Category Archives: How-To

D.I.Y. #3: Liven up Your Plain Accessories!

Kollabora D.I.Y. Wooden Bracelets

Today we’re going to add some life to some simple wooden bracelets! If you have some too-plain accessories lying around, this is a perfect and easy way to add a bit of pizzazz! I had these Kollabora bracelets on hand and decided that sharp lines were the way to go — I also wanted a mix of finishes so the base is matte black while the metallic gold has some shimmer.

Kollabora D.I.Y. Wooden Bracelets

Supplies needed:

1. Bracelets of your choice (we used wooden ones, ℅ Kollabora)
2. Two colors of spray paint, one for the base and one for the accent
3. ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape
4. X-acto Knife

Kollabora D.I.Y. Wooden Bracelets

1. First, spray paint your bracelets a solid base color.
2. Once the surface is completely dry, cover your bracelets completely in ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape and trace on your design.
3. Finally, slice out your design and spray with an accent color of your choice.

Kollabora D.I.Y. Wooden Bracelets

All jazzed up and ready to wear!

It’s Time To Get Organized!

A new year means the chance for a fresh start for many of us.

Along with all the usual resolutions, a lot of us aim to get more organized (or, at least the OCD Virgo in me does!) I associate organization with feeling more calm, cool and collected. When I’m able to find what I need when I need it, life doesn’t feel so chaotic. These are a few fail-proof ways I employ to keep my home, belongings and business organized.

Possessions As Art

Nubby Twiglet Get Organized

When it comes to organization, It’s not just about making sure all your possessions are put away just so-so. I like the idea of treating some of my favorite belongings as art. I’ve always had a few pairs of shoes sitting out in my office (what can I say, I’m a shoe freak) but they’d get so dusty. When I saw this storage solution in Lucky Magazine, I jumped on it. These Z Gallerie glass bell jars add a nice, dramatic touch and are more affordable than they look. We also have another in our living room.


I am very particular about the way my invoices look even though I know that means way more work for me as a business owner. I encourage you to come up with a consistent set of naming conventions that work for you. I have a folder called INVOICES and for each job I start, I set up a new job folder labeled with NT000_CLIENT_NAME. Inside of that folder is an InDesign document of the client’s invoice and another of the work order / contract.

I am strongly considering switching over to Pancake, as it makes invoicing, sending and receiving payments a lot more seamless. And it tracks who has and hasn’t paid up! What makes Pancake even more unique is that there’s a one-time fee to buy it outright versus a lot of other services which charge you a monthly fee. For more invoicing insights, check out this post by Breanna Rose.

Sorting By Color

Nubby Twiglet Get Organized

One of my no-fail tricks for staying organized is to sort items by color including books, shoes, socks and clothing. I tend to never forget the color of an item and this solution has served me well for the last few years. And, it looks great. As in most old houses, closet space is very very limited where we live so I have two oversized freestanding IKEA closets pushed next to each other. One holds only coats, skirts and dresses, arranged by item and then by color. The other holds only shirts and sweaters (shown above). I like peeking into a rainbow every morning.

Blog Content (Offline)

Nubby Twiglet Get Organized

I keep my blog post content very organized since I sometimes have ideas that may not go live for a few weeks. There’s always a folder on my desktop called BLOG_UPCOMING and each potential post gets its own folder. When you click in, this is what it looks like: a text document of the post, the web-ready assets and a folder of the edited PSDs. Once a post goes live, I drag the final web-ready jpegs into another desktop folder called BLOG_2013 so I always have a clean backup of all my edited online content.

Business Record Keeping

I’m not great when it comes to numbers and keeping business paperwork organized. I’ll admit to being hit with “Did I remember to send that invoice out and did it get paid?” a little too often. For 2013, I’ve vowed to keep better track of my business income and all the fun details that go along with it and in the process, I discovered Zoe Rooney’s small business record keeping spreadsheet. Since I’m exclusively on Macs and already have Numbers software, it’s perfect. Easy enough for me to understand with all the basics ready to go.

Even though I’ll be using this spreadsheet, I still print out every single PayPal invoice and keep every single receipt in a zip pouch next to my desk. Better to be safe than sorry if your accountant or, god forbid, The IRS calls! Speaking of accountants, I only ever use a CPA to do my business taxes. It’s worth the extra money and remember, the fee you pay them is a business write-off.

