Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

This is a post I’ve been trying to write for a long time now, but it’s been difficult, as it’s one of those topics that can quickly become very complicated. This is not exactly a miniature printing tutorial and it’s definitely not a Photoshop tutorial. I can try to answer any specific Photoshop related questions, but if you’re new to it you’d probably be better off searching for more in-depth tutorials online. It’s a complex program. I’ve got 10+ years experience with it and still don’t know how to do everything.

Also, just because this is how I do things does not mean that it’s the ONLY way. I’m no expert and am continually learning and trying new things.

For miniature making and printing, I almost always use Photoshop CS6 or Photoshop Elements 6.0, depending on the project. Elements is basically a smaller version of Photoshop… it lacks some features the other has (like Actions, which I use to quickly resize a bunch of images at once, which is nice for sales posts… goodness I’m already trailing off topic here…) but I’m still able to do a lot with it.

I use these programs most often because many of the minis I’ve made have had to be edited, rebuilt or repainted in some way. (I’m picky about micro stuff you can’t even see half the time)
Adobe offers a free 30 day trial for their software, as well as a subscription program. Another alternative (and it’s free!) is GIMP ( but I have absolutely no experience with this program.

Having photo-editing software really comes in handy, but honestly, it’s not something you NEED if you want to print up something simple. If you just want to re-size something, Microsoft Word will work, and maybe Paint. (kudos to you if you can do ANYTHING in paint) You just need to be able to see rulers around the edge of your document. (be sure to check settings to make sure they’re enabled) Just because something looks like it’s the right size on the screen does NOT mean that it will print up that way.

For this post, however, I’m going to assume that you have some sort of photo editing software, and have a basic knowledge of how to use it.

The two things I pay attention to when shrinking stuff is resolution and scale. For high-quality minis you’re going to want your images at a high resolution.

When creating a document I know I’ll be printing, I set the DPI (or digital pixels per inch) to 300. This is a good number for any image you want to print up. If I’m just making things for the web (such as my blog’s banner image) I’ll keep that number much, much lower. (72, usually) Those types of images can still be printed of course but the quality won’t be as good.
Basically, the higher the dpi number, the higher the quality. The lower the number, the “fuzzier” the image will become when printed.

Here’s an example. The book on the right was most likely printed with a 72 dpi resolution, while the one on the left was printed with a 300 resolution.

Guide New and Old

Since it’s a lot easier for me to show this process rather than talk about it, I’m going to make a tiny version of one of my Just About Horses magazines. (I miss this magazine so much)


The first thing I did was scan both the front and back cover, then open them up in Photoshop.


Next I’m going to create a new document. My personal preference is to set the size at 8 ½ X 11 inches (standard printer paper here, it will vary elsewhere) with a 300 DPI resolution. Color mode is CMYK. (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) PS Elements only allows me to choose RGB, (red, green, blue) but either setting will work. Ideally you want CMYK for images to be printed, as RGB images are much better suited for the web.


I have a confession to make: half the time I guesstimate when scaling stuff down. 1:9 is a weird scale, what can I say. Also, math. So much of miniatures is creating the illusion of the real thing… so that’s my excuse.

My JAH magazine is 8 ¼ inches wide by 11 inches tall. To scale this down, I’m going to cheat and use a conversion calculator.


It looks like my mini magazine should be 0.916666… inches wide by 1.222222… inches tall. These are lovely numbers to work with, right? (*cough*whyIguesstimate*cough*) I’m going to adjust this to 1 inch wide by 1 ¼ inch tall. Usually I take these measurements and sketch them out on a piece of scratch paper, then compare that to a doll or model to see if I’m happy with the size, making adjustments as necessary.


Back to the document.

There are multiple ways to do this, but my preference is to start with a solid color shape in the size I need. This is where rulers come in handy… here I’ve made a selection in the very top corner of my document, using the rulers on the side as a guide. This can be filled with any color.


Another (and more exact) way is to create a new shape in the right size.



I’ll use this as a guide when adding the JAH images. You could skip this step of course, and just re-size the images themselves using the rulers.



