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Scrapbooking Q & A : Design, Inspiration, Finding Your Style


Do you sketch before you begin or arrange the photos on the cardstock and move on from there?
Posted by: Alicia

I don't normally sketch in advance of working on a layout. Sometimes I do, but most often I sketch in my head as I am thinking about the story and the photos I want to use. Choosing the photos usually starts the process for me.

With all the supplies available to you in this industry, how do you stay true to your clean style (especially if you are a guest Dt or on a design team)? I feel sometimes that I want to use so much on a layout, but when I look back through my albums, the simple pages are my faves.
Posted by: Heather Prins

A few months ago I went through all my albums and reorganized them (see the post: Adventures in Organizing Albums). During that process it became very evident to me that the pages I love the best were the simple ones that focused on the photos and the story and less on the products/artsy techniques. I think it is a conscious choice to stay true to what is most important to you. I also think there is nothing wrong with variety - sometimes I use a bunch of stuff on a layout and other times very little.

I am always amazed at the variety of your designs, what do you mostly use for inspiration or do the ideas just come to you divinely??
Posted by: Heidi

I am inspired by all kinds of things all the time. Just going through daily life offers so many different opportunities to be inspired. I have a file on my computer and a notebook that I use to collect all the inspiration and ideas - being able to jot them down now and refer to them later really helps me with the entire creative process (and for me, writing or typing helps to plant it in my brain). I also love looking at magazines, junk mail, internet sites, etc. for visual inspiration.

How can someone who's never studied graphic design make pages that are visually pleasing like yours? Could you give brief tutorials with examples? I like simple pages but sometimes mine look so blah.
Posted by: Bree

I think one of the best ways to grow as a designer (if that is your goal) is to use other people's work as sketches. You can learn a lot by simply following the basic design and adding your own content and embellishments.

Sometimes I think my simple pages look blah too. I think we are all way too critical of our own work. When these thoughts creep in I try to grab hold of a bit of perspective: down the road my family (and I) will be thankful that I took the time to document a part of their lives.

You may also want to look into Cathy Zielske's class at Big Picture Scrapbooking which is a practical study of graphic design and how it applies to scrapbooking.

I will plan another post to address some of my favorite graphic design tips.

What comes first ... the layout or the size of your pictures? This is a stumbling block for me ... I take a TON of pictures and most of them are good, I do weed out the okay ones but I'm still left with about 9 pictures for one topic. (I do like multi-photo pages) So do you crop/resize your pictures first or do you have a layout in mind before you pick your pictures?
Posted by: Julee

Smetimes I have a layout in mind before I choose my photos, but often the photos help me decide how I will put the layout together. If I know I will be using a bunch of photos, such as 9, my first inclination is to crop them in Photoshop. Creating a bunch of 3x3 or 4x4 or 2x2 photos is a "go-to" technique for me when working with my photos (I also like to crop them so that they are all the same width and different heights or all the same height and different widths). I like the consistency of the size and find it easy to gather them all together. I also often will choose one photo to enlarge (for contrast + interest) - usually this is my favorite of the bunch.

How do you plan your pages, photo-wise I
mean? Do you print them all at home after planning the page, when you
know what size you want them? I mostly develop 4x6 photos and then I'm
sitting there, feeling I should have planned better, enlarged some,
made some smaller and so on but I find it difficult (or even
impossible) to plan a page before I have the pictures in my hand. Any
useful tips on this subject?

Posted by: Miranda

I do a combination of printing at home and printing from For me it often depends on the deadlines I am working towards and timing. For larger projects - like my books - I have a bunch of photos printed all at once. In that process of uploading I choose some to enlarge with the knowledge that I will work with what I have when they come back from the developer.

I think this is one of those processes that really frustrates people. It gets back to the whole wanting to make everything perfect and thinking there is a perfect photo size for a particular layout whether than just working with what you have (whether that is 4x6 photos or a bunch of cropped photos in Photoshop).

Even when I do get a bunch of 4x6's printed I still crop many of them down as I work through the layout so don't rule that out as an option.

I'm also curious as to how you decide what goes into a mini book... or on 12x12 pages.
Posted by: Christine Villacarlos

Most of the time it really just depends on the story. Some
stories/concepts are just too much for a single layout and make more
sense to me to be in minibook format. I like the variety and I like
having both for so many reasons. I don't often repeat content from a
minibook into a 12x12 layout or vice versa - I tend to do one or the

When you scrapbook do you start your
layouts with the journaling in mind and sort of build the page around
the journaling, or does the journaling get built around the layout of
the page?