Office Storage

Nubby Twiglet Get Organized

The best investment I’ve made in my office setup is picking up two flat files from IKEA. Having everything I could ever need from stationery to stamps to proofs to old notebooks in one place is such a time saver. And, when pushed together they make an awesome tabletop when I’m working on other projects.

Hopefully these organizational tip methods will inspire you, too.
Anything else I didn’t cover that you’re still curious about? Let me know in the comments!

Holiday DIY: Customize Your Ornaments!

3M ScotchBlue Painter's Tape Holiday DIY Customize Your Ornaments

With Christmas fast approaching, I decided it was well time for an ornament DIY project! This is our first year with a full-size tree and I wanted it to have some personal touches. Store-bought ornaments are perfectly fine but we all have unique tastes and my goal was to find a way to spice up our tree with a few of my favorite patterns and symbols.

Joey and I got to work with a handful of simple, graphic designs we are so happy with the way they turned out! Now it’s your turn — we promise that this is super easy and much more manageable than the shakeboard D.I.Y. he came up with last time!

3M Scotch Blue Painter's Tape Holiday DIY Customize Your Ornaments

Let’s get started! First, we found these oversized silver ball ornaments at Target. Have you seen their Christmas decor section this year?! It’s AWESOME. Since these were going to be the main accents for our tree, we wanted them to be larger than the rest of our ornaments.

Supplies needed:

• One roll of ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape

• Krylon X-Metals Spraypaint

• An X-Acto Knife

3M Scotch Blue Painter's Tape Holiday DIY Customize Your Ornaments

For designs, it’s best to stick with angular, bold shapes and patterns that can easily be masked off on spherical surfaces. Think along the lines of varying stripes, symbols, letterforms, chevron patterns. To customize your ornaments, first mask off the ornament surface completely. Secondly, trace on design. Next, cut design out of tape. Once that’s finished, spray in design in the color of your choice. And once it’s completely dry (we let ours sit overnight just to be sure), peel off tape. See, that was easy!

3M Scotch Blue Painter's Tape Holiday DIY Customize Your Ornaments

I am SO excited to finally have a cross ornament! And a Helvetica A! I’ve used both elements in my design projects for a long, long time and it’s nice to have those special additions to our tree. I’m sure we’ll come up with even more for next year.

3M Scotch Blue Tape Holiday DIY Customize Your Ornaments

This is the first year that we’re all ready for Christmas early enough to actually sit back and enjoy the decorations!! How about you? Have you decorated yet?

3M Scotch Blue Tape Holiday DIY Customize Your Ornaments

scotchblue, scotchblue painter's tape, painter's tape, tape

A huge thank you to ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape for collaborating with us on this post! All thoughts and ideas are our own. To join the creative community, visit Facebook.

Social Media Mods: 2 Epic Updates to Pinterest & Instagram

Pinterest Secret Boards

Being a big social media junkie, I caught wind of two exciting changes last week and in case you hadn’t heard about them, I wanted to share them with you!

The first is that Pinterest now offers secret boards. One of my biggest complaints in the past with Pinterest is that everything we pinned was public, and while that’s great for sharing our inspirations, it wasn’t an ideal solution for client-focused projects, gathering inspiration for gift giving or pinning away a secret obsession!

Now, when you log into your account, scroll down to the bottom of your profile and you’ll have three secret boards waiting for you. The pins you place within these boards won’t show up anywhere else, ever.

The second is that Instagram now has profile pages that are accessible online. Being a phone app, in the past I relied on third-party services to access my Instagram snaps but now, just go to and everything’s right there including your bio, profile photo and a quick overview of recent snaps right at the top.

If you’re on Pinterest and Instagram, let me know your user name in the comments! And feel free to follow me here and here.

Advice #48: What’s Your Secret to Shooting Photos?

Photoshop Actions

First off, this is just a quick note that I’ve changed my long-running advice column from Ask Nubby to simply Advice. I felt it needed some clarity and the “+” comes into play since my goal has always been to give positive yet relatable advice. If you have a question of your own, contact information can be found in the sidebar.


