Bella and all our third-party vendors, which can be frustrating. So we have to be cautious about recommending it to customers, making sure we get their order in sooner than later.

So let’s sum up:

  • This shirt looks great on me
  • We get great printing results
  • It looks great on me
  • Super Duper great value

I realize that I don’t really have anything negative to say about this t-shirt. So if my review sounds like I’m shilling for Bella+Canvas, you’re right to be suspicious – but I’m not. I decided to start off our t-shirt reviews with our favorite tee. Coincidentally, it’s also the one I look best wearing.

Questions? Just email [email protected] We’re listening!

 

 

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3. Sor-BetFFs

Sor-BetFFs painting

I had tons of fun painting this one. It’s small, but lickable. I think art should have a high lickability quotient.

Do you oh-my-gawd-NEED this painting? Cool.

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4. Printing live with the coolest students ever!

SF and Group

Sparky & Jenni with the Hawthorne Middle School Eco Club, the coolest kids like, ever.

Print t-shirts live and in person while showing grade school students how to conserve our resources? Sign us up!

A few months ago we got a call from Toni Min, science and math teacher at Hawthorne Middle School. She had been to our booth at a festival and saw our on-the-spot t-shirt printing. Toni told me about her after-school Eco Club, which is completely awesome. They actively learn about ecology and the environment by working on projects such as growing their own garden and talking about the benefits of recycling.

One of the more interesting things we do at our live screen printing events is put our crazy art on people’s existing garments. We’ve printed on some really odd stuff before (wool sweater), and even had a few brave souls strip so we could print on what they were wearing at the moment (which is why we carry a robe). Toni loved this idea (minus the stripping) and wanted to know if we would be willing to print on her students’ shirts specifically for the Eco Club – thereby demonstrating how we can reuse old things rather than always acquiring new stuff.

Jenni and I are totally on board with that. We do a few pro bono events a year for causes we align with, so it wasn’t hard to get us to say yes to this one. We love working with kids, we work hard to protect the environment, we already had the ink…

Sometimes our live printing events can get chaotic and crazy. At high-profile events, it can be a nonstop situation, printing and interacting for hours straight. Apparently people love watching what we do up close and personal! So we weren’t sure what to expect with the HMS students.

Let me tell you, these kids were the coolest cats around. Smart as whips, uber-curious, funny, and just crazy fun to be around. It was a total blast. Thanks, guys! You rock.

Sparky explaining how it all works.

Sparky explaining how it all works.

Ms. Min checks the temp on a drying t-shirt

Ms. Min checks the temp on a drying t-shirt

New shirts! Old shirts, but... new.

New shirts! Old shirts, but… new.

We even printed on dark teees.

We even printed on dark tees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see us print live all over Los Angeles. Sign up for our newsletter and find out where we’re going next!

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5. Beep! Another free coloring page

Happy Overload, the Sparky Firepants fantastic coloring book of joy, is getting closer to being published every gosh darn day. In the meantime, you can print and color this page for free. Beep!

Happy-Overload-beep

Share it with friends! Make drinks. Make snacks. Have a gosh darned coloring party!

Here’s another page: Naked Tofu

And another! Because Toast

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6. The Flying Eye: Customizing a skateboard, Sparky style

06-final

I’ve been customizing things with original art since I could pick up a marker. Individualizing your stuff by making it look totally cool is something humans have a natural tendency to do. We add stickers to our laptops, carry around rad keychains, and put decals in our car windows. The alternative is to mark our stuff by peeing on it like a dog, but my personal preference is paint, stickers and marker.

Typically I come up with my own designs for commissioned pieces, but in this case they gave me a very specific sketch to work from and even dictated the colors they wanted. It turned out completely awesome!

01-sketch

Using the customer’s design as a reference, it looks pretty terrible at this stage. Don’t worry, it will get better.

02-inking

See? It’s shaping up. On to color!

Mostly colored. I added some embellishments that make it uniquely Sparky, like the darker-toned strokes in the wings.

04-need-to-re-ink

You can see where I need to re-ink the lines in black. This also lets me clean up my coloring and shape things. It’s almost like sculpture.

06-final-CU

Done! After this I coat it with a polyurethane lacquer that will keep it all from washing or rubbing off.

Now I just need to finish assembling the trucks and wheels and this longboard is ready to cruise. Next up, I am taking an old and battered box fan and making it better than new. Stay tuned!

If you want to get more stuff like this in your email, subscribe here.

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7. Because toast!

Happy Overload, the upcoming Sparky Firepants coloring book spectacular is still in the works – but you can grab this cute-as-hell page and get it right now. Relieve some stress. Get your color on.

Happy-Overload-best-breakfast

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8. Because toast!

Happy Overload, the upcoming Sparky Firepants coloring book spectacular is still in the works – but you can grab this cute-as-hell page and get it right now. Relieve some stress. Get your color on.

