Scrapbooking 101: The Basics

comments (2) May 1st, 2017     

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KhrisCochran Khris Cochran, contributor
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When my family and friends see all of our favorite memories in a beautiful handmade book like this...well lets just say that they dont make so much fun of my sentimentality.

When my family and friends see all of our favorite memories in a beautiful handmade book like this...well let's just say that they don't make so much fun of my sentimentality.

Photo: Scott Phillips

Documenting my life's events, no matter how important or mundane, is something I take great pride in doing. While my friends and family jokingly call me sappily sentimental sometimes, they're always delighted by the chic and meaningful scrapbook albums, handmade cards, and photo gifts I give throughout the year. Scrapbooking is a significant part of my passion for paper crafts, and it's where I begin sharing that love with you. I'm Khris Cochran, author of The DIY Bride: 40 Fun Projects For Your Ultimate-One-of-a-Kind Wedding, and your guide to the fabulous and fun world of paper crafting.

There's a pile of my most-loved photographs quietly tucked away in a lovely but dusty size 9 Kate Spade shoebox on the bottom shelf of my craft space storage unit. Though a stylish container for shoes, this cardboard shoebox is a decidedly gauche way to store treasured images.

It has occurred to me, as a longtime paper crafter and über-organized human being, that just maybe I should keep these precious pictures in a safe, stylish, and meaningful environment. Perhaps in something like a scrapbook?

Though I frequent my local scrapbook shops in search of nifty craft tools and supplies, I admit to not being much of a scrapbooker. A crime, really, in these times of The Big Scrapbook Boom. Never before have there been so many fabulously fun, stylish, and chic options for creating a truly unique book of memories. I can no longer resist! Scrapbook I must-and I'm not doing it alone. I'm taking you, my dear readers, along in my exploration into the world of scrapbooking.

In today's post we're covering the very basics of scrapbooking.

So, what is a scrapbook?
It's a book of any size that provides a "safe" home for your photos, journaling, and memorabilia. It can be a 3-ring binder, a beautifully handbound book, a specialty album-whatever. The content, size, shape, and style are totally up to you. There are no rules here. You get to define what your scrapbook looks like and contains.

What's wrong with the shoebox method of storage?
First, shoeboxes are meant only to protect shoes and not important photos documents, and other mementos. Scrapbooks, on the other hand, are designed specifically to protect your treasured memorabilia from moisture, heat, and light-all things that lend to their destruction.

Second, having your treasures in book or album form allows them to be conveniently displayed and shared, whereas shoeboxes are typically tucked away or hidden.

What do you mean by scrapbooks being "safe"?
Most commercially available scrapbook albums and scrapbook supplies are designed to protect your photos and memorabilia.

• Acid-free papers, pens, embellishments, and adhesives all help prevent discoloration and permanent damage.
• Scrapbook albums help keep direct (and indirect) sunlight and dust away from photos and paper. They also provide a rigid surface to mount things on that helps prevent creases and tearing.
• Albums with page protectors also keep moisture, dust, and smudges off of your artwork. That's helps tremendously in preservation.

Terms and Buzzwords

Acid – Acid is used in the manufacture of paper to break down the wood pulp. It's also a key component in many adhesives and inks. Acidic residue will cause deterioration and damage.

Acid-free – Products labeled "acid-free" are safe to use for scrapbooking. To be deemed "acid-free", a product must have a pH level of 7-9. Common paper craft items that are not acid-free include ballpoint and felt pens, permanent markers, construction paper, newspaper/newsprint, masking tape, cellophane tape, and white craft glue.

Lignin – A natural component of plant and wood fibers, lignin acts as a bonding agent between the plant's cells. Like acid, lignin accelerates deterioration of photos, so papers used should also be labeled "lignin-free".

