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Fun tutorials, how-to projects, free downloads from jones design company

A tricky little trick to make instagram photos one million times better

I shared this photo a few days ago on instagram:

We just recently had the walls painted, new trim and carpet installed and things are looking so much fresher upstairs (more on that soon!). We still have trim to caulk and paint, pictures to hang and furniture to arrange but I couldn’t help but bring up a struggling fiddle leaf fig tree into our bedroom.

While walking through the room on Saturday morning, the tree looked so pretty with the light of the window and so I did what I do and stopped to snap a photo and posted it on instagram.

Instagram is a funny thing because while, yes, this is an actual photo I took, it is also teensy bit untrue.

We could talk about this all day long and go super deep into how social media can become just a snippet of the best of the best and leave out the not-so-pretty of everyday life and cause feelings of inadequacy and comparison and ugly things.

I’ll save that conversation for another day.

Today I’m more talking about enhancing reality. Kind of like how makeup enhances our features, I’ve found some tricks that enhance what comes out of my camera.

Let me show you what I mean.

Here’s the photo of the fiddle leaf fig tree straight from my phone:

I promise it looked much lighter and prettier in person, but this is the best my camera could do with the minimal natural light it had to work with.

NOTE: I turn off all artificial lights when taking photos – both with my real camera and iphone camera. It was what the pros did when they photographed our old house for the magazine, so I’ve just followed suit. I do find that photos are much less grainy and true-to-life color without artificial light. It just makes it super tough during our very dark and gray winters/early spring here in the Pacific Northwest to take natural light photographs.

This is where helpful tools come to the rescue.

To get my photo instagram-ready, I do a bit of editing.

After snapping the photo in the regular camera app, I first edit the photo using Afterlight, and then do any retouching using the TouchRetouch app. Both are paid apps (.99 and $1.99, respectively) and worth every dime.

Here’s my process:

Start by opening the photo in Afterlight.

To make edits, click on the second icon over and scroll through to find the appropriate tool.

All photos I post on instagram go through at least an adjustment to the brightness. It makes a huge difference.

For this particular photo, I brightened it twice and reduced the contrast just a bit, then saved. When saving for instagram, be sure your finished size is 800 px or higher for optimal resolution.

I usually stop at this point for most photos, but in this case, I wanted to remove those two uncovered outlets to clean things up a bit and let the tree be the focus.

NOTE: I struggle with this a little bit. I mean, isn’t it totally a misrepresentation to photoshop out outlets, crumbs, cords, spots, etc?! I waffle between LET’S BE COMPLETELY REAL! and ENHANCE IT ALL!

For this photo, though, I decided those outlets were just distracting and was happy to make them go away.

Here’s how that happens:

Rather than opening photoshop on my computer, uploading the photo, editing, saving, air dropping it back to my phone and then posting … I use the TouchRetouch app. It is certainly not as powerful as photoshop, but it does the trick for iphone photos.

Open up the brightened photo and click on the Quick Repair button. With the tap of your finger, you draw over the spot you want to remove and it magically disappears.

It’s seriously so fun. And so easy. The software just clones from a nearby area, so it may take a little bit of trying before it comes out right.

Once you’re done, click to save and you’re set. You can post directly to instagram from this app, or open instagram directly.

Again, here’s the side-by-side:

Kinda crazy, right?! Do you hate me for posting doctored photos?!

I discovered the retouch app while on our road trip and used it a couple of times to clean up some photos.

One was this photo of a random bus sign we parked nearby while getting gas:

The old sign, blue sky and fluffy clouds were just so eye-catching. What wasn’t great was the highway billboard and extra wire running along the bottom and so through the magic of three taps I pulled those out.

Another time the app came to the rescue was when a random kiddo at the pool found his way into our photo with our besties:

With some brightening and retouching, the colors are happier and the lurking boy is gone.

Here’s one more example:

After a full day of sweaty sight-seeing in Savannah, we ate at the most delicious restaurant and felt so grateful for these kids who were such great travel companions. I wanted to document their cuteness, and loved that great boxwood-covered wall and industrial light, but was not so happy with that white thermostat. By removing that and cloning the boxwood out further to the left, the photo becomes cleaner and highlights my little darlings.

