DIY Rope Light Word Art

Mar 06, 14 DIY Rope Light Word Art

Do you have boring, vacant wall space in your home? Have you been wanting to put your creativity and inner craftsman to the test but have had no idea where to start? Then you should definitely consider adding a personal touch to your home décor by creating your own unique LED rope light sign.

LED rope light is long-lasting and easy to configure into beautiful, loopy lettering. Plus, you can adjust the size of the letters to cover medium to large amounts of wall space that would otherwise require a large, expensive painting or various amounts of smaller artwork to fill. Spell out your family motto, an important value, or your child’s name and immediately alter the ambiance of any room to match it.

Here’s what you need:

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Once you have all your materials, plug your LED rope light into the wall to make sure it is working properly.
  2. Plan where you want to hang your word. Use a ruler, measuring stick, or other tool to draw a straight line where you want the bases of your letters to rest. (Keep in mind where the nearest outlet is and which end of the rope light you will plug into the outlet!)
  3. Configure the rope light into the word you want on the floor in front of your wall. Use weights to keep it your letters in position while you tape your letters in place.
  4. Attach your rope light word to the wall with more heavy duty tape, making sure the bottoms of your letters are touching the baseline you drew earlier. (Hint: You or your partner holds each letter in place while the other tapes it down.)
  5. After your word is taped to the wall, repeat the following steps for each letter:
    • Choose a corner of the letter to start on.
    • Remove the tape holding it to the wall. The other pieces of the letter that are taped to the wall should hold the majority of the letter in place.
    • Remove the tape that was holding the letter in its shape and use zip ties to hold it together instead. If you opted to use an incandescent rope light, make sure all the tape is removed before leaving your word on for long periods of time.
    • Visually gauge the places where you will need to attach your clips to the wall (usually where the tape was) and mark these places using chalk or a pencil.
    • Place your clips into the proper positions and screw them in.
    • Snap the rope light into the clips and pick another section of the letter to repeat the process until you finish your word.
  6. Once you’ve completed attaching your word to the wall, cut off any excess rope light that you don’t need (look closely at the cut marks on the rope light) and cap off the end of the rope.
  7. Plug in your LED rope light. Voilà! You’re done.

That’s it for this tutorial. Have you done any awesome DIY projects using ropelight?  Tell us in the comments below or on FacebookTwitterGoogle Plus, or Pinterest!

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Hydroponics DIY: How and Why to Grow Indoors

Feb 21, 14 Hydroponics DIY: How and Why to Grow Indoors

For all you gardeners out there, you know the frustrations of growing outdoors: the unrelenting heat withers your plants and makes it almost impossible to enjoy working in your garden, the weather can change in the blink of an eye, bringing a heat wave or torrential downpours, or that giant garden spider that’s made itself nice and cozy around your Rosemary bushes. With all these variables, it’s no wonder outdoor gardening can be so maddening and why moving your growing indoors isn’t as crazy as it sounds. While this isn’t a comprehensive how-to, we’ve gathered the high points of starting your first indoor grow.


So what exactly is hydroponics? Hydroponics is the art and science of indoor growing using all sorts of growing mediums, from growstones, clay rocks, rockwool, soil, coco, and soilless mixes. The beauty of hydroponics is that there’s no one way to grow and there’s no limit on what you can grow. Some choose to grow vegetables to have purely organic vegetables, bypassing all the pesticides, while others grow indoors as a hobby. Plus, hydroponics gives you the control to grow whatever you want whenever you want. Whether it’s 15 degrees with three feet of snow or it’s 110 degrees with 90 percent humidity, your indoor grows aren’t affected.

Where to Start?

