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11 Helpful Tips For People Who Want To DIY But Kind Of Suck At It

If you don't have Mod Podge, do you even craft?

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You want to take up crafting but you feel kind of incompetent every time you try.


You gotta start somewhere. Learn the basics with this list of essential crafting tools and how to actually use them effectively.

1. ModPodge is a glue, a sealer and a finish that works well on paper, plastic, glass, even fabric. You can also try specialty finishes, depending on the project you are working on. Here's a simple guide:

Here are a few things to keep in mind when using it, and a three starter projects to try.

# Mod Podge dries really fast, which makes it tough to keep your brushes from becoming sticky projects themselves. White vinegar can salvage paint brushes, but sponge brushes are pretty much trashed.

# Avoid bubbles by allowing time between coats for your Mod Podge to dry. If bubbles do emerge, gently smooth them out with your fingers.

# You can make your own Mod Podge out of glue and water, although crafters debate whether or not it's as effective as the real deal.


Mod Podge works well on most surfaces, so you can turn ceramic tile into pretty coasters.

All you need is Mod Podge, ceramic titles, a photo print, and felt. You can make these awesome cork coasters by Design Love Fest if you aren't such a fan of your photography. Learn how to make them on Sweet Pea's Kitchen.


2. The X-Acto knife is ergonomic, extremely dynamic, and very sharp (so be careful). Scissors are basically the caveman equivalent to this magnificent invention.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe, and a few ideas you could use to practice your skills.

# Regularly replace your blades, especially if you're working with really tough materials. A dull X-Acto knife behaves a lot more erratically.

# Apply firm but not overly-aggressive pressure when using your X-Acto knife.

# If you're cutting thick materials, don't try to make the cut on the first pass. Gently run your X-Acto knife along the same line a few times so that you don't dull the blade or make a jagged cut.

# Practice on thin paper rather than jumping right to thick mediums so that you have an idea of how the X-Acto knife behaves and reacts to your gestures.

# Always work on a cutting mat so that you won't ruin any of your countertops.

The X-Acto knife allows you to make inside cuts as effectively as outside cuts.

This looks impossible—granted, an actual artist, Eugenia Zoloto, made the piece above and is selling it on Etsy for $40—but with time and practice, you could create something inspired by her work.

It also makes precise peeling and carving easier, so you can knock off your favorite stamps for cheap.

Learn how to easily make your own stamps from rubber erasers at Mollie Makes, because those craft-store stamps are HELLA expensive!


3. Washi tape is one of the least messy craft supplies out there, and you can use it for so. many. things.

This recyclable tape has tons of uses (check out our favorite 56 ideas here), and is usually recyclable. You can find some selection at office supply stores, but PaperSource and Etsy both have a large range of options that you can order online.

Check out more beautifully illustrated hacks in Yumi Sakugawa's Little Book of Life Hacks.

Washi Tape is great for decorating because it is removable and doesn't leave a residue.

BuzzFeed / Nifty

This project actually uses two of our supplies: washi tape and an X-Acto Knife. You could even use a Micron pen for the letters...

Learn how to turn your keyboard into a masterpiece on BuzzFeed Nifty.


4. Hot glue guns are cheap (the bestselling glue gun on Amazon is only $10), they glue things instantly, and you can use them on almost any thin material.

A few pro-tips:

# To avoid the long strings that make any glue gun project hideous, hold the tip at an angle against the object you're gluing, lay down a small dot or line of glue, release the trigger, and drag the tip of the gun to end the stream.

# Always work on a protected surface, like parchment paper or newspaper, to avoid glue drips.

# Clean your glue gun's tip with some crumpled up tin foil.

# Avoid using the high temperature glue guns with Styrofoam, plastic, or any product that might emit harmful fumes if heated too much.

# Keep a bowl of cool water nearby to quickly address burns.

Hot glue works on a variety of surfaces, from leather and mirrors to dried eucalyptus leaves.

No joke, that's what The Merry Thought did in this great tutorial. Hot glue is super sturdy if used correctly so it can even be used for creating things like this mirror


If you use the no-strings technique described above, it can be cleaner and more subtle than other glues.

The one time I used Krazy glue, I glued my fingers together. Obviously I got out of that debacle with nail polish remover and some frantic rubbing, but I won't be making that same mistake again!

Using a hot glue gun allows for a lot more control and you don't have to worry about spitting or clogging containers. Learn how to make this seriously impressive chandelier on The Jungalow.

When hot glue dries, it doesn't just become a flaky mess; it dries just the way you left it. So you can also make cool projects out of the glue itself, with help from a little paint.

All you need to make these absurdly adorable placemats that will make all of your kitchen creations Insta-worthy is your glue gun, spray paint, and wax paper {no matter how poorly prepared your worried your dinner might look IRL). Get the full tutorial at Bash Studio.

5. Micron pens are specially designed to create an thin, permanent, smooth line. A pack of five costs $12.99, but they can last if they're well-cared for:

# They can make delicate lines because the tips are very delicate and can break off easily or flatten out, so use a light touch.

# Use the pen perpendicular to the page.

# Only use it for writing or drawing on paper. (Or, paper tape!)

# If you need a straightedge, try this technique.


Because the Micron pen is so dark, you can create a lot of depth in your drawings with thick blocks of black without the streakiness that comes with pencils or other markers.

Here, Pegi Schargel is drawing a "Venetian" Zentangle, which is a type of black and white abstract drawing that involves repetitive strokes. It sounds tedious, but Zentangle-aficionados claim that it is very therapeutic.

