I’m a bloke, and as such when it comes to taking out the recycling I’m unable to make several sensible journeys. Firstly I collect all the tins and cereal boxes, and build an eight foot structure that resembles the Manhattan skyline.

Then after some preparatory blowing I attempt what I believe in weightlifting circles is called the clean and jerk. Propelling myself at speed and fueled by foul language I then career towards the bins. There can be only one outcome, and within seconds I’m wearing a pair of cornflake box slip-ons and fully drizzled in tuna oil.

Marvellous – another day smelling like I’ve spent the night in Captain Birdseye’s bunk. And so it’ll come as no surprise to you to hear that although well intentioned, I’m not the world’s most successful eco warrior. To such an extent that I swore that the only article on green issues I would ever write would be the boys book of bogey flicking……and yet here I am, about to join Gordon Ramsay in discussing carbon footprints, (although unlike Rammers, I don’t have a restaurant at Heathrow).

Nowadays you’re supposed to know all about your biodegradables, your biomass and bio fuels: the carbon offset, the carbon tax, and as for carbon trading well that’s all pretty damn straightforward. Then all we need to do is have a quick look at our micro generation and our sustainable development, and it’s home in time for a bag of mung beans and a glass of goat wee. I’ve got energy saving light bulbs dangling from the ceiling like sci-fi haemorrhoids; I’ve sold the guzzler and travel to work by donkey: and all my printers are in a home made bum sling, piped up to a methane converter that runs two autos and a dryer….my work is done…well, not quite, and there’s a reason – I’m still trying to get my head around the idea of eco friendly inks, and before I go on, I ain’t no chemist but…..

You’ve purchased your planet saving T-shirt, a subject I shall leave to the learned Professor Charles of the Continental University, and then you arrive at your printer full of good intentions:

You want water based ink. And why wouldn’t you, anything with water in the title has got to be good right? In some ways yes, but has a printer ever told you that to cure water based inks we run our dryers at less than half the speed, I guess using double the gas? Does that mean our carbon footprint has increased? I presume it does.

And while we’re in our cloud of noxious water based vapour at the Joker’s lair, I’d better confess that no matter how good we think we are, when we use water based inks we spend more time colour matching, have more screens break down and generally faff about like grannies in a factory outlet. It can take us up to twice as long to run a job…….and so we use more gas…. and the sun sets over another melting igloo.

And when we’re not sloshing about in the water based we’re whipping up a discharge cocktail for all your lovely dark garments. It really is brilliant stuff – when you print it you can’t see anything and then at temperature in the dryer, abracadabra, the reactive dye is removed leaving a bright and texture free print….rub it on your face and go mmmmmmm, after you’ve waited a few minutes for the formaldehyde to evaporate of course. Ah good old formaldehyde, fairly harmless and great for embalming bodies, but it’s a skin irritant so printers beware.

And when our ink maestros have finished with the above, they pour the waste inks into air tight containers and rocket them into outer space where they can do no harm. Under no circumstances are water based inks washed onto the water table – if you had a blue cup of tea this morning, don’t blame your local T-shirt printer.

But water based is better than solvent based isn’t it – we’ll I guess so. Solvent based inks have PVC in them, which sounds unnatural to my un-scientific mind. And if that really bothers us I expect we’ll be insisting on the re-introduction of walnut dash boards on our motors and ripping out our PVC windows….and then it’ll get a bit draughty, we’ll put up the heating, and I think I just saw a Toucan in my back garden.

And if you can say it, don’t forget to ask your local printer about phthalates – there are 6 of them I believe, one of which appears in some solvent based inks. As far as I know they’re banned for use with children’s clothing – I’ve got kids and I don’t want any of them growing a third testicle, so right behind that one. Having said that phthalates are a plastic softener, so guess what your cling film is full of – quick, to the gents and inspect your wedding vegetables!

This is all serious stuff though, and my flippancy is only an unconvincing mask for my confusion on the subject.

The ink companies, of course! They will know the answers, and so I arranged to meet an ink guru in a lay-by on the A416.