Basic Necessities


Paper Trimmer - No crafter, let alone scrapbooker, should be without a good paper trimmer. Without it, forget about cutting straight and square pieces from large sheets of paper, which you'll be doing plenty of in your scrapbook projects. Paper trimmers are available in a variety of types and sizes. The best one for beginners is a simple portable trimmer that has an easily replaceable blade and that accommodates a 12-inch piece of paper.

Fine-Point Craft Scissors - When working with paper and ribbon, you'll find a small pair of fine-point scissors to be a sanity saver. Fine points are wonderful for slicing through ribbon, trimming stray edges of paper, and cutting out intricate or detailed embellishments.

Ruler - For scrapbooking-and all of my paper crafts-my ruler is my number 1 essential tool. Not only is it great for measuring, it can be used to tear straight edges in paper or line up embellishments on pages

Fine Black Pen - An acid-free pen is an absolute must if you plan on doing any journaling or doodling in your scrapbooks.

Adhesives - Every scrapbooker needs a varied selection of adhesives for adhering paper, photos, and embellishments. It's best to have adhesive photo corners, a tape runner, a glue stick, repositionable adhesive strips, and foam tape in your collection.

Multi-Punch Hole Punch - The Crop-O-Dile, a hole punch that also set eyelets, is a must have for scrapbookers. It's a real workhorse of a tool that'll make your scrapbooking embellishment and hole punching tasks nearly effortless.

Papers - Papers are perhaps the most important product you'll use in your scrapbooks. They're the base for each and every page you make and set the tone and style of your designs. Scrapbook papers come in 8-1/2 x 11 inches and 12 x 12 inches in single sheets and in packs. The two types of papers you'll encounter are cardstock, a heavy-weight paper, and patterned papers, which are light-weight with printed patterns.

The Five Easy Steps To Creating A Scrapbook


Step 1: Select Your Photos
The pictures you scrap are entirely up to you. Choose shots that capture the feeling of the moment or those that make you happiest. Don't fret about imperfect shots-they're part of what make scrapbooks so wonderfully personal.

Step 2: Crop and Mat Photos
Don't be afraid to cut your pictures down to fit the page, remove unwanted images/elements, or enhance the subject. This is called cropping, and serves the purpose of getting rid of excess background and putting the focus on the subject. (However, you shouldn't crop a photo if it is an original that you don't have the negative to or if it's a Polaroid shot.)

Matting your photos, adhering them on top of a slightly larger piece of cardstock or paper, helps them stand out, especially when you're using lots of patterned papers or have multiple images on a page. Mats that extend 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch beyond the edges of a photo are most common.

Step 3: Add Journaling
Journaling is one of the most important parts of a scrapbook because you're helping to complete the story you've begun with your photographs. Write down the who, what, where, when, and why of your subject. In years to come, you'll be thrilled you did.

Step 4: Arrange The Shots
Each page of your scrapbook should tell a story. You can use any layout you'd like, with as many pictures and in any order but most scrapbooks are created as a double-page spread so when you open the album the page on the right-hand side and the left-hand page will match in color and theme. A good rule of thumb is to use two or three photos on a 12 x 12 inch page.

As you create your layout, choose a shot that will be the focal point. It should be the picture (or pictures) that you feel most accurately reflects the atmosphere or mood of the theme your layout is about. Everything else added to the page should work to balance the focal point in size, color, and placement.

Step 5: Embellish
This is one of my favorite parts of scrapbooking! Using embellishments is like adding accessories to a favorite outfit.

Embellishments come in all sorts of guises from stickers to die cuts to brads to rub-on transfers to ribbon … and beyond. Whatever your theme or style, there's an embellishment out there that's perfect for your layout.

While there are no set rules for embellishment, I prefer a less-is-more approach. It keeps the focus on the subject rather than the accessories.

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Comments (2)

malinou writes: Full article. Thanks for your reviews.
Posted: 7:12 am on July 10th
SophiaKelly69 writes: So nice. I did not know what to start with and you have just given me awesome ideas! Thanks!!
Posted: 2:20 am on April 11th
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