Happy-Overload-best-breakfast

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9. A funny thing happened on the way to the bathroom…

You may have seen our post and tiny campaign to raise awareness for trans equality and the right to use bathrooms according to gender identity.

We haven’t backed away from our support of trans people or fighting those ridiculous bathroom bill(s). However, we did take the shirts down and there are a few reasons:

Support for Trans People

Wow. The support for trans people and agreement over equal bathroom use, especially from the White House, has been pretty overwhelming. Is that fight over? Not by a long shot, but it turned out that our little t-shirt campaign wasn’t really making a dent. The support from the U.S. Government had way more impact. Great news, but there’s no longer any real use in pushing our tees.

Keep Calm and Copy On

Ugh. A hard thing to admit, but the design of the shirt left me feeling like I jumped on a trend. In my excitement to render an idea that I thought would be received in a big way, I lost sight of our core design philosophy, which is to not jump on design trends. I have better, more original designs and don’t need to lean on the overused “Keep Calm” meme. Lesson learned!

Rush Limbo

We kind of rushed the whole thing. Again, our support has not wavered one bit, but the campaign could have been executed much better with more thought. In the middle of a much bigger project, I popped out a design and ran with it, hoping something would spark and catch on. Instead, it got stuck in a sort of limbo. That meant zero sales and zero money donated to support awareness of trans equality. We flubbed it. We’re taking ourselves to Raising Awareness School so we get it right next time.

Polarizing Effects

This issue in particular really polarized people that follow what we do. The majority, we’re happy to report, agree with our message. I suspect the problem is that (unlike being vegan or environmentalists), even when people agree, they sometimes prefer to do it quietly, or simply by liking a post on instagram. Wearing a t-shirt to the mall that might get the wrong kind of attention is not something everyone is up for, even if they support the cause. We’re now thinking of different types of media that might be easier to display. More lessons.

The polarizing effect? We think that’s actually pretty awesome. We lost a few fans over this, but now we know where we stand. No judgement or hard feelings, it’s good for all of us to know what we believe and stick to it.

The Future

Using art to raise awareness about an issue is something Jenni and I have always done and will always do. We are still learning about how to get our message out there so it has a bigger impact. Working in conjunction with other organizations that align with our stance on a given issue is one thing we’ll seek out in the future.

There’s more to come. We hope you’ll stick around and thank you for being here in the first place!

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10. A funny thing happened on the way to the bathroom…

You may have seen our post and tiny campaign to raise awareness for trans equality and the right to use bathrooms according to gender identity.

We haven’t backed away from our support of trans people or fighting those ridiculous bathroom bill(s). However, we did take the shirts down and there are a few reasons:

Support for Trans People

Wow. The support for trans people and agreement over equal bathroom use, especially from the White House, has been pretty overwhelming. Is that fight over? Not by a long shot, but it turned out that our little t-shirt campaign wasn’t really making a dent. The support from the U.S. Government had way more impact. Great news, but there’s no longer any real use in pushing our tees.

Keep Calm and Copy On

Ugh. A hard thing to admit, but the design of the shirt left me feeling like I jumped on a trend. In my excitement to render an idea that I thought would be received in a big way, I lost sight of our core design philosophy, which is to not jump on design trends. I have better, more original designs and don’t need to lean on the overused “Keep Calm” meme. Lesson learned!

Rush Limbo

We kind of rushed the whole thing. Again, our support has not wavered one bit, but the campaign could have been executed much better with more thought. In the middle of a much bigger project, I popped out a design and ran with it, hoping something would spark and catch on. Instead, it got stuck in a sort of limbo. That meant zero sales and zero money donated to support awareness of trans equality. We flubbed it. We’re taking ourselves to Raising Awareness School so we get it right next time.

Polarizing Effects

This issue in particular really polarized people that follow what we do. The majority, we’re happy to report, agree with our message. I suspect the problem is that (unlike being vegan or environmentalists), even when people agree, they sometimes prefer to do it quietly, or simply by liking a post on instagram. Wearing a t-shirt to the mall that might get the wrong kind of attention is not something everyone is up for, even if they support the cause. We’re now thinking of different types of media that might be easier to display. More lessons.

The polarizing effect? We think that’s actually pretty awesome. We lost a few fans over this, but now we know where we stand. No judgement or hard feelings, it’s good for all of us to know what we believe and stick to it.

The Future

Using art to raise awareness about an issue is something Jenni and I have always done and will always do. We are still learning about how to get our message out there so it has a bigger impact. Working in conjunction with other organizations that align with our stance on a given issue is one thing we’ll seek out in the future.

There’s more to come. We hope you’ll stick around and thank you for being here in the first place!

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11. Hey, is that vegan t-shirt… vegan?

Imagine this was printed on leather. Good idea? Bad idea?

Imagine this printed on leather.

