Page name: Tutorial on how to write Tutorials [Logged in view] [RSS]
2011-09-14 11:38:36
Last author: SilverFire
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Tutorial on How to Write Tutorials

Often I see people posting anatomy tutorials when they themselves do not have a good grasp of anatomy, or posting tutorials on other techniques that they have barely grasped. Or they write tutorials that assume you have exactly the same knowledge of the software as they do – or the best; a colouring tutorial that lacks any images to show you how your own image should be progressing. Genius.

If you want to write a tutorial you must first ask yourself whether you are prepared to share the knowledge you have without reservation; if you want to show people how to do something, but want to keep the best tips and tricks on how to make it look good to yourself – so you’ll always be that little bit better – forget it. Don’t write a tutorial.

So here is some advice to help people write better tutorials:

1. Don’t assume people have the same knowledge as you. Imagine having to write instructions on how to make a cup of tea for someone who has never used, or even seen a kettle before: ‘boil kettle, add teabag, add milk’ simply wouldn’t work. You’d have to tell them how to plug the kettle in, to fill it with water first, where the switch was to turn it on, etc.

The same principle can be applied to your tutorial. Don’t just tell people, for example, to apply a Gaussian blur in Photoshop, you need to tell them how to apply the blur: what drop down menu do they need to access to get to the blur options, what settings are they supposed to be using, and what layer are they applying it to? Write your tutorial as if talking to someone who has little or no previous experience of the program. One of the most annoying examples is 'now jut shade the left side of her face' ... using what brush? And on what settings? 'advice' like that is useless.

2. Explain to people why you are instructing them to do something. Telling someone to stick a layer on multiply will let them know that to achieve that one effect, they need to have the layer on multiply. Telling them what the tools do and why you’re using them will allow them to apply the knowledge in other situations.

3. Images are nearly always useful. Especially in tutorials about how to make, paint, colour or draw things. If you tell someone to ‘click on the pen tool’ it might be useful to provide a small image of what button they’re looking for – print screen/screen capping is your best friend. Where the ‘print screen’ key is will depend on your keyboard, on normal qwerty keyboards it is one of the six keys above the directional controls. On a mac, you need to press command + shift + 3/4 (4 lets you select a specific part of the screen to capture).

4. Share with people every step and technique you’re using. There’s nothing more annoying than getting to the end of a tutorial, finding your image looks nowhere near as good as theirs, and then seeing little note saying ‘I fiddled around a bit with my settings’. You’re writing a tutorial because you want to share your knowledge. If you don’t want to share everything you have to offer, don’t write the tutorial in the first place. Leave it for the people who aren’t so selfish.

5. Honestly consider whether you are good enough to write a tutorial. No one wants to see a tutorial on how to draw faces if the person writing the tutorial hasn’t themselves got a good grasp of the human facial structure. Also look at what tutorials are available already: what’s the point in replicating a tutorial three other people have already done if you can’t add anything extra?

6. Take account of feedback. You want your tutorial to be useful. If someone comments to say they don’t understand one of your steps, review what you have written, and see if you can make your meaning clearer. Don’t go off in a huff at them or accuse them of being stupid – remember, if student has failed to learn, then the teacher has failed to teach.

7. As you refine your own methods, refine your tutorial as well. Maybe someone better than you will come along, and show you another trick you can do to make your finished product look even better – if they do, update your tutorial. Share the knowledge.

8. Maintain a logical order. A logical order is more important and useful than your own chronological order. When colouring an image you may jump all over the place as choice takes you, but if your tutorial followed exactly the same pattern it would be very confusing. Try to keep it as logical as possible - get all the flats down before you start shading the hair, etc.

9. Clarity is important. You need people to be able to understand your instructions. If they can't, your tutorial is useless. Get a friend to check that it makes sense, and run it through a spell-checker. People will judge your authority and skill partly on your presentation, not just the pretty picture you show of the end product. Good spelling and grammar is a part of that.

10. Keep your instructions short, simple, and to the point. You need to search for the simplest and best way to explain what you're doing. Text walls make tutorials hard and frustrating to follow, so if something you're doing requires a lot of explanation, try to break it down into several shorter paragraphs. You will notice many news website using very short paragraphs – sometimes only a sentence or two long. This is done for ease of reading, not because they think their readers are idiots.

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2007-02-28 [Zab]: I'm trying to follow the points you wrote (they make sense afterall) but sometimes if the tutorial isn't about how to use a programe but more to show some special method or thing to do, can't it just be too much to write were to find every single button etc, that's pretty basic?
As example my latest tutorial, it's about a method of using acrylic..I'm not going into where to put the highlights and stuff because there are other tutorials for that (and at least I learnt that by using pencils long before I started to paint x), and this one is more about how to mend the paint etc..see what I mean? Do you think that is still ok, or should I really go into placing highlights and stuff there too? >_>

2007-02-28 [SilverFire]: Why not just a small, general comment of 'obviously, highlights fall where the light hits, this is where my light source is, so my highlights fall accordingly'? And a link to (if there is one) an in-depth tutorial on lighting and shading?

2007-02-28 [Zab]: Well..I told them to search for other tutorials or use a reference..and wrote in the beginning that I wouldn't take the highlightings up..

2007-03-01 [SilverFire]:  seems like a good tutorial, why not link to that?

2007-03-01 [Zab]: *reads it* Sure..if I like it too I'll link it somewhere..
(the reason I don't bring up lightning is also simply because I can't describe it..I just put it where it feels good)

2007-03-01 [SilverFire]: :P Lighting is an utter bugger. For me, at least. >.<

2007-03-01 [Zab]: I just put it where it feels good..XD

2014-08-07 [Stephen]: It doesn't surprise me that you wrote this, Silvie. It's just so you. x)

2014-08-07 [SilverFire]: XP I got very annoyed at useless tutorials that missed out information or just assumed you knew how to do something. Like "No colour the image" and then they show this carefully shaded image that used like 20 different brush settings or something, none of which they tell you about -__-.

2014-08-07 [Stephen]: That's when I end up with an image that looks nothing like the displayed one and I get unhappy.

I wanna learn how to photomanip. Then I can take pictures of people and seamlessly stick them elsewhere. Which would make me happy. xP

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