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BookSmithStudio.com | Nikki Smith Book & Visual Artist

Handmade books and various art explorations

Archive for March, 2013

A Musical Affair: paper necklace tutorial

March 9th, 2013 by Nikki Smith

I’m lovin’ the paper necklaces that my friend Andreea and I made on our art date last week. The concept is as simple as can be (though it requires some patience) and the resulting jewelry is stunningly elegant, lean-in-for-a-closer-look, touchable and oh so fun!

We were inspired by a project by Jason Thompson in his book, “Playing with Books: The Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book.” (I highly recommend it!)  Of course, we put our own spin on the project and learned some tricks and tips along the way.  If you would like to make a similar necklace for yourself, here’s how:

Total project time: 2 to 4 hours.


Paper — Fun ideas include: sheet music, a recycled book, old maps, colorful magazines, text in foreign languages, an illustrated children’s book, etc.

Paper punches —  A hole punch and a circle punch or other fun, simple shape.  I used a double-heart paper punch instead of two punches.  While not identical, this is the closest I could find online:

Necklace — chain, wire, leather, etc.

Optional — beads for spacers, glue, paintbrush, wooden skewer & cork (for holding punched paper)

Creating the Necklace:

Tip: Determine how many pages your punch can cut through at once.  I started out punching these shapes one at a time (yikes!) and it would have taken me days to complete if I hadn’t realized this simple time saving trick.  My friend was able to cut six sheets of paper at a time with her newer punches, while the double-heart punch I used could cut about four sheets at a time.

If you are using a punch that already has a hole in the middle (as I did with the double heart punch shown above) then line up your papers and start punching.  Otherwise, begin by using the small hole punch to make the holes for the centers of your paper shapes.  Next, turn your circle or shape punch upside down so you can see through it and line up the punch so that the inner hole is as close as possible to the center of the final shape.

Punch, punch, punch and punch some more…  (Turn on some tunes!)

Bonus Tip:  My hands got tired and sore after a few hours but I was determined to keep going.  Then it dawned on me that I could also punch on a hard floor using my foot and the heel of my shoe rather than the palm of my hand.  This won’t work with every style of punch, but it sure helped my hands feel better.  🙂

Optional:  I placed my cut paper shapes on a wooden skewer with a piece of cork at the end for easy storage while I continued punching.

Now for the fun part!  There are a few ways to proceed from here, depending on what style you like best…

Version 1:  String your paper shapes onto the necklace and try it on. The paper shapes will tend to lie flush with each other, perpendicular to your skin.

Version 2:  Use beads (or even paper beads) to space the necklace out.

Version 3:  This is my own variation, which I love!  To make the papers overlap nicely so that details can be seen all along the necklace (as shown in the photos here), you will need to glue a few small clusters of paper shapes together and space them around the necklace.  I took groups of four to six hearts and threaded them on to my wire necklace, gently overlapping them.  I applied a small amount of glue (I used ModgePodge) with a paint brush to where the papers overlapped and then let the set dry on the wire.  You can see one of these clusters in the lower-right corner of the photo below.  I made about eight of these clusters and spaced them around the necklace.  All other hearts are loose, individual papers.  The clusters have the effect of forcing the other papers to lay at an angle and overlap.  Beautiful, and so touchable!

I hope you have enjoyed this little tutorial!  I believe this is the third sheet-music necklace I’ve made, each in a completely different style.  One was a charming little booklace (mini-book on a necklace) as featured on CraftGawker, and another was based on a tear-drop shaped piece of vintage sheet music coated with ice resin for a transparent look.  I’m passionate about music, and I love expressing this passion in my artwork, especially in such a touchable form!  How have you incorporated music in your artwork?

Tutorial: Installing PhotoShop Brushes

March 1st, 2013 by Nikki Smith

One of the most powerful tools in PhotoShop for artists is the ability to install and use custom brushes.  Here is a handy tutorial that walks you through the process:

STEP 1:  Locate brushes.
There are many great places to find PhotoShop brushes including a Google Search or one of my favorite resources: Deviant Art.

Tip:  Pay attention to the licensing of the brushes you discover. Many brushes are free to use in any way you wish while others require attribution or are for personal use only.

STEP 2:  Download and save the brushes (“.abr” files) to your computer. 
NOTE: If the brushes were compressed in a “.zip” or “.rar” file, then after you download it you will need to un-zip the file to find the .abr brush files.

STEP 3: Place the “.abr” brush files in the following location:

Windows Users*:

Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop X\Presets\Brushes

* replace the X with your version of PhotoShop.

Mac Users*:

/Users/{username}/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop X/Presets/Brushes

* replace {username} with your username, and change the X above to match your version of Adobe.

STEP 4:  Open PhotoShop and select the Brush Tool (see 4A below).  Next, click on the small down arrow in the Brushes Palette next to the preview of the selected brush (see 4B below).

Next, click the right arrow in the upper right corner and select “Load Brushes” (see below).

In the dialog window that opens, choose the brush you wish to load.

Congratulations, your brushes have been installed!  Use the scrollbar to scroll through the active brushes and click to select your new brush:

Now you are ready to paint!

I hope this tutorial was helpful to you.  If you are stopping by after reading my article in Somerset Digital Studio (Spring 2013) magazine, welcome!

You can see more of my music-inspired digital watercolors (mentioned in the article) here, or check out some of my other tutorials here.

I’d love to see what you create following my tutorials.  Please drop me a link to your art in the comments!