tutorial on making tutorials

I currently have a huge to-do list of tutorials to make for HGTV.com, so I thought while I was in the middle of making all of these tutorials, I would share some tips with you on making a tutorial.  A tutorial on making tutorials, if you will.   Good tutorials to be exact.

1.) Pick a good project.  Try to show how to make something that’s totally original, a hack of something really expensive or take the mystery out of a project that seems complicated.  Tutorials like these will get the most views, pins, comments, thank yous, etc.

2.) Do your research and know what you’re talking about.  I’m going to admit that I have sometimes figured things out as I’m making the tutorial (and I really wish I could go back and redo some of those), but I usually do a lot of research and practice what I’m going to make.  I’ll find a few video tutorials, DIY books or articles on the subject and then figure out the easiest and best combination of steps.  I want a great end result, but I want to get there with the least amount of steps possible.

3.) Take great process pictures.  It is so important to include visual aids in a tutorial, especially a written one.  Someone’s eyes will glaze over and you’ll loose them if there’s too much, “Take the left side corner and reverse flip it over to the right bottom side corner and invert the piece until the top side is pointing down.”  Say what?!  If your really good, your text can stand alone without the pictures and your pictures can stand without the text.  It’s not a bad idea to have someone read it for you to make sure everything makes sense.

4.) Use a white backdrop.  I have started using foam board as a backdrop for all of my tutorials.  It puts the focus on what I’m trying to show.  I use one piece on the floor and one leaned up on a chair in front of a glass door.  Even on cloudy days, I get nice, natural light.

 

 

 5.) Take your photos facing the light.  You will get a nasty shadow on your work if you shoot towards the light.  Example…

 

 

…now it’s turned towards the light…

It’s a simple thing that makes your pictures brighter and it minimizes shadows that can be distracting.

6.) Take “action” shots.  Whenever possible, show what you’re doing in the pictures.  Don’t just take pictures after what you did and before you do the next thing.  Everyone knows what cutting looks like, but it can be important for your readers to see exactly where you’re cutting or how much you’re cutting off, etc.  It can even be nice to see what kind of scissors you’re using.

7.) Turn off all artificial light.  I even turn off the light on my sewing machine when I’m shooting tutorials.  Here’s why – with the light…

 

…without…

 

…as you can see, it makes a big difference.  Natural light makes everything look soft and…well, natural.

8.) Take a lot of pictures.  I take pictures from different angles, with different focal lengths and pictures of every single stage, even if it seems unnecessary.  It might help someone if they can see what it’s supposed to look like after each step.

 

9.) Pick a point of view.  Are you describing how you made it?  As in, “I did this, then I did that”?  Are you directing the reader, “You then take this and attach it to that”?  Or are there no references made to anyone, “Take that and pin it to this”?  I always write in the third style for my HGTV.com articles, but I’m more casual when writing tutorials for my blog.

10.) Include a beauty shot.  Always start and finish the tutorial with a picture of what you’re showing (or just showed) how to make.  It’s also a good idea to include a materials and resource list.

 

 

Whether you’re interested in writing freelance tutorials or just want to share some projects on your blog, I hope this is helpful!  For those who just like reading tutorials, I hope you at least find this interesting.

Speaking of tutorials, I’ve been working on making preserved boxwood topiaries…

 

 

I think I have it down now and I’ll be making one tutorial on how to make a topiary and one for a wreath, both for HGTV.com.  They’ll be available on their site in a few months.


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Comments

  1. I am obsessed with preserved boxwood and it is extremely hard to find in Canada. I have to make a trip over the bridge when I am looking for something so, very excited to read that tutorial. I am also looking forward to maybe meeting you at your potential Anchique appearance in Barrie in April.

  2. Thank you so very much for this tutorial on tutorials!!! It was very helpful to me.

  3. I really enjoyed the tutorial on tutorials and I don’t even give them. I do however take photos for my shop and I am a detailed girl so that was interesting! I recently saw an article on making your own preserved boxwood. I have boxwood in every room and plan to buy more. I thought “hmm, maybe I could try that” but when I saw the final result…. not what I had expected. Basically some preserved sticks/branches from the plant. I have a very strong feeling YOURS will be awesome! I can’t wait to see the post but I think it may be a little too time consuming for me–besides, I need them now! Your book and posts have me back into focusing on finishing up the “small stuff” in the house that really gives it the finished look. Thank you for that!!

  4. Thank you for this tutorial about tutorials. :D I have been planning some tutorials for the future and this will be a great help!

  5. Hey Marian, thanks for the tutorial on tutorials :-) To someone like me who writes an occasional tutorial this is very helpful. My tutorials are more casual and you have great tips on how to present a professional tutorial. thanks!

  6. Susie says:

    Thank you for being so generous with all of your sharing, I learn some thing new every day.

  7. Oh man, wish you had posted this before I made my floor tutorials! Lol!! Thinking of all the things that I can correct! :)

  8. Great tips! Thank you!

  9. Shannon says:

    I just want to say that I appreciate you so much. You are as down-to-earth as you were when I started following your blog long before the milk paint and the book and the demand for all of you time and attention. It must be difficult to meet the demands that come at you from every direction, yet you are still loyal to your readers and offer us “free” advice all the time, giving no mind to whether we are also your customers.