I don’t use the retouch app often, but it sure is wonderful when I need it.

I do, however, brighten every single photo I take.

It’s a tricky little trick that makes my instagram photos one million times better.

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How to get the brass-look drawer hardware for (much) less

The drawers in the studio finally have hardware.

It took forever to put them on and here’s why: I’m terrible at it. Seriously, terrible. I put the cabinet/drawer hardware on in the kitchen and pretty much every one is crooked. How is that possible when you have a template and measure over and over again before drilling? I can not say. I’d like to blame the drill.

Regardless, I decided I was not willing to install the hardware on the drawers in the studio because they really needed to be straight and my track record wasn’t promising. With 12 million other projects in the house, the drawer pulls kept getting pushed off until my darling husband finally gave in to my constant request and worked his magic.

NOTE: installing hardware should not be this difficult. Simply find the center of the drawer, mark where the screws will go, drill a small pilot hole and then increase the drill bit to the correct size of the screw.

Now that the pulls are installed, let me start at the beginning and show you how they came to be.

My inspiration for the studio desks was this picture of the same dresser from ikea with brass bar pulls. I instantly fell in love with the look and wanted to recreate it in the studio.

After searching every resource possible online, I found that long brass pulls are crazy expensive. I adore these from Schoolhouse Electric, but there were two problems. 1. I was hoping for something longer than they offer (ideally 15-18″) and 2. $74 per pull was not in the budget. My sister has the same pulls in her gorgeous kitchen and while they are expensive, they are beautifully made, very heavy and true statement pieces. I just couldn’t justify it for this space.

Since I kept coming up short, I decided to improvise with a cabinet pull diy.

I found a 10-pack of 15″ bar pulls for $49.49. The size was good, shape was minimal, but color was wrong (they only came in satin nickel).

I figured it was worth a try to change the color with my go-to gold spray paint.

I rigged up a way to spray them to get even coverage by poking a hole through a cardboard lid and screwing in the pulls as you would on a drawer front. This little system worked great!

It only took a couple of light coats and the pulls were looking more in line with my vision.

The gold spray paint (Rustoleum Universal metallic in Pure Gold) has a pretty champagne-y gold finish and they would have been fine, but I was hoping for something just a bit more patina-ed and worn. Something that would more closely mimic the look of aged brass.

Out came the Gold Leaf Rub ‘n Buff.

This stuff is basically shoe polish for metal.

You take a glob and rub it onto the surface in a circular motion with a rag. It doesn’t take much until you have a richer golden/brassy color.

See the difference? On the left is the paint alone and the right has the polish on it.

How about a little side-by-side comparison:

For just $5 per pull + spray paint, polish and a little bit of time, I am really happy with the results.

If these were going to be used in a daily, high-use area – like a kitchen, for example – I might be a bit more cautious about choosing a spray painted pull. I can imagine that the paint will scratch over time and they may not look as good. For this space, though, they work great. And they look so nice on the dressers-turned-desks.

As you can see, there was one additional problem: the new pulls don’t line up with the pre-drilled holes.

So for the next diy, I patched the little holes for an (almost) seamless look.

We had a container of this patching paste in the garage, so I pulled it out and got to work.

I just dabbed a bit on my finger, sm0oshed it into the hole and wiped the excess away.

The holes were not quite covered after one coat, so I went over it again with a second and this time used a ruler to scrape it flat against the surface. A putty knife would probably be the tool of choice, but a ruler was right there and I didn’t feel like searching out the right tool, so I just went with it. #thestoryofmydiylife

Usually when you use this patching paste, you lightly sand off the excess and then paint to cover. In my case, I didn’t really want to sand the drawer fronts for fear that it would take off the pre-finished white paint. While my original plan was to paint the dressers a deep green, I’m really happy with the white for now and want to live with them this way for a while.

It dawned on me that since the paste washed off my fingers with soap and water, perhaps it would wipe off of the drawers as well (just the little bits of excess around the patched hole).