First decide what you want to grow. Do you want to grow non-flowering herbs like cilantro or basil, or are you looking to grow flowering plants like vegetables? Your set up will depend on what you choose to grow. For example, if you want to grow vegetables or flowers, you’ll need a 400-watt HID grow light fixture, with both HPS and metal halide bulbs for the different growth stages. For those non-flowering plants, like basil and cilantro, you can stick with T5 grow lights for the whole growing cycle. Commercial growing will need a bigger coverage area, produced by multiple 1000-watt HID fixtures.

*Note: Since hydroponics can be a bit overwhelming, we’ll save many of the details, such as coverage area, for a later time.

As we know from elementary school science, plants need light to grow. If you’re growing indoors, you have to supply your own sun in the form of HID (high intensity discharge) grow lights, which include high pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide bulbs. There are also LED grow lights, which, just like their household counterparts, use less electricity and last longer than other types of bulbs.

Plants go through stages: a growth stage, also called a vegetative stage, and a flowering stage, also called the budding stage. Both of these stages need different color temperatures in order to flourish: the vegetative stage requires color temperatures of 5000K or higher as this produces the blue part of the color spectrum, while the flowering stage needs a color temperature of around 2000K, which produces light in the red spectrum ideal for this stage.

Just like the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day, neither should your grow lights. For the growth cycle, it’s recommended to have between 18 and 20 hours of light, while that amount decreases to only 12 hours during the flowering cycle. The easiest way to control your lights is with timers. Timers streamline the entire growing process and eliminate forgetting to turn your lights on and off.

XtraSun XT8AC 8-Inch Reflector

XtraSun XT8AC 8-Inch Reflector

Now let’s talk grow light reflectors. While there are many different types of reflectors, from parabolic to wing reflectors, to all-in-one reflectors, to air cooled reflectors, and each one offers its own advantages. Wing reflectors, for example, feature adjustable “wings” which increase light coverage, therefore helping to reduce the number of areas without light. Not to mention they’re usually cheaper. All-in-one reflectors, beside the bulbs, include everything you need, like the ballast. All you have to do is plug it in and go. Air-cooled reflectors have ducts on each end for cooling hoses and are determined by the diameter of these ducts, ranging from four to eight inches in diameter. These types of reflectors are usually for the serious grower as they require the proper ducting for cooling. The type of reflector you need depends on the size of your grow area.

Start Small

HydroFarm EMSYST Emily's Garden

HydroFarm EMSYST Emily’s Garden

Before getting too hot-to-trot over setting up a professional grow space, it’s best to start small. Try an all-in-one hydroponics kit, like the Emily’s Garden. This kit comes with everything you need to start a small, successful grow: growing medium, seed starter cubes, even nutrients. While this may seem like child’s play, it’s a great way to get your feet wet with the world of indoor growing.

Jump Start JSV2 2-Ft. Stand

Jump Start JSV2 2-Ft. Stand

For great beginner experience with grow lights, check out the Jumpstart T5 reflectors. Available in heights from two to four feet, these reflectors include the bulbs and the fixtures and are adjustable as the plants grow taller.

*Note: For more information about indoor growing, check out our hydroponics books.

What do you plan on growing in your indoor garden? Tell us in the comments below, or give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or LinkedIn!

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DIY LED Flower Arrangement

Feb 11, 14 DIY LED Flower Arrangement

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s hard not to think about flowers, ribbons, and fun DIY projects. That’s why we’ve combined all three in this simple, fun tutorial on how to make a beautiful LED Flower Arrangement. Ideal for date nights, weddings, and Sunday crafternoons, this light-up floral arrangement is sure to put a smile on any loved one’s face.

For this tutorial, you will need:
• One real or fake flower (we used a plastic rose)
6 ft. LED Ribbon purchased at
• Circle of red sheer fabric
• 2-3 sheets of silver tissue paper
• Silver wire for the bow
• Green wire for stems
• Tape
• Wire cutters

Step 1
Create a bow using your LED ribbon. For this example, we did a five-loop bow. This can seem daunting to those that are unfamiliar with making bows. Have no fear, as we show you how to make a pretty and simple bow. What’s great about this ribbon is that it’s dual-sided, wire-edged, lighted, lace-like, and iridescent. It looks nice from both sides, and it is easy to form and hold shapes with. If it takes you a few times to craft a bow and you’re worried about the shape, that’s okay. The ribbon will still look brand new.

