Alternative Building Materials and Their Uses

alternative building materialsGreen building has taken off in recent years with many builders and new homeowners looking for new and different methods of construction that can potentially offset energy costs. Some alternative building materials can be made out of natural materials, while others can help to lower energy costs of the occupant once built. Regardless of what the goal of the builder is, alternative building materials and their use is on the rise. Many of these methods have already been in use in Europe for many years, while some are just starting to catch on everywhere. Learn more about the different types of building materials available to you to make more informed decisions about how you’ll be constructing – and living in – your new home. [Read more…]

How to Monetize a Blog Successfully

how to monetize a blogBlogging is one of the most successful ways of getting your words across to multiple people at one time. A blog can be used to attract people to a website, to promote a cause, or just to share ideas with others. Learning how to monetize a blog can add another layer to your endeavor; the ability to make money doing something that you may be doing otherwise.

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Eight Types of Wood Joints

types of wood jointsWhether you want to learn carpentry to work on your home, or you’re interested in pursuing a new hobby, learning which types of wood joints are needed for your project is crucial to your success. Not every type of wood joint is equal in terms of strength or application, which means that learning a variety of different methods can give you the most options to proceed with.

What Is a Wood Joint?

Every place that two separate pieces of wood meet each other is considered to be a joint. Joints may be as simple as one end of a piece of wood placed on another, or they may be as elaborate as several interlocking slots. Most joints are held together with some sort of outside force, such as glue, nails, staples, or screws. If you’ve taken a woodworking course before, then you’ve probably created a joint to put together your project. [Read more…]

Types of Native American Instruments

native american instrumentsWhen taking a look at the types of music that have shaped both cultures and the way we view music today, be sure not to overlook Native American instruments and the way that they were used. Many Native instruments are variations of those used by other cultures, but the way that they have been applied to song and storytelling makes them unique as a cultural representation. While not every tribe or nation used the same instruments, or used them in the same way, it’s worth looking at Native American instruments as a whole to see their impact on music today. [Read more…]

Learn How to Draw Celtic Knots

how to draw celtic knotsSoothingly hypnotic to the eye, Celtic knot designs grace books, jewelry, and clothing around the world. These intricate knots are a beautiful addition to any piece of artwork, which makes learning how to draw Celtic knots something that many people attempt. Fortunately, there are methods that, while time consuming, can teach you how to draw Celtic knots with little previous drawing skill.

What Is a Celtic Knot?

A Celtic knot is a two dimensional, unending line drawing that weaves itself back and forth under and over. They were frequently used to decorate the pages of books, as well as tapestries and clothing. There are several different Celtic knot designs, beginning with the simplest Trinity knots, which cross each other three times, to incredibly intricate knots that cross each other hundreds of times. Knots can also be meant to stand alone, or they can be drawn as a border meant to wrap the edges of a page or cloth. When learning how to draw a Celtic knot for the first time, it helps if you have taken some drawing courses only to help you with your spatial awareness and balancing of the design. Otherwise, anyone can learn some fairly simple knots by following a set technique, and a little experimentation.

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Drawing with Charcoal for Beginners

drawing with charcoalOne of the first techniques taught to students attending art school is drawing with charcoal. Charcoal has a unique look and texture when applied to paper that is perfect for allowing a beginning artist to perfect their technique and practice their craft. And while there are many different types of pencils, chalks, and crayons used by artists when sketching charcoal often remains a favorite for many people, due to its versatile nature. If you’re just learning how to draw, consider expanding your mediums to include charcoal and explore the many possibilities it presents.

Drawing with Charcoal

New artists are often encouraged to begin drawing with charcoal as soon as start life drawing. This is because charcoal is ideal for making a variety of different lines very quickly. You can smudge charcoal with your fingers or some paper to shade it, remove small sections quickly for highlights, or use an edge to create a hard line. Because new artists often have to practice drawing the same lines over and over again, using a versatile tool like charcoal allows the artist to produce a variety of effects to get the desired style quickly and without needing to take the time to select and reselect materials. Charcoal also applies to the paper with little pressure, so the artist is able to work quickly and for long periods of time without fatigue. If you’re taking a course in drawing for the first time, you may want to invest in some charcoal as your drawing medium to accelerate your learning process.

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Creating Bantu Knots and Knot Outs

bantu knotsIf you’re looking for an easy to wear hairstyle that can later be transformed into gorgeous waves and curls, consider giving bantu knots a try. These tightly coiled knots are often sported by African American women, whose hair texture helps the knots stay in place without hair ties or pins, but they can be worn by anyone.

What Are Bantu Knots?