’The water based is drying quickly in the screen’ I said…

‘But not if you spray it with a water mister from Wilco’s’ he said…



And we shook hands.

Well it wasn’t quite like that, but a document did fall into my pocket, genuinely, and at the risk of sending you into a coma may I quote,

‘With more than 10,000 raw materials, the majority being preparations and mixtures of substances, with long and complex supply chains, it is not feasible for us to obtain guarantees of registration and pre-registration for every single substance at each and every stage of the supply chain all the way back to crude oil or mineral or vegetable feedstock. To attempt to do so would imply a significant resource and added cost that would be unacceptable to our customers’….when I click my fingers you will regain consciousness.

Basically, I think this means that the idea of tracing what’s in stuff and where it’s from is just a touch complex, costly and at the moment unlikely. And on top of all that,

‘In many cases full compositional information is considered to be confidential business information’ So, I presume that means ‘If we did know what was in it, we may not want to tell you’.

Sounds a bit Bond villain perhaps, but is this just the harsh reality of where we’re at today, and is it more honest to admit this than just join in with the greenwash?

And the ink companies are hardly being helped by some of the certifying organisations – 50 grand to licence one product for 18 months! That just isn’t going to happen unless you want to start paying 100 quid for your printed T-shirts. So who’s really pushing the pedal and sending us into the piranha tank?

‘Organic’, as a chemist called Malcolm recently said, ‘is a vague and contradictory term. In it’s current context it is directed at produce manufactured without chemicals, in which case it can hardly be applied to chemicals. But peculiarly, most chemicals we use are organic, as they are carbon based’ ……at which point he stepped through my wardrobe and returned to Narnia.

None of this is a reason to stop trying; I live next to a river and would rather avoid the UK introduction of malaria. So by all means give the Soil Association a call (although as far as I’m aware they won’t accredit your inks). Buy yourself a Prius and plant a tree, it can only help, but if you want a final answer on inks all I can say is, we don’t print with spring water and mango juice, so perhaps the jury is still out.

That said, if you need me for anything I’ll be by the bins wearing a yoghurt pot.

Paul Stephenson
Tshirt printing, screen printing, embroidery
To be remarkable

The Colour wheel, photoshop, illustrator

The colour wheel

Following the popularity of our “print techniques” article and “Pantone swatch download” we have decided to do some more on simple tools that can help fashion designers and graphic designers in their quest for the perfect design for print. If you already know it all then skip this article.

Typical designers’ paint or pigment:

primary colours are blue, red, and yellow. Cannot be mixed to create them.

Primary colours

The corresponding secondary colours are green, orange & violet. Mixed from two primaries

Secondary Colours

The tertiary colours are red–orange, red–violet, yellow–orange, yellow–green, blue–violet and blue–green. Can be produced my mixing primary and secondary hues.

Tertiary Colours

Next article is on colour schemes. A colour wheel based on RGB (red, green, blue) or RGV (red, green, violet) additive primaries has cyan, magenta, and yellow secondary’s (cyan was previously known as cyan blue). Alternatively, the same arrangement of colours around a circle can be described as based on cyan, magenta, and yellow subtractive primaries, with red, green, and blue (or violet) being secondary’s. To be continued………

Useful links:

Online dynamic colour wheel

Download colour wheels:

Flash MX format

Corel Draw 7 format

EMF format

Fireworks PNG file

Photoshop PSD RGB & CMYK

worqx (colour theory and article source)

Tiger Color, color Impact ( great software for colour management and article source)
tshirt printing, screen printing, embroidery

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Yamama – not from the high street


Everything about Yamama is unique and in Brighton. The materials, screens and appliqués all individually created. Yamama has always been about colour, individuality and experimentation. All inspired and realised on the tropical island of Bali. Predicting future seasonal trends, fabrics and colours, designing and printing new graphics and materials is an exciting challenge that continues to push the label forward.