    You are such a gracious and humble example of what a true Christian should be, and I always find myself looking forward to popping over to your blog to see what’s new. Thank you for the time that you give to us without expecting anything in return. Your post on making good tutorials is a perfect example of how you continue to maintain your relationships with your devoted followers. Your blog has been and remains my favorite blog of all (and I have 9500 pins on pinterest, so that should tell you how many blogs I visit, lol).

    Thank you, Marian, for giving the rest of us the courage to turn our houses into homes.

    Shannon

    • Siggie says:

      Just had to say, I agree wholeheartedly with Shannon! Thank you for being such an inspiration to us all! Siggie

  10. Be still my heart! Loving the headroll pillow you made out of “my” grainsack! :) The pillow is beautiful and looks so right on YOUR new bed (which is gorgeous, btw). I’m hoping you have many, many nights of sweet dreams on it.

    I also recently finished your book and just wanted to say how much I loved reading it, as well as looking at the gorgeous photos in it. You’re quite the talented lady. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and gifts with us.

  11. As an extremely new blogger this post is very helpful. I think my pictures are my big downfall still. I’m excited to read you might be coming to Barrie, Toronto would be better, but if Barrie is as close as you get, I will have to take a road trip!

  12. thank you very much, I have been thinking of doing a few tuts…I have mentioned on my blog…and some have said they would like to see….so I want to say thanks for the details wish I was not such a night owl as I do so much late when lighting is all harsh lights

  13. Barbara F. says:

    Thanks for this great tutorial! I don’t have a blog but once in awhile will write instructions for a computer program – many of the same concepts apply. I appreciate the tips on taking good photos, something I’m not so good at. I echo the sentiments of other commenters about your willingness to share info with your readers. Thanks so much!

  14. Looking forward to the topiary tutorial! They can be expensive so being taught to make my own sounds like a good idea!

  15. Thanks for sharing this! Very interesting, esp. the lighting tips. I’ve done one or two on my page, but just daubing in it so far. Tutorials are also my favorite posts to read, doesn’t matter if it’s recipes, crafts or whatever. It’s always nice to learn something new!

    I’m also looking forward to your topiary tutorial, I have problems keeping up with “blooming” plants around here, so the topiaries sound like the thing for me!

  16. This is one of my favorite tutorials that you’ve done! I’m so bad at remembering to take action shots. I’ve been making things all my life, and I just get in the zone. Now that I’m doing the blogging thing, I have to remind myself to take a break at each step and set up a picture. Thanks for the tips!

  17. Ooh, thank you! Your tutorials are always so clear and lovely. I think that is one of the things that makes you such a well-loved blogger – your ability to demystify things. And now you’ve demystified that ability! :)

    Looooove that pillow…

  18. Goedele-Old Red Barn says:

    Very helpful! Tutorial about MMS Milk Paint in Dutch coming up on my blog, so the timing of your blogpost was perfect!

    Tx!

  19. this was very helpful- thank you !!!!

  20. Thanks! It could be useful if one day I’m good enough to make any tutorial. From now, I’m already amazed at myself that I can actually understand other people’s tutorials!

  21. You are always so inspiring. I love all the tips you offer in all your tutorials. Reading your tutorial on tutorials made me smile. But also once again I learned a lot. Many things I probably knew, but sometimes get in a hurry and forget. It was nice to read and recon firm what’s right. Thanks for producing a great blog!!!
    Pam

  22. MaryS says:

    Hi Marion,
    I’ve made a lot of topiaries but all have been w/silks. I didn’t know preserved boxwood was available to purchase. Where could I look in the St. Louis area?? Thanks so much. And you roll pillow looks so darn cute!! At your suggestion I wen to Home Goods and got two, but they were not on sale.. Yikes!
    Mary

  23. Laura says:

    Yay!! looking forward to the boxwoods!

  24. Audrey Zumwalt says:

    Marian, thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. With your suggestions, I should do better tutorials. Looking forward to the seeing the boxwood tutorial too.
    Blessings,
    Audrey Z.
    Timeless Treasures

  25. What perfect timing! Thanks so much!
    Kelly

  26. Tami K says:

    Thanks so much ……

  27. Hi Marian…I have a question and I hope I don’t appear dense. I have the same set up with the foam boards for my food photos. So…to shoot the photo do you stand behind the board that’s standing up? I have been standing in front of it. Perhaps I need to change where I stand. :o)

    • I usually have it set up on the floor and I shoot towards the foam board that’s standing up, not straight down. I’ll sometimes even set up a third piece of foam board to reflect even more light from the window.

  28. Melissa says:

    You are always such a wealth of information! Thanks for sharing this great tutorial for tutorials!

  29. Thanks for the great tips – I just started blogging and this will be very helpful :) Great inspiration as usual!

  30. Marian, I’m catching up on my blog reading. What a wonderful and helpful post — thank you! :D

  31. Hi there. I have been looking everywhere for your tutorial on the boxwood wreath. I can’t seem to find it on HGTV.com. If you have a link to it, I would really appreciate it. I love them and know just where to put it. Thanks for the awesome blog. I will be at Lucketts next year, maybe the furthest one from Orlando, FL. :)

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