Posted by: Rachel

When I begin a layout I
have the story in mind. Most of the time I know how much I am planning
to write and will create a layout based on the amount of space I will
need to tell the story.

I really would like to know how you keep to such a simple design with all the cool stuff? How do you know when it's enough without being not enough??
Posted by: Michelle Cooney

One of the things that has helped me is too decrease the amount of stuff I have on hand. Less stuff = less choices = more focus on the story and the photos. Enough is really relative. Some people will never create a page and only add one accent while others find that is all they need. I think finding your own "happy place" is really a process of trial + error - going overboard at times and being too sparse other times. Eventually you find yur own personal design balance and place where enough is enough.

How did you learn to embrace your own style? I am looking for inspiration on how to move through a discovery phase of some sort and find mine. I'd like to throw out the "it's supposed to be this" and just enjoy the process. My process & my spin on creative projects. Maybe learning about your journey will help.
Posted by: Emilyt

I think embracing your style is a conscious choice that comes over time and play and trying on different styles before settling in with your core style. I always hesitate a bit with style discussions because I think that even when you identify your style you benefit from changing things up, being inspired by different things, and trying out new techniques. That is part of the process of creative growth.

A lot of it also has to do with confidence. For me, really focusing on the story and the photos has given me more confidence in my creative choices. "How am I telling this story + am I doing justice to this story + what will I want to remember 20 years from now?" are all questions I continually ask myself as I am working on projects. I need those reminders and questions to keep me focused on what I feel is the most important aspect of what I am doing right now.

I have recently been going through my parents pictures because they were displaced due to flooding and I am trying to organize them for them. Any suggestions on combining several generations of photos as well as many different sizes (ex: wallets, 3x5, 4x6,5x7)? I am perplexed as to whether to scrap them all or place in photo albums or any photo boxes. So any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated. I am strongly leaning towards what you did for CK with the different size page protectors and scrapping that way.
Posted by: Shawn

I have quite a few family photos here from my parents and what I have been doing is scanning them (I don't use the originals for scrapbooking) and then putting the originals into photo albums (they are coming out of old magnetic albums). From the ones that are scanned I can play around, tell the stories on scrapbook pages and in minibooks, etc.

I suggest choosing a storage method (boxes, albums, etc - I always like albums because you can still flip through them and enjoy them - not as easy with a box) and then scanning all of them (or the ones you would like to scrapbook). I just recently learned about a scanning service called ScanDigital that will do this for you (at a cost of course). I am in the middle of testing them out with some of my photos and negatives (the process of scanning takes forever) and will let you know what I think when I get my photos back.

The idea of using the divided page protectors for this project would totally work as well. I love incorporating them into my albums.

Do you have any non-scrapbooking resources on hand that you use on a regular basis? For instance my first thought was a dictionary or thesaurus for journaling...then I wondered what other resources might be handy to have on hand.....any thoughts?
Posted by: Katie

I do use a dictionary + thesaurus often. In the past I have used real books but these days I am on my computer so much that I tend to use the one on here. Other resources I refer to often: handbooks for Photoshop + Illustrator, an inspiration notebook (pages pulled from magazines, printed from online, etc),

I'm just curious when you have a pile of pictures in front of you from several events and every day stuff how do you decide what you are going to scrap? I'm struggling with the fact that I have all of these photos in front of me but where do I start.
Posted by: Amy

I pick whichever one inspires me the most at the moment I am ready to create something. Just pick one story and get down to business. I actually like it when I have choices of stories to tell. I have some Cropper Hopper project folders/page planner folders that I use to store layouts and projects in progress. I usually include photos + accents + notes to myself - I often have ideas for layouts while I am working on other ones so I jot those down and add them to the planner folder.