So with a bowl of warm, soapy water, a scrubby sponge (my fave from here) and a paper towel, I gave it a try.

A little bit of scrubbing and the patching paste came right up, just as I hoped.

If you look closely, you can still barely see the holes, but not enough to really notice.

Overall, I feel quite happy with the hardware choice and achieving the brass look for much, much less.

SOURCES

dressers | wood countertop | pulls | lamps | chairs | sheepskin | floating shelves | floors

wall + trim color: Shoji White by Sherwin Williams

For more about this space:

The Finished Studio

The Classic + Modern Design Plan for the Studio

A Hiccup in the Plan

Semi-Diy Table Lamps

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how to camouflage outlet covers with wallpaper

Up in the studio (and throughout the whole house, actually), the outlets, light switches and wall plates are almond colored. I’m assuming this almond color was the standard back in 1992 when the house was built. Not a huge deal except that they look pretty grimy next to all of the white walls.

So on our very lengthy list of house projects is the tedious task of switching out not just the plate covers, but changing the actual outlets and light switches to white throughout the house.

Up in the studio, the outlets/switches/plates are also the almond color and they really do stand out against the walls.

The light switch in the above photo is the goofiest of all because in order to trim the window, we had to notch it out to fit the plate. Since it is right at my eye-level while I’m working, it’s been one of those things that I felt motivated to find a solution to.

Replacing all of the outlets/switches/plates in the studio falls very, very low on the project-totem-pole so an in-between fix was in order.

My answer: decoupage.

I did this same project five years ago in our old house. The issue then was that I had just painted the walls a dark color and the white plates stood out too much. Covering the plates with a pretty scrapbook paper was the prefect solution.

In this case, my goal was to make the plates look meaningful (and hopefully camouflage the almond-toned outlets and switches in the meantime).

This project is truly simple, fairly fool-proof and requires only a few dollars worth of materials.

Here’s how to decoupage outlet and light switch covers:

SUPPLIES

wall plate | pretty paper | Mod Podge (in matte finish) | paintbrush | scissors

A few notes:

  • No need to buy new wall plates – just take them off your wall and reuse them.
  • I prefer matte Mod Podge for this project so that you don’t get a glossy finish.
  • As for paper, the possibilities are endless. In our last house I used thick scrapbook paper. For the studio, I’m using a sample of the most gorgeous wallpaperWhatever you choose, go for something on the thicker side to reduce the puckering that can happen with thin paper.
  • I am not decoupaging the front of the paper for these outlets, but I did in our old house. It just depends on how durable you’re wanting them to be.

Okay, let’s get to it.

STEP ONE

Cut out a piece of your selected paper approximately 1/2″ larger on all sides than your plate.

STEP TWO

Coat the front with Mod Podge, flip it over and press to the center of the paper.

STEP THREE

Cut a notch in each corner.

STEP FOUR

Brush on glue and fold around edges.

If your paper doesn’t hold down, use a small clip to keep it in place while it dries.

Once the Mod Podge is dry, remove the clips and continue on (this only takes a few minutes).

STEP FIVE

Poke a hole in the center of the opening, then make several cuts around the circle.

STEP SIX

Brush on decoupage medium to paper, fold and press firmly to hold. Again, these little clips come in handy to hold it all in place as it dries.

After a few minutes, grab your cover, screw it in place, step back and admire your work.

Now I no longer cringe at the dingy looking outlets! The paper adds a subtle visual interest that looks purposeful.

The outlets are still clearly off-white, but look less out of place with the addition of the wallpaper.

And now I don’t mind looking at that goofy light switch anymore because it is covered in my favorite paper.

#itsthelittlethings

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When you can’t find the table lamp you want, you improvise

After all the back and forth and option-weighing, I decided the desk in the studio will stay as originally planned. We’ll adjust the chairs to raise them up a bit and call it good.

I actually feel very happy with the decision and can continue on with putting the studio together …

Next up is adding in more ambient light in the form of table lamps. The light of table lamps is nice to work by and will also anchor either side of the desk.