When I’ve got all the images re-sized, I’ll arrange them in the way I want them to be printed:


I went ahead and scanned in a few spreads from the magazine, and re-sized them as well:


To prepare for printing, I first arrange everything towards the middle of the document. You don’t want anything right against the edges, or they will be cut off when printed.
If I’m putting something up for download, I’ll usually save it as a PDF file, to make printing easier. For personal use I normally print straight through Photoshop. I never check the “scale to fit media” box, as it will shrink the entire document and make the images smaller than they already are. I always double check my printer settings as well.





Now all that’s left to do is cut and assemble all the pieces. Here’s my mini JAH all finished:


And that’s (basically) it! If you have any specific questions feel free to ask. 🙂



Read Full Post »

I have no intention of creating any Arabian tack tutorials anytime soon. It’s not because I’m trying to “hoard all my secrets” or something like that. It’s partially because I’m still rather new to costume-making, and will be the first to admit that I still have lots left to learn!

Another reason is that I owe A LOT to other costume makers who have shared their tips and tutorials online. Creating a tutorial would basically be repeating what others have already done, and I’d rather not step on any toes that way.

I know it’s probably really frustrating and annoying, but instead of saying no over and over again, I figured I would make a sort of reference post, featuring the help that got me started, along with some things I’ve figured out on my own. None of these methods are the ONLY way to do certain things. In fact, most I’ve modified to suit my own work better. Tutorials are great starting points. When you make something over and over eventually you begin to form your own methods. 🙂


The first thing I want to say is do research! Find LOTS of reference pictures! Sometimes you have to be really creative with your searches to find what you’re looking for.

IMHEA has some good descriptions on different styles of costumes, as well as what’s required for the show ring. I’m not 100% sure how current this info is so be sure to do some research elsewhere too.

Supplies and where to find them

Future Costumes

Luckily, most supplies can be found at any craft store. (Joanns and Walmart’s sewing section for me, yay) I’m ALL for making everything from scratch, but some things are just easier to buy.
TWMHC – hardware, stirrups (I strongly prefer these over Rio Rondo’s) mini turkish rugs…
Rio Rondo – sells all sorts of things, from buckles to stirrups to etched shark’s teeth charms
The rugs are usually called “miniature turkish rugs” or “dollhouse rugs.” They come in several different sizes and all sorts of colors and patterns. I’ve always purchased mine on ebay.

Braided Halter and Breastcollar

Here are two different methods. The first, by Marston Art, is what I used for my first few pieces… back in 2004/5ish.

Melissa of Adiva Arabians more recently shared a tutorial on how to make a presentation set. Sadly it was never finished, but she’s got some great pictures.

Tassels/tiered tassels

I make my tassels from a method Jennifer Wilson shared on Blab a long time ago. Basically, you take a few pieces of floss and tie them in the middle with a longer thread. Then, fold that bunch in half and wrap together with another thread. Trim off the excess and hooray! You’ve made one tassel! Repeat a couple hundred times and you may have enough for a costume!
Terri Wright shared how to make tiered tassels as well. Part 1 Part 2

Cowrie Shells and Medallions

Here’s another tutorial by Marston Art. Those I make now aren’t true beads, as I found that way too frustrating.

Cowrie shells are fiddly to make and require a lot of patience and time. Don’t sculpt them in a warm room… I promise you’ll get irritated. If your clay does get too warm and sticky, leaving it alone to “rest” for a little while helps, as does popping it in the freezer for a minute or so.

I’ve been using micro beads to decorate mine with, but you can always sculpt tiny beads from clay. I’ve also used these to decorate the ends of tassels, but I don’t like it much because every time I move the piece, beads go everywhere. I need to experiment with it more. 🙂

Shark’s Teeth Charms

You could always buy these from Rio Rondo, but if you’re feeling adventurous why not try making them yourself? A while back I wrote a tutorial on making shark’s teeth. I make my charms from large sequins now- they look the same but are a bit sturdier.

Another method by Marston Art – I think I tried this once and wasn’t happy with it, but you know, it’s just another option. 😉

Twists and Braids


I use this method for a lot of pieces.
I’ve also used four-strand braids and chevron braids in my work. Experiment and find out what works best for you!