How to you pick what elements to go along with the story?
Posted by: Amanda Susan

These days I am really into keeping it simple. Sometimes the elements I choose are based on the words on the accents, or the color, or that they just feel like they "go" with the story I am trying to tell. I don't take a lot of time in choosing what elements to add. My open system of organization (will talk about this more in the organization post) helps me to see what I have and just grab something that adds a finishing touch to the layout.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the amount of ideas. I think "oh, a mini book with this concept! An album on this theme! An art journal in this new beautiful notebook!", but when I've started, another idea will pop up which makes the project I'm working on boring and the new one seem so much more fascinating. So I'll finish a couple of pages and then leave it, result being that I have tons of nearly empty journals, albums and mini books. Have you ever encountered this kind of problem? Do you sometimes feel it's difficult to finish something before starting a new project? If so, do you have any ideas on how I could solve this? I've thought about getting some sort of album and just putting all the layouts and art journal pages in there, but that leaves out the pleasure of working in a book (with the art journal pages), and how would I sort it all, and I can't put mini books in an album ... and my thoughts just go around and around.
Posted by: Kristin

I definitely run into this issue from time to time. For me it is more with art journals than with minibooks - my outlook though has become that it is a "project in progress" which is totally fine with me. I work on it from time to time when I get inspired or want to try something new. Many of the minibooks in my new book are "in-progress" minibooks that are not designed to be completed in one day but are created to document things (ideas, events, etc) over time.

There is nothing wrong with having on-going projects and moving from one thing to the next. To me, this is part of the process of creativity. Give yourself a break :).

Help! I have been stuck on this one layout forever because I am trying to incorporate a circle photo and regular rectangular photos. It is driving me insane and I haven't been able to find any sketches that use photographs cropped into a circle. Is this just not done? Now that it is already cropped and all, should I just go get it printed again and forget it or is there a magical way I can make this work?
Posted by: Danielle Barton

I think it sounds like a cool idea and a good way to draw attention to a certain photo. You didn't mmention what size the circle photo is cropped too, but here is something that came to mind for me when reading your question:


I added another circle for balance. If you had more photos you could add them above and adjust the journaling to another location.

I am not a "natural" artist...I wish I were (sigh). So, I immerse myself in written and pictoral golden nuggets from yourselves and other goddesses. :) Could you pass on a "Three things" version for people like myself? Design/artistic/colour concepts to keep in mind when planning and designing 1 & 2 page layout or cards.
Posted by: Elizabeth

I like this idea and would like to do it for Three Things next Tuesday.


Q & A posts :
MiniBooks/Sharing Your Story/Supplies
Design/Inspiration/Finding Your Style
Events/Teaching/Internet/Creating Keepsakes/Misc.
Hybrid/Digital Scrapbooking/Photoshop
Excess/Feeling Behind/Overwhelmed/Purging/Donating Supplies
Organization + Storage/Work + Life + Finding Time
Scrapbooking Baby/Getting Started + Design Teams/Telling Your Story
Techniques/Photography + Printing

Related Posts

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8 thoughts

  1. Chris Dukes says…

    Ali, I love reading all the Q & A's that you have posted. I really admire your simplicity and your blog is my absolute favorite. Thank you for sharing so much of you with us. You are incredible!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. Linn says…

    Wow! Two Q &A's in one day. Thank you! I've been needing some re-inspiration to get going again. I love your simple storytelling style.

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. emilyt says…

    This is the best ever - love, love, love all the Q&A. Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together. So much to take in - it's like an inpromptu Ali magazine! Love you to bits & pieces.

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. noell says…

    You said, "(I also like to crop them so that they are all the same width and different heights or all the same height and different widths). I like the consistency of the size and find it easy to gather them all together."
    Oh my gosh, is this the key to simple collage? I am going to have to try this. I've never heard anyone share this principle. Thank you so much! I can't wait to see if it helps me.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. danielle barton says…

    Hey Ali, thanks for the sketches to help with my photo circle issue!!! It gave my brain that push it needed!!! Oh, and I am actually halfway through the Twilight series as well, and man, is it good! In fact, I am starting Eclipse tonight! Thanks again for all your help and these Q&A posts are great! I know everyone really appreciates all the time you are taking to answer each question. I am getting a lot of great useful information reading it all and can't wait to use the tips!

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Emary McGehee says…

    The mini book I like the most is the book that uses mat board as it's front and back covers, 12x12 card stock folded, use red line tape to seal, stack the pages, hole punch holes that keep the pagestogether later, for the binding thread various ribbons,fold them in half, making four pages not counting the outer page adhered to the mat boards. Decorate with printed paper, doo dads,insert decorated paper into ends of card stock "pages". I have made these for birthday gifts and graduation. People love them and they are so personable!

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Disney Scrapbook says…

    Your Q&As are all very handy, thank you!!!!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Busby SEO Test says…

    thanks for the very encourage words

    Reply 0 Replies

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