Step 2
Tie a knot around the ends of your ribbon and secure it with your green or silver wire.

Step 3
Lay the rose on top of the bow and wrap them together with wire.

Step 4
Take the sheer fabric (it should be in a circle shape with a hole cut out of the middle in an X shape. The X should be about an inch in length) and put the rose through the center. Then fashion the fabric around the stem and the bow.

Step 5
Use clear scotch tape to fasten the LED battery to the bottom stem of the rose. Make sure that the on/off switch is accessible.

Step 6
Wrap your tissue paper around the flower, bow, and fabric and secure everything in place with your ribbon. (Use extra sheets of tissue paper or wire if necessary).

That’s it for this tutorial. Have you done any DIY projects with LED ribbons? Share them in the comments below or tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest!

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Mouth-Watering Food Photography Lighting Tips

Jan 31, 14 Mouth-Watering Food Photography Lighting Tips

Whether you’re flipping through your favorite culinary magazine or pinning to your food board on Pinterest, it’s difficult to ignore how even the simplest dishes look so appealing. So why does the food in these pictures look so appetizing? Besides the fact that you might be hungry, the next best answer is that the photographer knew how to use light. Reproducing these mouth-watering pictures can be a difficult task if lighting isn’t used correctly. Below are a few lighting tips that will make your food look just as delicious as it tastes.

Using Natural Light

Photo using warm artificial light

Photo using warm artificial light

One of the best and most inexpensive methods for enhancing the appearance of your food is to use plenty of natural light. Whether it’s LED, incandescent, or CFL, residential lighting tends to be on the warmer end of the color spectrum and can cause pictures to have a bright orange or yellow  tint without the use of a flash (like the picture to the right). In most cases, residential lights aren’t bright enough just by themselves. Photographing your food next to a sun-drenched window in your kitchen (or any other room) will give your photo a more natural appearance without distorting the colors of the dish.

Using Artificial Light

For those of you who don’t have a ton of natural light to work with, or if you happen to be shooting at night, there are ways to use artificial light to achieve the same effect. First, the trick is to use a bulb that mimics natural daylight. Full spectrum compact fluorescents are great for this, because they typically have a high color temperature of 5000K or above – about the same as natural daylight – and won’t get hot like halogen lamps. Also, be sure that they have a high lumen output, preferably well above 1000 lumens. Color Rendering Index (CRI) of the bulb is an important factor to consider as well. Keeping the CRI above 80 will help the color of your food appear as natural as possible.

foodphotographysalad2Once you pick a light source, stick to it. Using two light sources with different color temperatures will cause different coloration in each part of the picture’s frame, something that’s extremely hard to fix in Photoshop. So, if you only use natural light, make sure all other lights in the room are turned off.

Manipulate the Light

In order to control and use light to your advantage, you’ll need some tools of manipulation. This is where light reflectors come in. If you’re not a professional photographer or you don’t have a ton of money to spend on lighting equipment, there are a few inexpensive solutions that will work just fine. Using a piece of strategically placed white foam board will reflect light to eliminate shadows and brighten certain areas of the dish. Tin foil and white printer paper are just a few other cheap yet incredibly effective reflecting tools you could use to bounce light back over your food.

Experiment with Angles

Once you have the details of your lighting figured out, finding the perfect angle to shoot your food is the next step. The angle at which the light is hitting the subject can be extremely important in highlighting textures and colors or masking any flaws.

foodphotography1One of the most common techniques in food photography is back lighting. Place your light source behind your food and the reflector to the front but still leaving enough room for you to photograph. The picture to the right is a perfect example of back lighting being used to enhance the complex textures of the food. Most importantly, it’s all about experimentation and finding the technique that’s right for you and makes your pictures look best.