Is that a weird question? I mean, after all, it says, “vegan” on it. Of course it’s vegan. It’s right there in the phrase.

Yup, I get it. Except I’m not talking about the message printed on the shirt. I’m asking what’s behind the printing of that shirt.

Is it vegan?

Before we get into some answers, let’s think about a situation we can all relate to.

You’re at a restaurant and you ask your waitperson if your selection is vegan. They pause, consider, and say, “Uhh, yeah. Sure. I think so. Hmmm. Probably.”

How do you feel about that? Kind of… annoyed? Frustrated?

That’s often how Jenni and I feel when we see someone selling t-shirts plastered with a catchy vegan phrase and ask, “Is your printer vegan? Do they use vegan inks or sustainable methods?” and we’re met with blank stares – or worse, total apathy.

Annoyed. Frustrated. Somewhere a unicorn just died.

Even as we clench our fists and mourn mythical creatures, we’d much rather educate than berate. Better results, ya know? Besides, we’re not perfect. We do our best. Caring is numero uno.

Hopefully, you’re one of those vegans who really does care about more than how much cash they can make in the vegan marketplace. As plant-based eaters, I believe we’re also default environmentalists. If we’re going to put our message out there for the world to wear, we should at least try to move in the right direction.

For you, Caring Vegan, I’ve jotted down some information that will help prepare you for your next run of vegan tees. Read on!

No Worms Were Harmed in the Silk Screening Process

We can clear our consciences right off the bat with this little nugget. In silk screening, also known as screen printing, a mesh screen is used as a stencil to push the ink through. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the screens were made of silk. As you might have already guessed, silk is not vegan. Oh no! What to do?

You can chill on this one. The good news is that, these days, screens are made from nylon, not silk. The term silk screening is still used, because, well, we’re used to it. Also, nylon screening doesn’t sound as artsy-fartsy.

Now that we know the worms can relax, let’s move onto inks. Are they vegan? Are they safe?

Are Screen Printing Inks Vegan?

Now and then, we get this question from some of our lovely customers. I wish more people would ask (or care). In fact, one of our customers spent time calling around Los Angeles with that question, only to be disappointed by printers who either couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. Sound crazy? We thought so.

Thankfully, there’s a simple method we use to find out if the ink we want to use is made with animal products or tested on animals. You ready for this? We call the manufacturer.

Mmm-hmm. Yup. That’s it. Even better, we get answers. Sometimes we have to wait on hold while they find their chemical engineer, or we have to rephrase the question. A lot of people don’t immediately understand what “vegan” would mean, so we educate them and ask more specifically about whether or not the ink contains any part of an animal. We’ve always received informative, respectful answers. It’s just that simple.

So if you ask your printer if they use vegan ink, they may not know what you mean. Hey, that’s okay, this is your opportunity to educate them. If you explain nicely, rephrase your question and they give you flack (or don’t know), consider going elsewhere.

Soft Hand, Cold Heart

So you’re at your local vegan fest, festing it up with your jackfruit tacos and all the Soy Dream you can handle, and you find yourself at a vegan apparel booth. Wow, those are some sick vegan tees. So soft, and you can’t even feel the print. You just gotta have one!

Hold up there. Before you plunk down your vegan cash, let’s talk about how those t-shirts are printed. To get a really soft hand like that, screen printers use either water-based ink (we’ll get to that in a minute), or possibly a method called discharge printing. Essentially what a discharge print does is bleach the dye out of the shirt, then a water-based ink is applied for color. What’s the problem?

Discharge inks are highly toxic. There’s formaldehyde and a whole cocktail of other chemicals that you’re not supposed to breathe while printing (or ever). Why should you care about what some screen printer is breathing? Well, that bleaching cocktail at some point not only vaporizes into the air, some of it gets washed down the drain. Where does it go? Some of it gets filtered and sent back to you as tap water. Some it goes out to the ocean, unfiltered. Some of those those animals that you fight so hard to protect live there.

Recently, there have been developments in discharge printing that allow for an enzymatic process. That means “natural” enzymes are used to bleach out the dye rather than toxic chemicals. Still, there a couple things we need to consider:

  1. The dye from the shirt is still released somewhere. Where did it go?
  2. What constitutes a “natural” enzyme? Where do they come from? Animal source? Do you know?

If we’re going to demand that people not use animal products, we should demand to know how that vintagey t-shirt is made. It affects both our environment and the animals.

Water Based Ink is So, Like… Sustainable, Man

Water-based printing is great. It looks good, it feels good on the shirt, it even sounds really environmental. After all it has water in it! That must be awesome! The assumption is that, unlike plastisol-based printing, it’s the best thing for the environment. Why, just take a sip of this water-based ink, it’s delicious. *disclaimer: don’t do that.

Before you drink the water-based kool-aid, read about the myths of water-based inks. Then come back here.