You can watch the entire video on her Instagram.

Microns are waterproof and won't smudge, so they're a great choice to finally start your bullet journal.

They have that beautifully crisp sparseness that is character of any good bullet journal. And you won't lose your list if you're caught in the rain. Learn how to make yours here or just practice your handwriting with tips from here.

6. Contact paper, which is usually adhesive printed vinyl, is an easy way to add pattern almost anywhere. Sometimes it's called "removable wallpaper", but you can stick it on plenty of other projects.

Here are a few tricks of the trade:

# Apply to only to smooth, dry, flat surfaces, using a squeegee to spread your paper out.

# Peel the backing paper off little by little so only the adhesive section you're currently applying is exposed.

# Pop air bubbles with a straight pin.

# Many types are waterproof, so you can clean your project with soap and water.

# To remove, heat it with a blowdryer and gently peel it off.

Check out more contact paper crafts here.


Many types of contact paper won't damage paint or tile finishes, so it can be a renter-friendly way to upgrade your home.

Contact paper is adjustable so if you lay it down wrong you can just peel it off and try again.

Check out the tutorial for this backsplash at A Joyful Riot.

7. Concrete isn't just for hardcore DIY-ers! It's cheap ($3.99 for 10 lbs), doesn't necessarily require special tools, and looks great even if you have no artistic ability. You'll probably want the quick-dry kind.

BuzzFeed / Nifty

Here are a few tips, if you're a concrete newbie:

# Always wear gloves when handling concrete (obviously).

# Mix slowly to prevent air bubbles—making sure to only add enough water that it has the consistency of clay—jiggling and tapping the mold after you've poured.

# Make your adjustments ASAP after pouring, because it will set in 10-30 minutes, depending on how big your project is.

# Coating your finished concrete with a sealant helps prevent wear and tear.


Because of its thick consistency, concrete is a pretty well-behaved decorating tool.

Quick-dry concrete just requires you to mix in water, so you can choose the consistency you want by starting with a little water and gradually adding more. Learn how to make this dripped concrete planter on A Beautiful Mess.


8. Gold leaf is gorgeous, but it can be a total pain. It is very thin, so crinkles and blows in the slightest of breezes. Literally moving your hand too quickly will send a loose sheet flying.

Here's how to make it less of a hassle:

# The leaf sticks to moisture so keep baby powder nearby to dry your hands.

# Use adhesive size and transfer sheet to apply the leaf — the size should be tacky to the touch, which takes about 20 minutes after spreading it on a surface.

# Smooth your applied leaf with a cheese cloth.

# Allow your gilded items to cure for 24 hours.

Find 24 more gold leaf projects here.


9. Glitter is kind of like sand at the beach: the second you go anywhere near it, it's everywhere.


Here's how to use glitter without losing your mind:

# Coat your hands in baby powder to keep the glitter from sticking.

# Catch loose glitter in coffee filters so that when you're done, you can just fold the filter and dump the remaining glitter back in the container.

# Clean up stray glitter with baby wipes or a lint roller.

To evenly apply tiny sections of glitter, carefully brush on Mod Podge and pour the glitter on while it's still wet.

Wait about five minutes, then shake off the excess glitter. Learn how to update some old furniture with these great drawer pulls at Brit+Co.


10. Acrylic Paint, at least the kind in small bottles at the craft store, is cheap and water resistant. Even better, it's very simple to use if you keep a few things in mind:

Martha Stewart /

The few tips you probably know:

# Load up your brush with paint halfway up the bristles to avoid raspy, streaky strokes, and work in layers.

# But remember, a little paint can go a long way.

# Don't mix your colors unless you really know what you're doing because your concoction will most likely just turn brown.

# You can find brands at a variety of price points, although special finishes like the ones pictures above (get them for $15 on Amazon, or choose from a full selection of colors at Michael's) can be more expensive.

# Lighten your paint with a bit of white; acrylics dry darker than they appear.

# It works on almost any surface, although darker ones may require a base coat.

# Seal your acrylic projects with a coat of Mod Podge.


11. Paint Brushes

Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

I don't think I need to explain why you need paint brushes, but a good paint brush is super important because a cheap brush will most likely shed and ruin your project. If you're looking for a cheap, disposable option, definitely purchase brushes with synthetic hair. It can feel overwhelming to know which paint brush to use for what so here are a few simple rules you can keep in mind:

# A script liner brush has long, thin hairs and is used for long, continuous strokes or delicate, detail work like handwriting or outlining.

# A round brush is good for filling in small areas, fine details, sketching, or outlining. The round brush is best with lighter, thinned out paint.

# The square wash brush is easy to maneuver, so is best for filling in large blocks of paint or making broad strokes.

# The fan brush is good for blending, smoothing, and other textured work.

# The bright brush curves inward at the tip and has short hairs, so it's best for short, controlled strokes. Flat with edges curved inward at tip, with shortish hairs.

# The mop brush is good for shading and blending when using watercolors.

# The filbert, or cat's tongue, brush is used for soft edges or fading.

# The angular flat brush is good for precise strokes like round edges or corners.

# To clean your brush, wipe off excess paint onto a paper towel and then swirl it it in water. You might need to use a bit of mild soap to get the paint completely off.; also, rinsing brushes usually works best withe acrylic paints. (Thanks, water base!)

Try double-loading to create a lovely, blended, multi-colored stroke.

You can achieve the look by loading your brush with one color and then dipping the side into a second color. Learn how to do it by watching the full video on Youtube.