In my initial design board, I planned on using these white textured lamps from Target. I liked the simple shape, but when I went to order, there was only one available (what?!).

As a second option, I came across this handsome ceramic lamp from West Elm, which I also really liked. I just couldn’t justify spending $300 on lamps for my office.

While out shopping the other day, I saw a pair of these column table lamps on clearance in the kid section and snatched up both of them for $45.

The shape is great, I love the wood base, the color was definitely not right for my studio, but I had an idea of how to fix that.

Enter the good ole days of DIY-Emily.

(Side note: I have not done a DIY project in almost a year. Crazy for a crafty girl who loves a DIY project! I’m glad to be back, friends. Glad to be back).

By altering these lamps, I hoped to create a hybrid of the two inspiration lamps – combining the shape of the first with the chalky gray color of the second. And because I didn’t spend much, I figured it was worth the DIY risk.

After taping off the base and neck, I painted on two coats of basic black chalk paint.

As chalk paint does, it dried a nice matte gray-black.

I could have left the paint as is, but went with the next step of ‘seasoning’ the chalk surface.

Typically, you season a freshly painted chalkboard to cure the surface and allow for full erasing once you start writing on it. These lamps won’t function as writable chalk surfaces, but I still wanted that pretty mottled look that seasoning creates.

After rubbing chalk all over the lamp, I wiped it in with a dry cloth and blew off the remaining dust.

The finished color is just the chalky black I was hoping for.

The lamps are now flanking the desk and look so nice!

Even though I initially wanted a pair of white lamps, these lamps remind me that bringing a touch of black into a room is always a good idea.

This was about as simple of a DIY as could be and I’m happy to be back in the crafty game.

Have you created anything lately that you’re particularly proud of? I’d love to hear!

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how to turn hand-lettering into a digital file

soshedid

Even wonder how to turn your hand lettered art into a digital file that you can use to overlay on a photo or have printed to display? Maybe you’d like to alter your original art – move things around, add more space, resize or recolor?

This post will show you just how to do it all.

NOTE: Get ready for A LOT of photos! I like to give as much detail as possible to show you just what steps to do and make things super clear. Follow along as you try this out and you’ll end up with a digital file you can save, print and share with others.

1. CREATE YOUR ART artworkspiral

I drew out this saying as a lesson in the Simplified Penmanship handwriting course using an art notebook and pen.

2. SCAN YOUR ARTWORK scan-the-art

There are so many different scanners on the market and you can use whatever works for you (even snapping a photo with your iphone can work!). I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap portable scanner. It is small and portable and I like that when it is not in use, I can just unplug it and store it in a basket. When scanning, you can change the settings to fit your needs. I like to scan at the highest resolution (600 dpi for color; 1200 dpi for black and white).

savefile

Rename your scanned image and save in appropriate file.

3. Adjust in Adobe Photoshop
2photoshop

You will use photoshop to clean up your artwork and remove the background. Open up the file in a new document.

1gray

Begin by changing your file into a GRAYSCALE image (if you did your lettering in color, the next two steps will not apply).

2bright

Next, open the BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST tool and move your contrast all the way up. This will make you blacks blacker and whites whiter.

2brightcont

4. CLEAN UP YOUR ARTWORK 3erase

If there are any areas where pencil marks show through or you want to clean up lines, smudges, etc., now is the perfect time to do so.

I like to zoom in close and use the ERASER tool to remove the imperfections.
3erasefinish

Keep in mind, this is hand lettering, so no need to make it flawless!

5. REMOVE THE BACKGROUND

4newdoc

If you’d like to remove the background so that only the lettering on a transparent background remains, follow along with this step. This is not necessary (especially if you will be turning your lettering into a vector in Illustrator – see #7 . I do this mainly when I scan watercolor artwork and I want to isolate each item and remove the background – see this post for more on turning watercolors into artwork).

To remove the background, you’ll need to create a new document with a transparent background. Make your document the size of your scanned artwork.

7magicwanderase

Copy and paste your art to this new document.

magicwand

Using the MAGIC WAND tool, click on the background and click delete.