So now you understand that water-based ink is not just water and harmless color made from unicorn breath, it’s actually made with solvents and other chemicals. Not that plastisol ink is chemical-free, but the cleaning methods are very different (and the way we do it, sustainable). Water-based printing can be done sustainably, so knowing how things should be done will help you choose wisely.

What About the Shirts?

Well, thankfully, most shirts are typically cotton or synthetic and no animals are used. However, there are no innocents in textile manufacturing. Virtually every method affects our world in some way. Here’s a great source of information on the different fabrics and their impact on the planet: http://www.greenchoices.org/green-living/clothes/environmental-impacts

Vegans Are Environmentalists

As you can see, no t-shirt printing method is 100% perfect for the environment. It’s about making an educated, conscious choice. You can’t please everyone, but having solid answers for your customers is a pretty big deal.

If you care about the environment and the animals, it’s worth asking your screen printer about their methods. If they can’t (or won’t) answer your questions, it’s the same as a waiter not telling you if your meal is vegan or not.

You wouldn’t accept that, so why accept anything less than vegan and environmentally-friendly screen printing?

More questions? Ask in the comments or email us!

 

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12. Hey, is that vegan t-shirt… vegan?

Imagine this was printed on leather. Good idea? Bad idea?

Imagine this printed on leather.

Is that a weird question? I mean, after all, it says, “vegan” on it. Of course it’s vegan. It’s right there in the phrase.

Yup, I get it. Except I’m not talking about the message printed on the shirt. I’m asking what’s behind the printing of that shirt.

Is it vegan?

Before we get into some answers, let’s think about a situation we can all relate to.

You’re at a restaurant and you ask your waitperson if your selection is vegan. They pause, consider, and say, “Uhh, yeah. Sure. I think so. Hmmm. Probably.”

How do you feel about that? Kind of… annoyed? Frustrated?

That’s often how Jenni and I feel when we see someone selling t-shirts plastered with a catchy vegan phrase and ask, “Is your printer vegan? Do they use vegan inks or sustainable methods?” and we’re met with blank stares – or worse, total apathy.

Annoyed. Frustrated. Somewhere a unicorn just died.

Even as we clench our fists and mourn mythical creatures, we’d much rather educate than berate. Better results, ya know? Besides, we’re not perfect. We do our best. Caring is numero uno.

Hopefully, you’re one of those vegans who really does care about more than how much cash they can make in the vegan marketplace. As plant-based eaters, I believe we’re also default environmentalists. If we’re going to put our message out there for the world to wear, we should at least try to move in the right direction.

For you, Caring Vegan, I’ve jotted down some information that will help prepare you for your next run of vegan tees. Read on!

No Worms Were Harmed in the Silk Screening Process

We can clear our consciences right off the bat with this little nugget. In silk screening, also known as screen printing, a mesh screen is used as a stencil to push the ink through. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the screens were made of silk. As you might have already guessed, silk is not vegan. Oh no! What to do?

You can chill on this one. The good news is that, these days, screens are made from nylon, not silk. The term silk screening is still used, because, well, we’re used to it. Also, nylon screening doesn’t sound as artsy-fartsy.

Now that we know the worms can relax, let’s move onto inks. Are they vegan? Are they safe?

Are Screen Printing Inks Vegan?

Now and then, we get this question from some of our lovely customers. I wish more people would ask (or care). In fact, one of our customers spent time calling around Los Angeles with that question, only to be disappointed by printers who either couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. Sound crazy? We thought so.

Thankfully, there’s a simple method we use to find out if the ink we want to use is made with animal products or tested on animals. You ready for this? We call the manufacturer.

Mmm-hmm. Yup. That’s it. Even better, we get answers. Sometimes we have to wait on hold while they find their chemical engineer, or we have to rephrase the question. A lot of people don’t immediately understand what “vegan” would mean, so we educate them and ask more specifically about whether or not the ink contains any part of an animal. We’ve always received informative, respectful answers. It’s just that simple.

So if you ask your printer if they use vegan ink, they may not know what you mean. Hey, that’s okay, this is your opportunity to educate them. If you explain nicely, rephrase your question and they give you flack (or don’t know), consider going elsewhere.

Soft Hand, Cold Heart

So you’re at your local vegan fest, festing it up with your jackfruit tacos and all the Soy Dream you can handle, and you find yourself at a vegan apparel booth. Wow, those are some sick vegan tees. So soft, and you can’t even feel the print. You just gotta have one!

Hold up there. Before you plunk down your vegan cash, let’s talk about how those t-shirts are printed. To get a really soft hand like that, screen printers use either water-based ink (we’ll get to that in a minute), or possibly a method called discharge printing. Essentially what a discharge print does is bleach the dye out of the shirt, then a water-based ink is applied for color. What’s the problem?