I’m wondering if you could do a post on your photography for blogging. Your images are always consistent in style and very punchy with colours. I’m a junior-intermediate user of a high end DSLR camera, but can’t seem to get the most out of it in a blogging capacity – your journalistic style photographs and pics of your work always look lush!

Photoshop Actions

Shooting away at The Viceroy, Santa Monica! Photo by Gala Darling.

One of the key components that you’ll notice across the board for established bloggers is that they have a fairly consistent style to their photos. This is one of those more ownable elements that you can use to differentiate your content. Shooting almost all of my own photos has allowed me to add my unique take to blogging over the last ten years. I bought my first Nikon digital camera in 2002 and it opened up a whole new world to me.

I’ve been carrying a camera in my bag since the sixth grade and am constantly shooting. But the straight-up truth is that I’d never call myself a photographer. I’m first and foremost focused on being a designer — I just know how to manipulate my photos to look the way I want. I am not very technically savvy in the photography department — I have a very point-and-shoot method to what I do. I keep my settings on auto and shoot in natural light 90% of the time. If I need something above and beyond the basics, I call on one of my professional friends or my brother to make it happen. I’ve been around enough pros and have also been on enough sets to realize that photography is an art all it’s own and I have major respect for that.

This is the exact setup that I use.

Here’s the exact setup I’ve been using for the last 2+ years: A Nikon D40 paired with a Nikon 35mm f/1.8G Lens. I particularly like the D40 because it’s on the small size as far as DSLRs go and super tough. I just throw it in my handbag and go! I’ve tested a few of the new micro-sized DSLR cameras but too many of them feel cheap and breakable. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens is great for detailed, close-up shots which I do a ton of. I still need to do some more research about what lens to invest in next! That’s it, though. I like to keep things as simple as possible and shoot almost everything on the blog with with this combo.

I use Actions to edit all my photos.

Between the camera and lens, I can get a good base image to work with but beyond that, it’s all about using Photoshop Actions to implement a consistent look. Actions are a series of recorded steps that help you edit your image without having to do each step manually — they are essentially a one click editing process! Can you say time saver?

If you’re wondering how to load an action in Photoshop, it’s easy! In your menu bar, simply go to Window > Actions. Once your Actions palette is up, click in the top right corner on Load Actions and you’re set!

Over the last three years I have pulled from a number of other actions and tweaked my process until I was happy with the style. Some actions are too soft for my taste while some are too harsh so I never use them straight out of the box. I personally have three of the below sets of actions and after much research, I really want to try out the fourth as well!

1. Making Nice In The Midwest Photoshop Actions are great if you’re going for a soft, vintage effect.

2. Devlin Photos has an awesome variety of Photoshop Actions that are geared towards weddings and beyond. As a sidenote, Lisa Devlin will be at our Blogcademy New York launch teaching you about Photoshop shortcuts as well!

3. Elsie and Emma of A Beautiful Mess shared examples of the actions they use and now I really want to try out Totally Rad Actions!

4. As a sidenote, I know not everyone can afford a set of actions right away so I also included a link to my favorite free action: Vintage Film Effect by Fallout 75. I modified this one a lot when I used it but there’s some good layers in there to tweak and learn from.

Here are some real life examples of befores and afters of images I’ve featured on my blog. All of these were edited with actions:

Photoshop Actions

Photoshop Actions

Photoshop Actions

While I wish I could give you the exact formula of actions I used on these, I’ve built my own mix over time with many elements from the above sets of actions. I tend to like my images to be bright, vibrant but not too saturated and to have an overall cool tone. I’m constantly adding and subtracting to get what feels right to me but always depend on actions to get me off to a solid start when editing.

Readers: Let me know if you have any more specific questions about my photography setup or editing in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

The Making of Rock n Roll Bride Magazine: Tips & Insights

Rock n Roll Bride Magazine

A mock-up of Rock n Roll Bride Magazine

Today I have some tips and tricks to share that I gathered while designing my biggest personal job to date, Rock n Roll Bride Magazine. These are meant to give you some insight into managing a project of this scale and will hopefully make things easier for you both from a design and management standpoint.