Yamama 08

Yamama! Not from the high street; from the rebels, from the beatniks, the hippies, the mods, the discos. From the punks, the funk, the rockers…the post modernists. Not from the high street, with the wink of an eye.
t shirt printing, screen printing, embroidery

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Chateau Roux – new v-neck T-shirts

Chateau Roux

Chateau Roux have launched a new range of deep v-neck T-shirts. In the usual ultra soft modal fabrics they’re available in black, white and khaki, with both standard fabric options, and in line with the Shotguns in Soho graphics there is also a heavy distress effect. Soft fabrics need light textured screen printing, so October have used water based inks and have also printed a very lightweight foil – even where this is applied over the v-neck detail, texture has been kept to a minimum, making this a very wearable T.
t shirt printing, embroidery, screen printing

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> First t-shirt collection from new London label ‘Zev Couture’


Introducing ‘Filthy Riche’, the first t-shirt collection from new London label ‘Zev Couture’. Printed on quality vintage cut/washed tees, zev’s designs are socially & politically switched-on with a cheeky sense of humour. The collection grabs inpiration from the past & translates it into a forward driven fashion passion for the present! At the time of writing, the range is exclusively available on-line & Portobello Market as of Saturday 15th December… But watch out for Zev on a high street near you, come the New Year!
t shirt printing, screen printing, embroidery

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> Tom Tom – Happy new technology?

I’ve got an XL Tom Tom, a five mega pixel camera and an Ipod; I put a sleek black Samsung next to them on the desk and engage Bluetooth – that should impress them. The door opens and three young men who I suspect live with their mothers, read horror novels and have a shampoo allergy shuffle silently in; they are here to talk to me about spiders, of the Google variety. As they begin mumbling into their bum fluff about string queries while staring at their Clark’s, I find that all I can hear is the server’s incessant dirge, punctuated by the occasional ping pong of an email as it falls onto my virtual doormat……and in my coat pocket I feel the presence, of a Blackberry.

It’s all progress of course, but when I’ve gone a bit heavy on the crème de menthe I’m occasionally visited by my old friend Ben Kenobi who reminds me, ‘You’re more machine than man now’; and when I wake at 4 am to see the kettle spinning around on the record deck I think, it’s inevitable isn’t it, you can’t hide from the future?

Face Space, My Book and Grebo….complete strangers email me and ask if they can be my friend. I’m English and polite and so naturally I say ‘Yes of course old chap, I mean dude, lovely to hear from you’. They then reply asking who the f*** I am and telling me to clear off their friends section. I want to write back and tell them I’d rather drop my undercarriage into a jar of African killer bees than be part of their social network but I can’t, because I’m English, and polite, and so I apologise.

I’m told it’s inevitable that I will blog every move of my fascinating life – I noticed some clown on a t-shirt site recently describing a particularly interesting cloud formation he’d just seen. In the same way is it inevitable I wonder, that we turn to digital print?

The advantages are obvious I guess. No messy inks mean no plastisol on the mother in law’s new Axminster – no bad thing when your mother in law’s got a pierced nipple and has lost all her front teeth to pork scratchings (no offence Doreen). And as for digital print quality, you can pick out the hairs on a gnats todger in glorious Technicolor without a single screen, so no carry on with the old four colour process inks, no set-up costs, BINGO! And onto black garments I’m told.

It’s also easy to operate – apparently even embroiderers can work the kit. This is a huge advantage in the modern labour market. As we all know the ability to read, write, spell and do basic maths are now optional extras for most school leavers….and yet strangely they all emerge with 50 GCSE’s and a bucket of A levels; presumably some of these are in knuckle scraping and gurning. Off the subject slightly – Me? Never! But if you’re ever feeling a touch under par just advertise for a fictional job vacancy – I had a candidate recently inform me that he was suitable for screen printing because in a previous job at the abattoir, he’d been in charge of burning off pig hair. Pretty sure if I‘d been doing that for seven years I’d keep it fairly quiet.

So you don’t need to train a young Paduan screen printer for five years before they’re ready to take the trials…which not all will survive – you just put young Trevor in front of the digital printer and tell him to shout you if it catches fire.