Bantu knots are sections of hair that have been tightly twisted into a coil. The tail of the hair is wrapped tightly around the base of the coil to form a shape reminiscent of a funnel in longer hair, or a rosebud on shorter hair. This is a protective hairstyle that can be worn for a short period of time, or for several days depending on your hair strength and comfort level. Best of all, the technique is simple and easy to learn. While beauty classes are necessary for achieving complicated hairstyles, bantu knots can be learned and practiced on your own hair in just a few minutes of time.

When the knots are untwisted and released, the hair retains some of the coiled shape, resulting in loose curls and waves know as a knot out. The smaller the sections of hair that were twisted into the knots, the tighter the curls will be.

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Water Color Pencil Drawing

graphicdesignerFor artists that are exploring new mediums or honing their skills, sometimes the tools that you are using need to have a degree of versatility that can assist. That’s why things like water color pencils exist. A water color pencil drawing allows you to experiment with water color techniques slowly, while you work with the skills you already have in pencil drawing. [Read more…]

High End Retouching for Photographs

high end retouchingIf you’re at all familiar with magazines, Pinterest, advertisements, or just photos on the web, you’re probably also familiar with seeing lots of high end retouching photo results. There are many reasons why a photo may be retouched, and this technique happens even more than you may think. Learn what high end retouching looks like, how to spot it, and even how to recreate some of the looks yourself to stay better informed about what it is you’re viewing.

Why High End Retouching Is so Prevalent

It’s probably happened to you. You’ve opened up a magazine or clicked on an ad or news article only to come face to face with a person that looks too good to be real. Maybe you’ve even turned to a friend and said, “That has to be Photoshopped.” Chances are that you’re right; it probably was.

High end retouching is an extremely far reaching field that is in the business to ensure that models, actors, and even everyday people in print ads, look plastically perfect. Every photograph becomes an idealized version of the person it represents. This isn’t a case of necessarily removing flaws; it’s about transforming the subject into a version of their very best self.

The process isn’t difficult or very time consuming to do, either. You can take a course in photo retouching that will have you making your own photos look like professional print jobs in just a few days time. And with the technique so easy to learn, it also becomes easy to compare your straight out of the camera shot with one that has been retouched and see all of the flaws and imperfections. This leads to an increased desire to retouch more photographs, leading to a culture dominated by photos that have been doctored almost beyond recognition.

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Old Photo Restoration Techniques

old photo restorationWith the advent of the digital camera, many people have come to treasure having numerous photographs right at their fingertips. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the way things were, which makes the few photos we may have of grandparents and ancestors all the more precious. When an old photo has suffered damage like scratches, tearing, or fading there’s often no way to get another copy. Old photo restoration techniques help repair and recover these old photos so that they can continue to be treasured by future generations.

What Kinds of Photo Damage Can Be Restored?

Depending on the age of your photos and how they’ve been stored over the years, you may find a variety of different kinds of damage. Some is relatively mild and at first glance won’t detract too much from the photo; other damage can be severe and can really compromise the quality of the print.

Using your home computer, a scanner, and maybe a course in Photo restoration or photo editing with other software, you can restore just about any type of damage, including:

  • Fading
  • “Silvering”
  • Scratches
  • Water spots
  • Dust
  • Creases
  • Rips
  • Tears
  • Mold and mildew

With just a little patience and practice using some different techniques, you can restore and repair just about any old or damaged photograph. Once you’re done, you can print out the results on archival paper right at home, or upload the picture to any photo printing site to frame and display. You’ll also have the finished digital copy so that you don’t have to worry about potential future damage as well.

Old Photo Restoration

You don’t need to be a Photoshop master to restore your old photos. Any photo editing software can make a big difference, particularly with photos whose biggest problem is fading and minor scratches. For heavily damaged photos, however, you may want to consider taking a course in photo retouching to help improve your skills before you begin.

Scan or Photograph

The best way to work on an old photo, while ensuring that you can tinker without worrying about the results, is to make a copy of the photo you need to restore. You can do this in one of two ways; scan it or photograph it.

If you choose to scan it, make sure that you use a high quality scanner designed for photos. Scan at 100% the size of the photo or smaller; going larger than 100% will lose you some of your detail, particularly in smaller prints.

If you choose to photograph the original, use a high-powered lens to capture as much detail as possible. Make sure there is good light, but don’t use a direct light source, as this could cause glare in the photo, which you will later need to remove.

Once you’ve made a digital copy of your photo, whether through scanning or photographing, make sure you save it as a .TIFF file, rather than as a .GIF or .JPEG. This will ensure that you capture as much detail of the original image as possible.

