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BookSmithStudio.com | Nikki Smith Book & Visual Artist

Handmade books and various art explorations

Posts Tagged ‘tutorial’

Creative business card display for artists: Slinky-powered!

April 2nd, 2014 by Nikki Smith

Shhh…don’t tell my kiddos, but they’ve just lost a slinky!

Slinky: a creative business card holder!

I love my MiniCards by Moo.com (a box of 100 cards each with their own design: perfect for showcasing my artwork), and now I have a wonderful, creative, artistic way to display them! Yay!

I’m putting this in practice at the Wylde Women Art Show in downtown Bryan, Texas, less than 24 hours away. If you’re in the Bryan/College Station area, stop in to say hello to the artists, enjoy the artwork and live belly-dancing performances.  I can’t wait!  The opening reception is Thursday, April 3rd from 6:30-8:30pm at Square One Gallery in Bryan, TX, or stop in for First Friday from 6pm to 9pm.  I’ll also be at The Arts Center this Saturday from noon to 1:30pm for the opening reception of the Brazos Valley Art League Member Show.  I would love to meet fellow artists and art lovers in the area.  🙂

P.S. If you need creative business cards to show off your artistic talent, I highly recommend Moo.com. Sharin’ the love: follow this link for 10% off your first order. Then raid the toy box for a slinky – I won’t tell the kids if you don’t! 😉

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!

Video Tutorial: Windows Live Movie Maker for artists – Showcase your artwork!

December 28th, 2012 by Nikki Smith

The following step-by-step video tutorial is designed for artists who want to create a video slideshow of their artwork, complete with music soundtrack.  You can then share your video on YouTube, your blog, or social media sites like Facebook, Google Plus and more.  The (free) software used in this video is Windows Live Movie Maker.

This tutorial is a companion to my “Getting Technical: Video Simplified” article in the current Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.  I hope you enjoy it!

Handy Links:

Sources of Legal Music:

You can also view a sample artwork showcase video created in Windows Live Movie Maker below:

P.S.  Did you create a video showcase of your artwork?  Please share a link in the comments below — I’d love to see what you have created!

Tutorial: The making of a Wee Planet…

October 16th, 2011 by Nikki Smith

As promised, here is a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the making of a wee planet:
(UPDATE:  Stay tuned for a special giveaway at the bottom of this post!)

If you’d like to try this at home, first read this important safety message (sanctioned by your mother) about taking photos in silly places like the middle of the street or pastures:

Please borrow a friend as a spotter for the day and use appropriate safety precautions.  (Side note: Sometimes I wonder about all of the legal disclaimers in our culture: professional driver on a closed course; do not try this at home; warning – coffee is hot… A neighbor child promised he wouldn’t sue me as he asked my permission to pogo down the steps in our sidewalk earlier this summer – sheesh!  I know I’m getting way off topic…Just be responsible and use your best judgement.) 

STEP 1: Scout a location. TIP:  The cleanest & easiest planets have something fairly uniform in the top and bottom third of the photo – sky above and grass or water, etc., below.  

The ideal time for taking photos is usually (a) the middle of the day when the sun is above you, the lighting is even everywhere and the shadows are minimal, (b) an overcast day can work for the same reasons, or (c) at dawn or dusk, give or take twenty minutes.

STEP 2: Stand in the middle of your scene (watch for traffic!) and slowly turn in a circle taking photos all the way around.  We’re after a 360 degree panorama of the location, showing sky above everything (take an extra layer of photos if there is a tall tree or building.)  

STEP 3:  Stitch the photos together to create a 360 degree panorama.  Many photo editing software programs will have tools to help line-up and blend your images where they overlap.  TIP:  The horizon should be level in your photo and the left and right edges should line-up.  If not, your planet will have a big crack or cliff edge in it!

STEP 4:  Leave it as-is or get creative and accentuate the image.  You can either do this digitally with the filters and tools in your photo editing program or print out your panorama and enhance it by hand with your own art supplies.  TIP:  One suggestion is to print in black and white and artificially color your image.  When complete, scan or photograph your finished image.

Below is the final version of my panorama photo.  I replaced an overcast gray sky with a cloudy summer sky, added some green leaves to a winter-bare tree, exaggerated the height of the buildings and made the colors pop a bit for an artistic feel.

STEP 5:  There are several ways to convert your finished panorama to a wee planet.  One of the easiest methods is by using the Polar Coordinates filter in PhotoShop.  To do so, first rotate your panorama 180 degrees so that it is upside down.  Next, adjust the image size so that the height and width are the same – your image will now be stretched out.

Finally, apply the Polar Coordinates filter (Rectangular to Polar) to your image.  Ta-da!  Finally, clean-up and add any finishing touches to your planet.

 Here is my “before” wee planet:

And here is the final version of Wee Planet Downtown Bryan, with all of the little artistic touches that make it sing:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peak behind the scenes!  I absolutely love this art form and plan to do a series of “local” planets in the near future…

P.S.  Have you used this technique to make a wee planet of your own?  Leave a link in the comments – I’d love to see your creations! 

P.P.S.  Do you have a great 360 panorama photo you think would make a lovely planet?  Read about my Open Call for Panoramas!

If you live near Bryan/College Station, Texas, be sure to check out the November 6th Sunday edition of The Eagle.  I am honored that they will be featuring my Wee Planet artwork in the paper.  So to celebrate, I’m giving away an 8″ x 8″ glossy print of a local Wee Planet!  (See my Wee Planet gallery here.)  To enter, simply leave a comment on this post.  (Or Share, Digg, Tweet or Like it and let me know.)  Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win!  I’ll announce the winner at the end of the month.  (And if there are a lot of entries, I’ll add an extra planet print or two…)

Credits: All downtown Bryan photos and wee planets copyright by Nikki Smith.  My good friends Ralph and Susan Brussard provided the source panorama for the volcano planet above from their trip to the Tongariro Volcanoes.  Thanks also to the following kind souls for sharing their cow and car photos with a Creative Commons Attribution license: “A Cow” by Stuart Alldred / SocialRobot and “Retro / Vintage / Car” by Andrew / CubaGallery.  For every Creative Commons photo I use, I am uploading one of my own to share with the community.  See my Creative Commons photo collection here.