Embroidery Tips

On embroidered costumes, honestly, the best thing to do is gather reference pictures and try to copy what you see. It’s tough and it’s tedious, and if you’re new to sewing that can double. (or make you want to chuck it out the window)
I’m not a seamstress so I just make stuff up as I go along. It’s just how I learn! XD I use the basque stitch, backstitch and running stitch most often. I also came across a nice website that has instructions for all sorts of fancy stitches, which is helpful as well.


Seats are what I struggle with the most, and the things I’ve tried I’m not completely happy with yet.
I’ve made some seats by cutting a rectangle out of sheet metal (soda cans work ok) like a picture frame. I’ll bend it into shape, pad it up with layers of felt, then cover the entire thing with fabric I’ve embroidered beforehand.
Another way is to sculpt the seat before covering. I’ve tried this using Crayola Model Magic, and I was pretty happy with it, as it’s easy to use, air-dries and remains flexible even after it’s cured. I imagine you could also sculpt a seat using an oven-bake clay (like Sculpey) or with an air-drying epoxy. (people seem to love Magic Sculpt!)
Really though, experiment, find what works best for YOU and go for it! One day I hope to make nice seats. It’s a long process but I think I’m getting closer.

How to Books

If following lots of tutorials and experimenting isn’t for you, and if you’ve got some extra money to spend, there are a couple of how-to books out there as well. I’ve never read these, (I’m stubborn and like to figure things out on my own…) but it might be another good place to start:

Keriokie’s Costume Book
Jennifer’s Imagination Costume Book

Jennifer’s book isn’t being sold anymore (someone correct me if I’m wrong) but every so often it’ll pop up on ebay or MH$P.

Hopefully this post was helpful? If anyone has any other info or tutorials I missed, please leave it in the comment section and I’ll update this post. 🙂

Read Full Post »

Several years ago I posted a picture of some muck buckets I had made from recycled Jello cups. This isn’t exactly a tutorial for that, but since I was making a new one I figured I would get some pictures as I went along.


They’re really, really simple. I scratched the use-by dates off with my fingernail, then painted the inside with a couple coats of paint. Since they’re transparent, there really isn’t any need to paint the outside. I added a coat of varnish over it as well.



In the light, they can be a bit splotchy but honestly, my eyes don’t pick it up quite as well as my camera can. I’m not too bothered with it because you know… it’s just a bucket.


The handles were made by splitting a piece of embroidery floss in half, (my floss is made up of six individual strands) then twisting it together. I punched holes in the side with a tack and threaded the twist through with a large needle.


The fork is a plastic Breyer fork with a new (longer) handle added to it. I haven’t figured out a way to make these from scratch yet! 😛

I also got it into my head to make a hay net. To make it, I found a tutorial on how to make a real one and re-created it in miniature.


I split five strands of embroidery floss to give me ten strands altogether. You don’t have to split them- I just wanted something thinner. 🙂 My strands were really long (around 12 inches, which is plenty) but I found that keeping them long made things much easier in the long run!

Haynet_02It was a lot easier to tie than I expected it to be. Some tips though… keep the end anchored to something, and don’t tie your knots too tight until you’re happy with how you’ve placed them! You could also use something like macrame cord (you can find really thin stuff on ebay… this is also great for making rope halters) instead of floss, so you could slightly melt the ends and knots to keep them from coming undone later.

For the hay, I cut up some raffia and went over it with watered down green paint. I cut this up into a bunch of tiny pieces once it was dry.

Haynet_03I covered a round wooden bead with glue and rolled it around in the pieces, then later glued more pieces to any bald spots. I don’t have any pictures of this because it was a mess and really frustrating. Once I fit it inside the net, I continued to add more pieces until it was well covered. The result…


Another way to make these would to simply stuff a mesh bag of sorts and tie off the ends. The one on the left here was made from a bag that held chocolate coins. It’s got to be ten years old at this point… I can’t believe it’s held up!



Read Full Post »

Older Posts »