Discharge inks are highly toxic. There’s formaldehyde and a whole cocktail of other chemicals that you’re not supposed to breathe while printing (or ever). Why should you care about what some screen printer is breathing? Well, that bleaching cocktail at some point not only vaporizes into the air, some of it gets washed down the drain. Where does it go? Some of it gets filtered and sent back to you as tap water. Some it goes out to the ocean, unfiltered. Some of those those animals that you fight so hard to protect live there.

Recently, there have been developments in discharge printing that allow for an enzymatic process. That means “natural” enzymes are used to bleach out the dye rather than toxic chemicals. Still, there a couple things we need to consider:

  1. The dye from the shirt is still released somewhere. Where did it go?
  2. What constitutes a “natural” enzyme? Where do they come from? Animal source? Do you know?

If we’re going to demand that people not use animal products, we should demand to know how that vintagey t-shirt is made. It affects both our environment and the animals.

Water Based Ink is So, Like… Sustainable, Man

Water-based printing is great. It looks good, it feels good on the shirt, it even sounds really environmental. After all it has water in it! That must be awesome! The assumption is that, unlike plastisol-based printing, it’s the best thing for the environment. Why, just take a sip of this water-based ink, it’s delicious. *disclaimer: don’t do that.

Before you drink the water-based kool-aid, read about the myths of water-based inks. Then come back here.

So now you understand that water-based ink is not just water and harmless color made from unicorn breath, it’s actually made with solvents and other chemicals. Not that plastisol ink is chemical-free, but the cleaning methods are very different (and the way we do it, sustainable). Water-based printing can be done sustainably, so knowing how things should be done will help you choose wisely.

What About the Shirts?

Well, thankfully, most shirts are typically cotton or synthetic and no animals are used. However, there are no innocents in textile manufacturing. Virtually every method affects our world in some way. Here’s a great source of information on the different fabrics and their impact on the planet: http://www.greenchoices.org/green-living/clothes/environmental-impacts

Vegans Are Environmentalists

As you can see, no t-shirt printing method is 100% perfect for the environment. It’s about making an educated, conscious choice. You can’t please everyone, but having solid answers for your customers is a pretty big deal.

If you care about the environment and the animals, it’s worth asking your screen printer about their methods. If they can’t (or won’t) answer your questions, it’s the same as a waiter not telling you if your meal is vegan or not.

You wouldn’t accept that, so why accept anything less than vegan and environmentally-friendly screen printing?

More questions? Ask in the comments or email us!

 

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13. Fear & Transphobia in the Bathroom

It’s a chance to be decent. It’s a chance to be human.

Keep Calm Potty OnPicture yourself in a public restroom. You’re in a stall, doing your business. The next stall opens up, a stranger comes in to do their business.

Wait. Who’s in there? Do you know? Do you even care? I know that my only goal is to get in and out of that stinky, dirty room as fast as possible. I just want to go back to what I was doing in the freshly-scented outside world.

That’s exactly what transgender people want.

This recently conjured-up fear of creepy men brazenly following little girls into the restroom is not the same as transgender people choosing the restroom that’s appropriate to their gender identity. Those horrid political ads are offensive to us. Their only aim is to create a climate of fear and even worse, they are working.

Let’s get real.

Sure, I accompany our 8-yr old son to public restrooms, always. Partly because I want him to be safe and mostly because I don’t want him dropping his pants onto the pee-riddled restroom floor (yeah, that’s a thing). That has nothing to do with the typical bathroom user who just wants to mind their own business. Just like trans people want to do.

The point is that combining child molesters, violent idiots, upskirt-photo-takers and trans people into one category is wrong. No doubt you have peed in the same bathroom as both and never knew it. The difference being, trans people are not a threat to society.

Today I had to find the restroom at the Omni hotel in downtown Los Angeles. I found this:

gender neutral sign
I went into a stall and used it. I washed my hands. I left. End of story. Zero drama.

YOUR CHANCE TO BE SHOW THAT YOU’RE A HUMAN… WHO SUPPORTS HUMANS.

In an effort to put an end to the false bathroom drama and show our support for transgender people, we created this image:

Yes, we are selling it on t-shirts! 100% of the profits from these tees will be donated to transgender support organizations. Help us in our mission to erase fear, eliminate hate and end transphobia.

BUY THE TEE AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT! 

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14. Fear & Transphobia in the Bathroom

It’s a chance to be decent. It’s a chance to be human.

Keep Calm Potty OnPicture yourself in a public restroom. You’re in a stall, doing your business. The next stall opens up, a stranger comes in to do their business.

Wait. Who’s in there? Do you know? Do you even care? I know that my only goal is to get in and out of that stinky, dirty room as fast as possible. I just want to go back to what I was doing in the freshly-scented outside world.

That’s exactly what transgender people want.

This recently conjured-up fear of creepy men brazenly following little girls into the restroom is not the same as transgender people choosing the restroom that’s appropriate to their gender identity. Those horrid political ads are offensive to us. Their only aim is to create a climate of fear and even worse, they are working.