Smartphone Tips

Don’t think we’ve forgotten about you smartphone users. As someone who likes to post a food pic to their Instagram every now and then, I know that some lighting conditions are not always conducive to like-worthy pictures. While the lighting tips above can also be applied to smartphone users, here are a few more that might help you out.

  • Don’t use the flash. As I mentioned before, natural light is the way to go. The flash on your smartphone is often way too harsh to produce a good picture. Plus, you don’t want to be that person who ruins the atmosphere of a dimly lit restaurant with their flash.
  • Find good photography apps. Even if you are in moody restaurant with soft lighting, those lighting conditions can sometimes be fixed with a few adjustments using one of the many photography apps out there for smartphones. Adding filters and adjusting brightness, contrast, shadows, and saturation can make a big difference.


Have you used any of these techniques for food photography? Leave us a comment or show us your pictures on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or Pinterest!

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DIY Christmas Decorations on a Budget

Dec 13, 13 DIY Christmas Decorations on a Budget

With Christmas less than two weeks away, it’s safe to assume that you’ve already put up the majority of your Christmas decorations. We have too. But if you find yourself looking for some festive  and inexpensive crafts that you can do with the whole family or by yourself on a chilly Sunday afternoon, we’ve got some DIY decoration ideas that will brighten up your home for the holidays. Many of these simple decorations can be made with things you may already have lying around the house.


Tomato Cage Christmas Tree

tomato cage treeWith gardening season being a ways away, this DIY tutorial will give you an opportunity to re-purpose some supplies that you may not be using. Here are the basic essentials you’ll need: 2 tomato cages, any light string you want (has to be able to wrap around the entire length of the cage), and a rubber band or elastic to secure the tips of the cage.

When the cages are assembled, turn them upside down and stack one on top of the other. This is so the lights and whatever else you choose to decorate the cage with will have a stronger foundation. Gather the loose ends of the cage and secure them with a strong rubber band to create the point of a Christmas tree.

Take your Christmas lights and begin wrapping them around the cages from the top down. You can hide the rubber band at the top of the cage by tightly wrapping the lights or by tying festive ribbon over it for an extra decorative touch.

Cupcake Liner Light Strings

1206HOL30For those of you who happen to have a few cupcake liners stashed away in the cupboard from the last time you baked, this easy DIY is perfect for you! All you need is a mini light string and cupcake liners. We think holiday colors or metallic silver would look great, but whatever you have in the house works too!

When we say this DIY is easy, we mean it. All you have to do is cut a small slit in the bottom of a cupcake liner and fit it over an individual bulb on the light string and you’re done! Repeat with as many bulbs as you want to cover on the string. If you’re in a hurry, you can also use the bulb on the light string to gently punch through the liner. This decorative light string will look great lining a fireplace mantle or strung across your living room walls.

Glitter Covered Bulbs

glitter bulbsIf any of your outside Christmas lights have burned out, don’t throw them away! Instead, use them as an eye-catching decoration. For this DIY, you’ll need replacement Christmas light bulbs, glue, and glitter.

First, take the bulb by the base and use a paint brush that you don’t mind throwing away or your finger to apply the glue evenly over the surface of the bulb. Next, roll the bulb in glitter or sprinkle it on yourself. Try and wipe off any excess glitter to make sure that it’s evenly covering the bulb. Once the bulbs are dry, put all of them in a bowl to display or tie ribbon around the base and use them as Christmas ornaments for your tree!

Illuminated Canvas

lighted signThis next DIY may require trip to the craft store, but the end product is worth it. Using Christmas lights and a canvas, you can create artwork that doubles as lighting for your room. Here’s what you’ll need: Canvas, white mini light strings, a pencil, an awl (a tool for poking holes in wood and leather), and glue.