7erasebackground

You’ll see the white background removed and a transparent background. Inside the closed shapes the background will remain, so just click and delete each one.
7transparent

You’ll end up with your lettering on a transparent background. Go ahead and save as a PNG file (this will preserve the transparency. A JPG will not).

6. OPEN IN ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR 8illustrator

Start by creating an artboard at the correct size for your finished print (mine is 8×10 in).

9backgroundcolor

You can add a background (make a rectangle to the desired size and add a fill). If you are happy with your artwork, you can save as a pdf at this point and you’ll have a great artprint!

7. TURN YOUR ART INTO VECTORS

If you’d like to move, rotate, recolor or resize your lettering, you’ll need to make it into a vector. A vector is an image made of anchor points and paths (rather than pixels) that will allow you to alter your art without losing quality.

trace

You’ll use the IMAGE TRACE function which you can find in your top tool bar or from OBJECT>IMAGE TRACE. I like to use the black and white logo setting.

10-expand

Next click EXPAND.

10expanded

The result will be your artwork made up of tiny anchor points and paths (as seen with the blue marks) and a white background.

ungroup

To remove the white background, right click and select UNGROUP.

12-pullapart

Now pull that top white layer off and delete.

12erase

Go back through and delete the inside shapes to remove the extra white layer.

13vector

You’ll end up with individual vector images for each of the shapes in your artwork.

group

If you’d like to keep each word or line together, select the items, right click and GROUP. This will allow you to move and resize the words as a group rather than independently.

8. MAKE ADJUSTMENTS TO YOUR ARTWORK
14move

Now that you have vector images, you can make changes to your artwork. Go ahead and move words to reformat your design.

15recolor

Or recolor one letter at a time, whole words, or the entire phrase. To recolor, click on the art, open the COLOR PANEL and select a color. You can change the fill (the inside color) or the stroke (the outline color).

16resize

One of the best parts of turning your art into a vector is that now you can resize without losing any resolution. Group the whole thing together, hold down shift and pull the whole group out however big or move it in to make it small. You will not see blurry edges no matter how large or small you resize.

17-finish

When you are finished making edits, save your file!

If you are using it for printable artwork, save as a PDF.

If using for digital lettering, save as PNG.

If using as an image, save as a JPEG.

shebelievedwindow

Learning to turn your hand lettering into digital images opens up so many fun ways to use your art!

double-line-tiny

Interested in learning more about the art of Penmanship + Lettering or how to use Adobe Illustrator? I’d love to teach you!

Simplified Graphic Design - Adobe Illustrator for Beginners / jones design company simplifiedpencover
Click the images to learn more about the online classes offered.

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DIY Bulletin Board

DIY Bulletin Board / jones design company

Slowly but surely, Audrey’s room is coming along.

The gallery wall really stepped things up a notch and it got me motivated to add some cuteness to the other walls. When you have one side of the room filled with art, it makes knowing what to do with the other walls a little tricky. Add more art? Leave them blank? I’ll do a full room tour soon so you can see the walls in context to each other, but I decided that more art would feel too busy and I just wanted one large piece to fill in the area opposite the gallery wall.

I had an extra frame that didn’t get used in the gallery – a vintage painting that I covered with music pages and wrote ‘twirl’ on a few years ago (you can see it in my old office here). It wasn’t anything special and so I decided to reconfigure it and turn it into a bulletin board for my girl.

Here’s how I did it:

bulletin-board-supplies

SUPPLIES

frame with backing / roll of cork / hot glue gun / scissors / fabric for covering (optional)

You could use any frame – brand new, from your storage closet or from a thrift store. The one I used was just a few dollars at the thrift store and was a painting that I wasn’t sad to cover up. I lucked out and the frame I used was just slightly smaller than the dimensions of the cork – you may want to measure the cork before purchasing the frame just to make sure it fits.

STEP ONE

pop-picture-out-of-frame

Remove the backer from the frame. It was easy to just bend the nails back to pop out the art (the back is pictured).

STEP TWO

trace-and-trim

Lay your backing on the cork and trace. Then cut to fit.

cut-out-cork

STEP THREE

hot-glue-cork

Starting from one side, add a bead of hot glue and press to hold. Continue for the rest of the cork.