Let’s get real.

Sure, I accompany our 8-yr old son to public restrooms, always. Partly because I want him to be safe and mostly because I don’t want him dropping his pants onto the pee-riddled restroom floor (yeah, that’s a thing). That has nothing to do with the typical bathroom user who just wants to mind their own business. Just like trans people want to do.

The point is that combining child molesters, violent idiots, upskirt-photo-takers and trans people into one category is wrong. No doubt you have peed in the same bathroom as both and never knew it. The difference being, trans people are not a threat to society.

Today I had to find the restroom at the Omni hotel in downtown Los Angeles. I found this:

gender neutral sign
I went into a stall and used it. I washed my hands. I left. End of story. Zero drama.

YOUR CHANCE TO BE SHOW THAT YOU’RE A HUMAN… WHO SUPPORTS HUMANS.

In an effort to put an end to the false bathroom drama and show our support for transgender people, we created this image:

Yes, we are selling it on t-shirts! 100% of the profits from these tees will be donated to transgender support organizations. Help us in our mission to erase fear, eliminate hate and end transphobia.

BUY THE TEE AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT! 

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15. Daddy, what made the twenties roar so loud?

Here’s a fun poster I did for our local Chamber of Commerce’s holiday party last year. The most fun element was illustrating the flapper. Unreal! Finding and manipulating the right typefaces to exude that art deco 20s vibe was also the bee’s knees.

TCoC-Holiday-Party-Mermaid-letter-size

Like a lot of the work I do, I used reference photos, tracing some parts and making up the others. The advantage to illustrating in the final design versus using a photo is that I can change the line color, weight, fills, and add elements (like the flower in her hat) to tie it all in to the poster design.

Because I created it in Adobe Illustrator, I was also able to pull out elements to make smaller signs, flyers and table signs for the event.

There’s sometimes a misconception that creating design comes out of thin air. The whole “staring at a blank canvas” thing. It can be like that. Most of the time it’s a result of doing a lot of homework on the subject matter – that’s where the ideas come from. The result you see here isn’t complicated, until you start conceptualizing all the other million ways it could have been done. There are always some pretty bad ideas (and designs) that get thrown out.

That’s the work. That’s the art. It’s also the fun. That’s why I do it.

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16. Daddy, what made the twenties roar so loud?

Here’s a fun poster I did for our local Chamber of Commerce’s holiday party last year. The most fun element was illustrating the flapper. Unreal! Finding and manipulating the right typefaces to exude that art deco 20s vibe was also the bee’s knees.

TCoC-Holiday-Party-Mermaid-letter-size

Like a lot of the work I do, I used reference photos, tracing some parts and making up the others. The advantage to illustrating in the final design versus using a photo is that I can change the line color, weight, fills, and add elements (like the flower in her hat) to tie it all in to the poster design.

Because I created it in Adobe Illustrator, I was also able to pull out elements to make smaller signs, flyers and table signs for the event.

There’s sometimes a misconception that creating design comes out of thin air. The whole “staring at a blank canvas” thing. It can be like that. Most of the time it’s a result of doing a lot of homework on the subject matter – that’s where the ideas come from. The result you see here isn’t complicated, until you start conceptualizing all the other million ways it could have been done. There are always some pretty bad ideas (and designs) that get thrown out.

That’s the work. That’s the art. It’s also the fun. That’s why I do it.

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17. Chocolate & Art Show • Los Angeles

Chocolate and Art Show?

You had me at choco–. This looks like a super cool show. If you’re in L.A. February 19-20 and you need something fun to do, go go go! Check out their Facebook Event page here: http://bit.ly/choco-art-LA-FB

This is also my first exhibit in a long time. I’ll have four pieces up at this show. Weee! Here’s a sneak preview:

 

Love Bird front

Love Bird, paint pen on wood

Bear+Donut

Bear+Donut, mixed media on skateboard

 

Hipster Pub Dude, paint pen on skateboard

Hipster Pub Dude, paint pen on skateboard

Retro Tube Sock, mixed media on skateboard

Retro Tube Sock, mixed media on skateboard

I hope to see you there! If you can, please find me and Jenni and say hello. Send a text to 818-835-2585 and we’ll let you know where we are!

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18. Naked Tofu

In my quest to fill the world with the happiest, weirdest art in the world, I have dreamed up yet another vehicle for the task: A coloring and activity book!

While it’s in the works, I couldn’t resist sharing some of the pages with you. Here’s one that will both scratch your coloring itch and stave off Alzheimer’s. It’s printable on regular letter-sized paper (select Fit to Page for best results). Enjoy!

Naked Tofu ©Sparky Firepants

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19. Screen printing a four-color t-shirt

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20. Sparky Shop Tour

It’s a Sparky print studio tour. Expect nothing less than weird.