Tips & Insights

• Get your print specs as early on in the process as possible. Nobody wants to go through and reformat 80+ pages at the end of a project! Since Kat is located in the U.K., her magazine was set up with a different standard of sizing — I knew this from the beginning and was able to build her magazine on the proper template from day one.

Draw a rough outline before diving into the design process. I knew that Kat’s magazine would be a maximum of 80 pages and feature 4 core sections plus a handful of additional supporting pages. I also knew that featured weddings would take up the largest chunk of pages. I sat down with a pen and paper and quickly sketched out the page counts so I had some guidelines.

For example: 2 lifestyle articles x 5 pages each = 10. 5 featured weddings x 6 pages each = 30. 2 D.I.Y. features x 5 pages each = 10. 1 fashion spread x 8 pages = 8. Misc. layouts + last minute additions = 22 pages (this has some wiggle room in case an article stretches on a bit).

Rock n Roll Bride Magazine

• If you get stuck on page layouts, step away from the computer. Sketch out some thumbnails to get your creative juices flowing. One of my all-time favorite design book authors, Jan V. White has a few titles that can help you quickly visualize fresh layouts. I love his books because most were written before design became computer-based and the solutions are solid. The two titles I reach for most often are the Graphic Idea Notebook and Designing for Magazines.

• Use a few basic grids throughout your publication for consistency. InDesign makes this super easy. Simply go to Layout > Margins and Columns > Columns and set the number of columns needed. Then adjust the gutter so that your content has some breathing room.

• Stick with black and white printing for your first proof. Not only is it about 1/10th the cost of color but it will allow you to focus more closely on the strength of your layouts and the overall legibility of your type before tackling the images.

• Always mock up your design before sending it to the printer! Once issue 2 was finalized, I did one final print, trimmed all the pages and then affixed them with double-stick tape (see above). I wanted to make sure that when I flipped through it, the magazine as a whole had a solid flow.

Things look WAY different printed versus on your computer screen. The scale of type and the brightness of images may be way off from what you think. Even if you’re completely confident in your layout, print it! Then, print it again. And again!

• Keep your content organized in a way that makes sense to you. Since Kat’s magazine had four distinct categories that the content was divided into (Lifestyle, Fashion, D.I.Y. and Weddings), I used these as my main content folders so I could drill down and find images and text quickly. We kept a text document of copy for each segment nestled in there along with the photos – breaking the magazine content into those four sections made the project feel a lot less overwhelming. We focused on filling these areas out first and then I went back to the supporting pages at the end and filled in the blanks.

• Save the front and back cover design for last. Chances are, your imagery will change as you move along and it’s hard to know what the headlines will be until you’re getting close to wrapping up the project. Think of this final design challenge as a way to wrap up your masterpiece and give it a face and a name!

Rock n Roll Bride Magazine

• Always save your proofs. I hold onto mine in my flat files. You can learn a lot from looking back at your process.

• Set up some basic layouts you can reuse. InDesign master pages allow you to apply the same templates again and again. Consistency in a print publication is a good thing — developing a consistent rhythm with formatting will help establish a visual style throughout.

• Let your content breathe! I remember the first time I did an editorial layout in college — we were all new to InDesign and a lot of us felt the need to jam as much content onto each page as possible. But think instead of each page as a piece of art. Allow images on certain ones to take the stage — maybe all that’s needed is a big, beautiful quote. Others may tell the heart of the story. Let the copy rule on those. Overall, let either the copy or image take the lead because that lack of balance is what creates visual interest. If both of these elements are too equal on a page, it loses impact.

• Do your research. Buy a few magazines from the genre you’re designing for. I knew very little about the wedding industry as a whole so I bought a few Martha Stewart Weddings magazines, flipped through a few more wedding titles and researched what worked. I knew that I wanted to have a fashion and lifestyle angle in the mix so I defaulted to my no-fail favorites for inspiration: W, Interview and O Magazine. The big time publishers have the big design budgets and know what’s up when it comes to great page layouts. Observe the best and pay close attention to what makes their layouts stand out.

• Commitment-phobic? Print on demand first. If you’re wanting to give your layouts a spin and see how they look in a magazine format before taking the plunge, order a single issue through MagCloud first. See your work on perfect-bound glossy pages before committing to a full run!