First make marks on the back of the canvas with the pencil to get an idea of where you want the lights to poke through. Make sure the lights are at least half an inch apart. Then, using the awl, gently poke through the pencil markings. Once you’ve done that, place glue around each hole and poke the Christmas lights through. After you’re done, you can tape the lights down on the back of the canvas to make sure they stay. If you want to add a little more holiday spirit to the project, paint anything from snowflakes to the words “Merry Christmas” on the canvas.

Light String Wreath

light wreathIf you’re looking to make a simple, minimalist wreath that will look great in your home, but could also withstand the outdoor elements, this DIY is for you. All you need is a basic wreath frame (these can be found at any craft store) and a string of outdoor Christmas lights, unless you only plan on hanging the wreath indoors. Try LED mini lights or a C6 LED light string.  Begin wrapping the light strings around the frame as loosely or as tightly as you want. Just remember that you have to leave enough of the wire to reach an outlet if you aren’t able to use an extension cord.


Have any DIY holiday projects you’d like to share? Send us your pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus! We’d love to see them!

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How to Create Light Paintings

Nov 01, 13 How to Create Light Paintings

Using light to create luminous lines in photography is not necessarily a new concept. For as long as there have been film cameras, people have been able to capture streaks of light using long exposures and slow shutter speeds. As digital photography has evolved, light painting has become increasingly popular, with artists using the medium to create stunning images and animation. Light painting has turned into a full blown art form that is evolving just as quickly as the technology being used to create it.

There are those who consider themselves to be light painting artists, but you certainly don’t have to be one to create photographs with similar effects. Light painting is a fun and fairly easy activity that can be done by just you or with a big group of friends. We recommend having a group with you, that way you can create more complicated designs in one picture. After trying our hand at it, we at have compiled a list of basic materials and steps you’ll need to take to begin creating your own light paintings!

The Essential Items

  • Darkness. Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, make sure you’re in a dark enough space that your lighting painting will show up.
  • A digital SLR camera that has Manual or Bulb settings
  • A sturdy tripod. This will keep your camera completely still. If you don’t have a tripod, you can try using any flat, steady surface, such as a table, to keep your camera from moving.
  • A light source. This can include anything from a flashlight, LED tape light, light sticks, sparklers, etc.

If you are going to be light painting outdoors, make sure you have all of the necessary equipment to protect your camera from the elements.

Camera Settings

Before you begin, make sure you are using the right camera settings. For the best results, use a digital SLR camera. These cameras have manual settings that allow you to control the shutter speed. The slower the shutter speed, the longer you have to draw your light painting.

For the light painting picture below, we used Manual or “M” setting, and put the shutter speed at F22, the highest F-stop. This keeps the shutter open for 22 seconds. If your camera has a Bulb or “B” setting, this will work even better. At the Bulb setting, you can keep the shutter open for as long as you like so that you’re not restricted by time. You will also want to turn your camera down to the lowest ISO level possible. This will minimize any noise, or visual distortion, in your picture.

Test Shots

The best way to know if your camera is capturing the light painting you want is trial and error. Take a few test shots at a regular shutter speed without the light source to make sure you have the correct exposure. When you’re happy with the exposure, change your shutter speed settings to the desired position.

Get Started

Now, you can begin light painting! Once you’re positioned in front of the camera with your light source and ready to go, have a friend press the shutter release button for you. You can do this yourself, but having someone do it for you is much easier than stepping in and out of the frame each time.

Once the shutter release is pressed, begin moving your light source. To get certain spots brighter than others continually move your light source over that one spot as if you were coloring with a large crayon. Using all of the steps above, an LED flashlight, and an LED tape light suit (DIY tutorial here), we created the image below.

Light Painting from an LED Light Suit

Light Painting from an LED Light Suit

Are you planning on creating any light paintings of your own? Tell us about it in the comments below, or drop us a line on TwitterFacebook, or Google Plus!


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