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21. Color Your Own T-shirt with Fabric Markers

05 coloring

Who loves to color? Ooh, oooh, oooh, we do, we do!

If you love to color and you want to turn a blank or printed tee into your own work of artistry, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to show you how easy it is to color a t-shirt with fabric markers. How easy is it? Super easy.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • Printed T-shirt
  • Thin cardboard (letter-size or larger)
  • Fabric Markers

The Printed T-shirtThe printed tee in question.

For the purposes of our tutorial, I chose one of our own white tees with our famous Vegan Zombie printed in black. You can use any t-shirt you want, really. Go thrift store hunting if you want to do it on the cheap! Sometimes we find some pretty interesting stuff that begs to be decorated. You can also dig something out of your closet, or if you’re cheeky, your roommate’s closet. Just make sure it’s clean. Even a new t-shirt will work best if you wash it once before coloring.

Helpful Hint: If you use someone else’s shirt, make sure they are not wearing it at the time. Although in certain situations, that might be fun.

The Cardboard02 cardboard

In our house, finding cardboard is easy. There’s always some kind of cardboard available, if it hasn’t already been taken by our 8-year old to build a Bionicle diorama. A cereal box works great (take out the cereal first). If you don’t eat cereal (what’s wrong with you), you can use a cracker box, the back of a notepad or cut up one of those boxes from your latest Amazon order. You just want something large enough to fit behind the area you’re coloring. If you have a small piece you can move it around as you go. No biggie.

The Fabric Markers

You can find Fabric markers in most craft stores like JoAnn, Michaels and Ben Franklin. You can also get them online. Most markers are about the same in how they work, so don’t sweat that too much. Try to find ones with fatter tips to start out. If you’re coloring a large area you’ll start to get cranky using a fine tip. Not that I would know, of course. Call it… intuition.

Let’s Color!

03 markersGet yourself set up in a well-lit area with a nice, clean, flat surface. I usually pour myself some sort of cocktail before starting, but you can substitute cocoa, tea, or I hear some people even drink water. Let me know what that’s like.

Put your cardboard piece inside the shirt (not behind it). This keeps any ink from getting through to the back side.

When you start to color, you’ll notice the color going onto the shirt is a lot lighter than the cap. That’s okay. It might look like your marker is running out of ink already, but it’s not. You’re coloring on fabric which soaks up a lot of ink, hence the cardboard. Fill an area with color, then let it dry for a few minutes. Go over it again and you’ll notice that it’s much darker now. Yay!

Let it Dry, Already!

If you’re like me, you’ll put your shirt on right away and go parading around like you just invented cereal. While I can’t fault you for this, I do recommend that you let it sit overnight to dry completely. I guess you could use a hair dryer if you’re in a hurry, but I haven’t lab-tested that as of this writing.

The Result06 colored

Here’s how mine turned out. I really loved doing this because I could add shading and make my Vegan Zombie design look more hand-drawn and sketchy.

You can see that the color is not particularly dense. I left mine this way, but you could always let it dry, then go back over it again to darken the colors.

In the side-by-side below, you can see that our full color screen printed version is much brighter and darker with lots of flat color. This is what I love about doing this crafty coloring project, no two t-shirts will be the same, even if I colored them myself.

09 side-by-side

I Want to Do This RIGHT NOW!

It does look exciting, doesn’t it? Like I said, if your significant other, partner, brother or roommate has a t-shirt that looks like it would be fun to color, that’s the quickest route. But since you have to live with them afterwards and you still need to go out and get markers, why not pick up something new (or used)? You’ll sleep better.

If you think you can wait longer than five minutes (or even a few days), you could order one of our ready-made kits.

I hope you have fun with this. Let me know how it works out for you!

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22. Printable Christmas Gift Tags (even a drunken elf could use)

Christmas-Gift-Tags-imageOh no! It’s Christmas Eve and somebody forgot to buy tags for the gifts. Hmm. Well, you could just get out your Post-it pad or use your burrito wrapper from lunch. Aren’t you swanky.

No! Don’t do that! No one will appreciate black bean remnants on their gift, trust me.

Instead, use these printable gift tags that I designed just for you. Merry Christmas! It’s so easy. There are stockings, snowflakes and even some lightsabers thrown in because apparently there’s a new Star Wars. They should really do some marketing, I had no idea.

There are several pages with different styles. Choose your favorite or use them all!

If you need help figuring this out, it’s okay. We’ve all had someone put too much bourbon in our egg nog once or twice. Here’s how to use these things:

  1. Download the PDF of the gift tags here.
  2. Print them using your home (or hotel) printer. They are letter-size pages, so it’s easy. I suggest printing at full size, but if you shrink to fit, the world will keep spinning. Depending on how much egg nog you’ve had, it may spin faster.
  3. Cut them out using the handy dotted lines as a guide. I use a fancy Fiskars cutter, you could use scissors. Or the plastic knife from your burrito (I suggest rinsing or licking first).
  4. Fill them out. Yeah, I thought that was obvious, but you know… egg nog.
  5. Tape them to the present. Wait, you did what? Ha! Oh well, open them up again and see who gets what, THEN tape the tag to the gift.