You can stop at this point – pop it back in the frame and use as is. Or continue on to cover the cork with fabric.

STEP FOUR

cut-fabric

Lay the cork covered backing front-side down on fabric of choice (you’ll want the front of the fabric face down, too). I adore this sheet set from Target (it’s what I have on my bed) and found a set on clearance not too long ago. I debated … cut it up? Or keep it for a second set for my bed? I opted to cut it up.

Just cut it a few inches larger than your cork board on all four sides.

STEP FIVE

wrap-fabric

Pull taught and secure with a bead of hot glue. It helps to glue down one side in the center, then the opposite side to keep things lined up and smooth.

Fold in corners (I cut out part of the fabric to keep things less bulky) and hold with hot glue. It was super helpful to have a geometric print to follow so the lines stayed straight.

STEP SIX

put-in-frame

Pop the backing into the frame. Mine ended up tight enough to not need nails to hold it in place, but you could tap little nails into the sides if you need to.

Flip it over and admire the cuteness!

DIY bulletin board / jones design company

I added a few special things – artwork, photos, a flower garland (no longer available from Target) and a few of Audrey’s pretty necklaces – but my guess is that she’ll cover it with art and notes and little pieces of randomness that girls seem to collect. It will be a great place for her to display her special things.

DIY bulletin board / jones design company

This diy bulletin board was just the right touch for the big empty wall.

DIY bulletin board / jones design company

I have a few more projects to finish in her room and then it will be complete! Stay tuned for a simple window treatment diy and an unconventional pillow tutorial coming soon.

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diy stamped leather keychain

stamped leather keychain / jones design company

Getting mail is one of the best parts of my day. What is it about opening the mailbox and being surprised by what’s inside?! It’s often filled with junk mail or bills, but every once in a while a magazine comes or a note from my sister (she’s so good at sending cards!) and it just makes me smile.

Now I have one more thing to smile about while getting mail because our mailbox key now boasts a handsome leather keychain.

diy stamped leather keychain / jones design company

It was perhaps the simplest of all diy’s. But sometimes simple is the best. So just in case you’d like to adorn your keys with a new keychain, here are the steps for a diy stamped leather keychain:

supplies

SUPPLIES: key fob + ring leather kit (from here item #414913) / scissors

DIRECTIONS:

put-keychain-together

Put key fob together as directed on package. The instructions suggest using a rivet tool, which I don’t have, so I just pressed the two metal pieces together to hold and it’s fine. You could probably get a more secure fit with the right tool but here’s the deal: I’ve had this same keychain on my regular car/house keys for a few months and it’s stayed together just fine.

plain-keychain

Of course you could leave the key fob alone and it’s a cute petite circle. Or you could continue on and turn it into a skinny ribbon shape.

Here’s how to do that:

cut-keychain

Cut a straight line up both sides, then a small notch out of the bottom. Over time, the edges will wear down for a nice patina, so don’t worry to much about having the lines perfect.

keychain-and-key

Again, you could leave it as is, which is what I use for my main keychain. It’s crazy how much it has deepened in color and worn into this really pretty aged leather keychain. You can see it in the photo below:

lilacs-on-desk

Or if you’d like to add extra detail with a word, number or monogram, you can stamp it.

Here’s how to do that:

letter-supplies

SUPPLIES: metal letter stamps (from here) / jewelry hammer (like this) / sponge

mail-letters

Choose the letters you want to stamp. They are mirror image so they impress correctly, just fyi.

stamp-keychain

Start by dampening the leather slightly. Then hold the stamp in place and gently tap with the hammer.  If you have a scrap piece of leather, this is a great time to practice stamping. If you press too light, the letters won’t show up. If you press too hard, you’ll see the circle imprint of the letter stamp.

Tap out your message and you’re done!

diy stamped leather keychain / jones design company
diy stamped leather keychain / jones design company

Isn’t it a great little key chain? These would make great gifts (graduates? new home owners?) or even as labels on a backpack or bag.

like-this

 

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