And the digi-bonuses continue – the equipment doesn’t take up much space; it doesn’t fill the room with smoke; I guess it’s eco friendly (?); you’re not standing up spinning a carousel all day until you feet look like a pair of Quavers; and the blow dried salesman in comedy socks informs me that production times are just getting faster and faster. It’s a ‘no brainer’ they say – put that squeegee down and call your first child Epson!

But you know what Mr Stephenson, head of the Luddite Print Company is going to say don’t you? And it’s predictable isn’t it, because I still listen to Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry and blokes whose first names are Blind or Howlin’ (what were their mother’s thinking?) I’m going to take the stairs and not the elevator, use the map and not the sat nav, I might even write someone a letter one day soon, in ink, and I’m not going digital just yet. There’s a reason, maybe not a great reason, but here’s the thing.

Don’t digital prints pretty much all look the same? Now I know we go to some stupid lengths at my place to try and do different stuff. This culminated recently in a bunch of screen printers standing in a field shooting sweatshirts with 12 bore shotguns – well how else to you get an irregular distress in a thick fleece? For any loons interested enough to know we reckon the optimum distance is 12 feet – any closer looks like a post office raid gone wrong. Do not attempt without a licence and permission of the land owner though; although consenting the farmer in our case viewed us with the kind of suspicion I imagine he usually reserves for gay communists.

This excursion was not helped a few days later by the lads at work catching me distressing individual water based prints with sand paper – but this plot loss aside, go digital and I’ve got no expanding bases, no discharge, no suede effect, no high builds, no sprinkled glitters, and what about pressure distressed water based, you know where you just feel that wood in the palm of your hand, press a bit harder and then ooooh just ease off there a touch tiger and lift the screen and yes, oh yes indeed ladies and gentlemen, that print looks a hundred years old – in short, It’s printing Jim, but not as we know it.
t shirt printing, screen printing, embroidery

> Gobbolino Tshirts n Skirts


Gobbolino specializes in everything for the urban raving fairy. Big furry boot covers, beautiful hand customised fairy wings, skirts and head garlands in a flurry of Rainbow-Brite’esque. An unusual range of thigh-hi legwarmers, cute animal ear hats and sexy lolita lace mini skirts makes Gobbolino an original magpie find. Gobbolino was seen first on the streets of Camden Town, London and quickly became available to buy in individual clubwear and alternative shops around the UK and abroad. Heavily influenced by the street wear of the Haruko girls of Japan with their original and inspiring handmade garments. This craze has swept through to the main stream recently with Gwen Steffani’s album ‘Lamb’ where she embraces the Gobbolino style to be different.

Gobbolino’s online boutique has been established since 1999 and their ever growing catalogue grows from week to week with the fast moving trends that encapsulates the new generation of cyber shoppers. “bubblegum slut magazine” says… Extremely DIY, Queen Adreena-esque fake flowers, shredded lace and chiffon and rips, saftypins, glitter, mutilated Barbie dolls and childhood imagery are staples of the style. Amid the fairy skirts, lacy bloomers and kitty ears nothing sums it up quite like the pink n punky…
t shirt printing, screen printing, embroidery


The British Garment Decorators Federation (BGDF) website has a new face. They have revamped the forum, made great improvements to the design and navigation. The refined topics and a better user experience should provide a greater level of social networking.

Its forum is a free internet networking resource portal for garment and promotional product decorators with no administrative charges, membership fees or any other hidden costs.

The BGDF is run on behalf of all British and European promotional textile and promotional product decorators and embroiderers and their associated suppliers.

The BGDF offers free membership to all sectors of the promotional goods and garment decorating sector, either those acting as a decorator or as a supplier to the industry. The BGDF seeks to further encourage good business practices and ethical trading policies for the betterment and greater reward to those operating in the industry it serves.

The BGDF is not acting as a trade association as trade associations charge membership fees. Therefore we do not seek to represent the industry but have formed the Federation to assist those working within the industry. We freely give our time over to the running of the BGDF and we do so because we are passionate about helping others to build better businesses.
t shirt printing, screen printing, embroidery