Rock n Roll Bride Magazine

• Finally, practice makes perfect. The first time you tackle any big design project, it feels overwhelming (at least to me). But just like anything, the more times you do it, the more it becomes second nature. Five years ago, this project would have given me a panic attack. Now I say, bring it on!

If you have any questions about the specifics of my process, let me know in the comments!

Skate or Die DIY: Customize Your Own Skate Deck!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

When ScotchBlue Tape invited me to take part in their D.I.Y. creative challenge, I was both honored and flattered but I’ll be honest here: my mind when blank when it came to dreaming up a project. I’m used to spending my days designing behind the computer but feel like a fish out of water when it comes to handcrafting most things — luckily, this is Joey’s strong suit! He started his own line of skateboards last year and we’d often talked about collaborating on a design but it was one of those projects we never seemed to get around to. We quickly realized that this was our chance to finally make it a reality!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

To get started, I built out some inspiration boards to give Joey and idea of the direction I wanted my design to take. Pinterest is great but I thought it would be WAY more fun to curate my ideas on cork boards. I knew I wanted the design to be geometric, have at least one pop of color and include my old standbys, type and stripes.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

These are the supplies that are needed:

• Blank Skate Deck. Joey carved mine himself (see above) out of reclaimed wood from a furniture shop that was 9 ply but you can pick up a blank deck at most skate shops.

• Print-outs of Design. We printed out my design in three 11×17 inch sheets (black and white is fine on normal paper) that were then taped together as a stencil.

• ScotchBlue Tape. The thinner width was especially awesome for knocking out our stripes.

• Spray Adhesive: You’ll need this to affix the paper stencil to the tape. We used a 3M version.

• Spraypaint. We used Krylon brand with a gloss finish in black, white and yellow (see above) and finished with a clear coat to seal it.

• X-acto Knife. You’ll need to cut out the pattern so you can spray paint the design.

• Prep: Joey cut this deck out with a jigsaw himself, measured and drilled the holes for trucks and sanded it to a smooth finish. If you purchase one from a skate shop, the holes will already be drilled.

link love

1. Start with a base coat of spraypaint (we used white) and let it dry for a full day to make sure it isn’t tacky.

link love

2. Cover the entire bottom surface of the skate deck in ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape.

3. This is the surface that the stencil will be cut out of.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

4. Cover the entire taped surface of the skate deck in spray adhesive.

5. Next, affix the stencil to the tacky surface and cut off the excess.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

6. Cut out the black portions of the stencil using an X-acto knife. Remember to cut through both the stencil AND the painter’s tape. The stencil and tape are affixed together so peel both off to reveal the painted surface.

7. All black portions of the stencil should be removed EXCEPT for the A.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

8. The first coat of black spraypaint is applied. The A was masked over with ScotchBlue Tape because we were going to apply a different color to it later in the process.

9. Remove the rest of the stencil.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

10. This is the result.

11. Peel off the A section of the stencil and SAVE IT!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

12. Create a fresh, inverted circle stencil.

13. Use paper and ScotchBlue Tape to mask the entire skate deck with exception of the circle and a single stripe (these are the areas we want to make yellow).

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

14. Spraypaint the yellow sections. Let this dry for a few hours to ensure nice, crisp edges.

15. Remove all paper and tape to reveal the yellow. Then, replace with the A that was set aside earlier. Mask off everything that should NOT be black. Apply one final coat of black paint and let this dry for a few hours.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

16. Once surface is dry, remove all masking to reveal your final design!

link love

Joey wasn’t quite finished yet, though. Before I took my deck out for a spin, he applied grip tape to the surface and sliced out my trademark cross symbol. The perfect finishing touch! Get creative here — you can cut out anything in the grip tape you can dream up!

link love

I loved my finished design so much I put it on display in my office. Nothing beats a piece of functional art! If you have any questions at all about the process, please let me know in the comments and we’ll do our best to respond! And if you make your own skate deck design, let us know — we’d love to see it!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

This post is a collaboration with ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape. Visit Scotch Blue Tape on Facebook to learn how to win rad stuff and check out the other participants’ projects in the gallery. All concepts and designs within this post were created in partnership with Joey Maas.