If you’re having trouble reading the instructions (egg nog), just look at these photos:

Print

Cut

Tag

In case you got lost (egg nog), here’s where to download the printable gift tags: http://bit.ly/christmas-tags

Happy Holidays and please tag responsibly.

Oh! Wait! Once more thing… try some delicious vegan egg nog.

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23. Naked Tofu

In my quest to fill the world with the happiest, weirdest art in the world, I have dreamed up yet another vehicle for the task: A coloring and activity book!

While it’s in the works, I couldn’t resist sharing some of the pages with you. Here’s one that will both scratch your coloring itch and stave off Alzheimer’s. It’s printable on regular letter-sized paper (select Fit to Page for best results). Enjoy!

Naked Tofu ©Sparky Firepants

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24. Color Your Own T-shirt with Fabric Markers

05 coloring

Who loves to color? Ooh, oooh, oooh, we do, we do!

If you love to color and you want to turn a blank or printed tee into your own work of artistry, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to show you how easy it is to color a t-shirt with fabric markers. How easy is it? Super easy.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • Printed T-shirt
  • Thin cardboard (letter-size or larger)
  • Fabric Markers

The Printed T-shirtThe printed tee in question.

For the purposes of our tutorial, I chose one of our own white tees with our famous Vegan Zombie printed in black. You can use any t-shirt you want, really. Go thrift store hunting if you want to do it on the cheap! Sometimes we find some pretty interesting stuff that begs to be decorated. You can also dig something out of your closet, or if you’re cheeky, your roommate’s closet. Just make sure it’s clean. Even a new t-shirt will work best if you wash it once before coloring.

Helpful Hint: If you use someone else’s shirt, make sure they are not wearing it at the time. Although in certain situations, that might be fun.

The Cardboard02 cardboard

In our house, finding cardboard is easy. There’s always some kind of cardboard available, if it hasn’t already been taken by our 8-year old to build a Bionicle diorama. A cereal box works great (take out the cereal first). If you don’t eat cereal (what’s wrong with you), you can use a cracker box, the back of a notepad or cut up one of those boxes from your latest Amazon order. You just want something large enough to fit behind the area you’re coloring. If you have a small piece you can move it around as you go. No biggie.

The Fabric Markers

You can find Fabric markers in most craft stores like JoAnn, Michaels and Ben Franklin. You can also get them online. Most markers are about the same in how they work, so don’t sweat that too much. Try to find ones with fatter tips to start out. If you’re coloring a large area you’ll start to get cranky using a fine tip. Not that I would know, of course. Call it… intuition.

Let’s Color!

03 markersGet yourself set up in a well-lit area with a nice, clean, flat surface. I usually pour myself some sort of cocktail before starting, but you can substitute cocoa, tea, or I hear some people even drink water. Let me know what that’s like.

Put your cardboard piece inside the shirt (not behind it). This keeps any ink from getting through to the back side.

When you start to color, you’ll notice the color going onto the shirt is a lot lighter than the cap. That’s okay. It might look like your marker is running out of ink already, but it’s not. You’re coloring on fabric which soaks up a lot of ink, hence the cardboard. Fill an area with color, then let it dry for a few minutes. Go over it again and you’ll notice that it’s much darker now. Yay!

Let it Dry, Already!

If you’re like me, you’ll put your shirt on right away and go parading around like you just invented cereal. While I can’t fault you for this, I do recommend that you let it sit overnight to dry completely. I guess you could use a hair dryer if you’re in a hurry, but I haven’t lab-tested that as of this writing.

The Result06 colored

Here’s how mine turned out. I really loved doing this because I could add shading and make my Vegan Zombie design look more hand-drawn and sketchy.

You can see that the color is not particularly dense. I left mine this way, but you could always let it dry, then go back over it again to darken the colors.

In the side-by-side below, you can see that our full color screen printed version is much brighter and darker with lots of flat color. This is what I love about doing this crafty coloring project, no two t-shirts will be the same, even if I colored them myself.

09 side-by-side

I Want to Do This RIGHT NOW!

It does look exciting, doesn’t it? Like I said, if your significant other, partner, brother or roommate has a t-shirt that looks like it would be fun to color, that’s the quickest route. But since you have to live with them afterwards and you still need to go out and get markers, why not pick up something new (or used)? You’ll sleep better.

If you think you can wait longer than five minutes (or even a few days), you could order one of our ready-made kits.

I hope you have fun with this. Let me know how it works out for you!

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25. Sparky Shop Tour

It’s a Sparky print studio tour. Expect nothing less than weird.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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