Rotate, Resize, and Crop

Sometimes your scan or photo will be slightly off center, or maybe the original photograph was slightly off center due to the subject or camera moving. You may also have extraneous detail on the edges of the photo that you don’t want or need. Therefore, before you begin restoring the photo, take the time to line the image up so it’s square, and crop in the edges slightly if needed.

To rotate the image:

Select “Image” and highlight “Rotate”.

Select “Custom” and input the percentage you want to rotate the photo by. Start at 1% and move up gradually until your subjects are straight. Don’t worry about the excess screen that may show up on the edges of your photo; you can either fill those in later, or crop them out now.

If you want to crop the image, either to get rid of the edges or to focus more on the subjects, grab the marquee tool and drag an outline around where you want the finished image to be. Hit enter to crop.

Your photo will now have clean, square edges with a centered subject.

Adjust the Color

Part of old photo restoration is adjusting the color. Photos can fade over time, and many are subject to what is known as “silvering” when the silver in the prints begins to discolor them with age.

Make your color adjustments in “Curves” adjustment. Change the contrast of the photo by deepening the shadows and brightening the highlights. This will perk up your photo and restore the details lost to fading.

Next, adjust the colors slightly, either by converting directly to black and white, or by removing a slight tint that can show up in older photos by sliding the bar to remove the most dominant color.

Make sure you save each color adjustment separately; this will enable you to compare your changes and select the color you like the most.

Remember to adjust your color before going in and fixing scratches or missing areas. If you were to fix these spots first, they may show up later on when you adjust the color.

Fixing Light Scratches

There are two types of scratches that cover an old photograph: those that are fairly thin or confined to the background of the photo, and those that are heavier or that are placed on the subject or more detailed sections of a photo.

For lighter scratches and scratches that are in the background of the photo, you’ll probably have good luck cleaning them up with the spot healing tool. The spot healing tool takes a look at the pixels on either side of the scratch and blends them together over the scratched area to hide it. You can select the size of the brush to match the size of the scratch. Work in small areas at a time to see how it looks; if at any time it isn’t working, switch to the technique to fix larger scratches.

Fixing Deeper Scratches

If the scratches are too large to be successfully fixed with the spot healing tool, it’s time to try the clone stamp tool instead. The clone stamp tool lets you choose the area and size of shape you want to clone, then copies it to the scratched area. When you use this tool, start at the smallest section of the scratch and work on the edges of sides first, then move into the middle. Don’t try to cover the whole scratch at once; the key is to zoom in and clone very small areas at a time until the scratch blends in with the background.

This technique can also be used to fill in ripped or missing sections of the photo, provided that they are contained to the background. Just make sure you keep duplicating similar sections of the background, or sections from the opposite side of the photo that may have more detail to get the best results.

Fixing Faces

If a section of a face is missing, or there’s been a large scratch or water damage to one area of a person’s face, you may be able to fix some of it with the clone tool, but often the feature is so obliterated there isn’t enough of it to clone.

Luckily, people’s faces are fairly symmetrical, meaning that there is often a matching feature on the other side. The idea is to clone this shape as a new layer, then flip it over and rotate its angle until it can be fitted into the missing space.

Do to this, select the section with the marquee tool, and create a new layer with the selected area. This will prevent the space below it from being affected. Flip over the new layer and move it to the new place. Tweak its rotation until it matches up with the damaged area. Now you can go in and spot heal or clone the edges to tweak the color or shadow and blend the new feature in as if it was always there.

If the entire face or a portion of the head has been obliterated and you have nothing to clone, see if you can find another photo of the same person. Often you can copy the face from the new photo and move it to the old photo, cloning and spot healing until you can blend the face into the photo that it was missing from. This particular technique does rely on your having another photo of the person, as well as a certain amount of patience and skill to work.


Many old photos were hand tinted to give them a little bit of color on the clothing, hair, and skin of the subjects. You can tint your old photos the same way by applying a new layer on top of the photo and reducing its opacity to 50%. Then use a brush to apply the color of your choice to the skin, hair, or clothing of the subjects. When you are done, just merge all your layers together into one photo.

Start Restoring Your Photos

Old photo restoration takes a lot of time, as well as a lot of trial and error. You may find that one technique works well on a specific photograph, while another doesn’t work at all. Be sure to stay patient and save your photo each time you get a technique to work so you can revert to this state if your next trick falls flat.

Once you get the process started, you may want to take a class in photo retouching, or in photo colorization to help complete your pictures. Start retouching and restoring your photos today to preserve them for tomorrow.