Category Archives: D.I.Y.

How to bind your own sketchbooks


Buying ready made sketchbooks can get expensive. Making your own is cheaper and you can use different kinds of your preferred paper.

Here’s an easy way to bind your own sketchbooks.

What you’ll need:
– a hole punch
– paper
– cardboard (optional) for front and back
– a large needle and thread

>Click on the picture to enlarge>

1) Start with a stack of your favourite paper sandwiched between a cardboard back and front.

2) Punch 4 holes with a hole punch. Two about 1,5 cm from the back and side, and two evenly spaced in between. Use more holes for larges sized sketchbooks.

3) Cut a piece of thread about 4 times the length of the book. Tip: Pass a double thread through the eye of the needle for increased strength, as shown on the picture above. Weave tightly as shown in the illustration. A dotted line means the thread is on the underside of the book.

Coming back at the point where you started, weave the thread one last time through the hole, in a loop around the first thread and tie off with a double knot.

How to make a light box with LED strip lights


Here’s a cheap and easy alternative to expensive light boxes found in art stores. I made it from an old picture frame and LED strip lights, that you can buy in hardware stores.

LED light has many advantages; they operate on low voltages, are lightweight, small, and don’t heat up.

You can make this light box as large as you need. Just increase the amount of LED strips and use a larger frame. The measurements are not critical. I used an A3 sized picture frame.




What you’ll need:

1. A picture frame with glass and mdf backplate.

2. Scrap wood to make the 4 sides of the box. I used 3 x 1.5 cm stretcher bars from an old canvas.

3. LED strip light “starter kit”.  In hardware stores you can buy a complete starter kit with transformer, on/off switch and angled connection pieces.

If you know how to use a soldering iron, you can wire the strips  yourself, like I did, and save some money for the connection pieces.

4. Wood glue.

5. Tinfoil, tape and a saw.

How to built it:

1. Remove the backplate from the picture frame.

2. Cut 4 pieces of wood to size, and glue on the backplate.

3. Cover the inside of the box with tinfoil.

4. Attach the self-adhesive led strips evenly spaced on the backplate.

5. Connect the electronics. Solder wires to the LED strips, or  use  corner pieces to connect the strips (be careful not to short circuit anything with the tin foil when soldering).

6. Glue the picture frame upside down on the box so you can remove the glass later.

7. To diffuse the light I just lay a sheet of A3 paper on the glass . You can adjust the amount of light by adding more sheets of paper.

Let me know if you would like to make one and have any questions!

Lights ‘off’. (Notice the blue pieces of tape as extra safety to prevent a short circuit with the tin foil)

Lights ‘on’!DSC_0093


With glass and paper diffusorDSC_0092




Fixing the lighting in my studio

I finally got round to fixing the lighting in my studio. The light was way too warm and yellow. It was hard to mix colors. In my portraits, the skin colors always turned out orange.

I knew this was caused by the poor lighting, but instead of fixing the problem I started adjusting the paint mixes. A bad solution to a problem that’s easy to fix.

Two fluorescent-lamps emitting cold white light of 6500 Kelvin – instead of the normal 3000 Kelvin for household lamps – made all the difference. The higher the Kelvin number, the cooler the light. I put them up on the ceiling in an old fixture I had left from redecorating the kitchen.

The combination of the cold fluorescent light with a little daylight or warm room lights, makes it much easier to mix colors.

There’s also more light overall, so I can see what I’m doing!

Will Kemp has written an in-depth article on art studio lighting:

And here’s another excellent one from aristides atelier:

Drawing Grid in Photoshop Elements

When drawing from photographs, I often make use of a drawing grid. When I copy my own sketches to a larger canvas I also find this the best way to go.

By drawing and not tracing, you keep training your eyes and improving your skills. Depending on the subject, sometimes a line through the middle and one across is enough to hold on to.

In Photoshop Elements it’s easy to display different kinds of gridlines in the preferences window: Photoshop Elements -> Preferences -> Guides & Grid

You can switch the grid on and off from the view menu: View->Grid

To display a grid with a lines through the middle point and quarter points, select  Gridline every: 50 percent and Subdivisions: 2 

This shows a rectangular grid (depending on the size of the photo) with middle lines, and lines at quarter points:

To display a square grid choose a fixed measure, for example Gridline every: 2 Inches, subdivisions: 1, the grid looks like this:

I usually draw directly from the screen, with the laptop on my drawing table. When painting it would be more convenient to print out the image with grid, but so far I’ve not been able to print the picture and the grid from Photoshop Elements.

As a workaround I take a screenshot and print that out, but that’s not ideal. If anybody knows how to print an image with visible grid lines directly from PSE, please let me know!

How To Make a Simple Reed Pen

I like experimenting with different drawing techniques and materials for inspiration. Making a reed pen is fun, here’s a quick and simple way.

All you need is:
1. a few pieces of reed, some kinds of reed or bamboo work better than others, experiment.
2. a hobby knife
3. black ink


1. First cut the reed in a shape like this.

2. Square off the end.

3. Carefully cut the split.

That’s all. There are more advanced ways to make a reed pen, but this works. It does help to soak the reed in water for a while before cutting.

I like the variation in line width you can achieve. Here’s a drawing I made with a reed pen: