Want to get into digital scrapbooking, but not sure where to start? Or maybe you're already in the digital scrapbooking game, but you'd love some extra tips, tricks, and inspiration.
From entirely digital scrapbooking templates to downloading and printing kits for your traditional pages, digital tools can be a total game changer. Let's take a look at some of the ins and outs of creating and working with scrapbook content digitally.
What Is Digital Scrapbooking?
Capture Memories and Moments
Digital scrapbooking, much like traditional, paper-based scrapbooking, involves reworking, rearranging, and designing elements into a composition that is typically photo-centric. The thing that separates digital scrapbooking from traditional scrapbooking is the use of digital tools to compose and/or create parts or all of your work.
You won't have to worry about glue, scissors, clean-up, or even making a mistake—with digital tools, we can easily undo any misstep. We can retouch photos, we can adjust colors, and we can reposition stickers, over and over again, without any consequences! Imagine digital scrapbooking stitches without the needle, and printable scrapbook paper, customized for your project!
Not only that—you can save your work for a lifetime, without worrying about aging photos or weathering paper.
Digital Scrapbook Toolkit Basics
So let's jump right into the nitty gritty—what are the basics things you need, if you want to get into digital scrapbooking?
- Your Computer—you're going to need a computer to get the most out of digital scrapbooking. While there is a lot we can do on tablets and mobile devices today, computers are still the best option, when it comes to your software and having full control of your design work.
- Photographs and Imagery—just like in traditional scrapbooking, you're going to need images, and they need to be accessible to your computer. For example, you could use your smartphone or digital camera to take photos. You could also use a scanner to import photos.
- Photo Editing Software—think of this like your tools. Your photo editing software is where you'll make the magic happen—arranging, editing, copying, and pasting work to create your scrapbook layouts.
Each artist's preference is going to vary here. Some folks might prefer one software, while others prefer another. Think about what kind of features and outcome are most important for you. For example, do you want a setup that's beginner friendly? Are you looking for something with a lot of power and flexibility?
For Those That Love Paper
Keep in mind, however, that digital scrapbooking is not only about working on a computer!
If you're like me, you love paper. I love the way paper feels in my hands, I love the way it folds, and I love working with it. I do a lot of digital work, but it doesn't replace the magic of working with real, tangible media—and it doesn't have to, either! In fact, digital scrapbooking can be a wonderful complement to your traditional scrapbooking projects.
- You can print out scrapbooking elements, like decorative flourishes, stickers, accents, tabs, and more. Not only that, you can customize them to your liking!
- You can print textures, patterns, and papers. I love buying books of scrapbooking paper, but it's also fun to search online for inspiring papers to use in projects. Again, you can also make your own!
- You can plan your scrapbooking pages in advance. Lay it out digitally so you have a guideline when working with your supplies.
- You can also print out your digital scrapbook pages. This leaves them entirely digitally preserved, and you can easily share copies with others, too!
And that's just the beginning! Digital tools can bring all kinds of fun and different options to your real media based projects.
A World of Possibilities
The possibilities here honestly go on and on. You could easily email your scrapbooking pages to family members. Create birthday cards out of a mini digital scrapbooking page. You could even monetize your scrapbooking interests and make your own scrapbooking kits—either digital or printed materials!
What Software to Use for Digital Scrapbooking
Adobe Photoshop CC
When it comes to software, there are a few recommendations you're likely to see, over and over again. The two big players tend to be Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements.
You'll see Adobe Photoshop referred to as "Adobe Photoshop", "Photoshop", and "Adobe Photoshop CC". If you see titles like "Adobe Photoshop CS6", this is referring to an older version of the software.
So, what's the big deal about Photoshop? We even hear folks use phases like "that looks Photoshopped", it's such a commonplace word.
Well, Photoshop is a really powerful photo editing tool—and more. It's for photo manipulation. It's for design work. It's for drawing and painting. It's often considered an industry leader, when it comes to art and design. There are a lot of things you can do in Photoshop, beyond digital scrapbooking.
If you're looking for a really robust, professional tool that can do a lot of things, Photoshop might be just what you're looking for. Keep in mind, however, that it can have a steep learning curve, and it requires a monthly subscription fee. Prepare to invest time in learning the software.
Adobe Photoshop Elements
Adobe Photoshop Elements, on the other hand, is often considered more beginner friendly. It has fewer features than big brother Photoshop, but you might not need all of Photoshop's features.
But that's not to say that Elements isn't still powerful in its own right. You can create and manipulate high-resolution work. You can still, for example, use Photoshop's layer styles, adjust colors, create layouts, and more! Elements 2020 even has automatic colorization for older photos, user-friendly collage tools, and slideshows.
Instead of a subscription, Elements has a one-time fee—which is also a big perk.
But there are other options out there, too! Just because some options are the most popular doesn't mean that they're the right fit for you.
For example, Affinity Photo is often considered a noteworthy Photoshop competitor. If you're already familiar with Photoshop or other image editing software, you might want to give Affinity a look. It's competitively priced, and has a one-time fee.
Want to see an overview of some Photoshop competitors? Check out this list of Adobe Alternatives by Kezz Bracey—it's a great list!
But how do you really know which software is best? Thankfully, most of these options have a free trial—I highly recommend taking advantage of this! Make a list of software you'd like to try, their prices, and which have a free trial. Then, give them a go, and take note of which resonates with you most!
Now that we've taken a look at some of the technical stuff, let's dig into some of the possibilities!
Digital Tools for Traditional Scrapbooking
Even if you don't necessarily want to create your layouts digitally, digital tools can allow you to edit printable content—from your photos to your papers to text elements.
For example, maybe you found just the right paper, but the color isn't right. A simple tweak in Photoshop can change our paper's color from red to blue.
Instead of going to your favorite arts and crafts store, you can go online, download assets and elements instantly, and then print them out! Voila, you have scrapbooking supplies at your fingertips. On a rainy day, when I don't want to go outside, this absolutely hits the spot.
In addition, digital scrapbooking projects are hardly "trapped" on your computer. You can print them out, frame them, and put them in a book!
Digital Scrapbook Paper
One of my favorite digital scrapbooking supplies is digital scrapbook paper. There are so many beautiful patterns, textures, and papers out there—and digital tools really further empower independent creators. From fanciful florals to detailed patterns, there is a seemingly endless supply of papers out there to choose from, whereas brick-and-mortar retail options largely depend on the stock at hand.
That's not to say I don't enjoy shopping for paper locally—but it's super fun to discover hidden gems online. Not only that, but it's hard not to want to get in on the fun. Have you ever considered making scrapbook paper of your own?
Custom Content for Your Scrapbook
And that's really one of the biggest deals here: digital tools mean even more custom content for your scrapbooking projects.
Not only that, but you can potentially monetize your work, too! Create fun digital scrapbooking content, package it together, and put it up for sale on one of the many online platforms out there. Sounds fun, right?
And we can explore and search for unique, indie artist finds—independent artists and creators who love scrapbooking, creating kits, and sharing them. You can really find some unusual, niche content out there—and support independent creators who also share a love for scrapbooking!
Using both digital scrapbooking techniques and traditional scrapbooking techniques together is sometimes referred to as "hybrid scrapbooking"—a flexible marriage between the two!
Personally, this is my favorite way to approach my physical scrapbooking projects nowadays. I love paper, I love texture, and I love holding my work in my hands. However, digital tools offer me a world of flexibility, beyond the stock at my favorite art store. If a particular paper or pattern isn't in stock—or doesn't even exist—I can make it, print it, and use it.
A Digital Scrapbooking Tutorial
How to Make a Digital Scrapbook Template
So how do you create your own digital scrapbook page? Where do you start? Want to take a look at the process?
Here's an example of a digital scrapbook page that I worked on in Adobe Photoshop. This is a snapshot of my process before it was complete, to give you a feel for my workflow. You could use all sorts of digital scrapbooking shapes in your design!
A Finished Digital Scrapbook Template
And here's how my scrapbook page turned out! It's a fully functional template too, so I can easily swap out the images for any other photo I might like. I can also remix and rearrange the contents, potentially giving me an entire series of matching pages.
Sharing Your Digital Scrapbook Projects
Important to Know: Resolution
Generally speaking, if you want to print your work, 300 dots per inch (dpi) tends to be a good recommendation for your image resolution. I like to work a little higher because you can always size down, but not up, when it comes to raster imagery.
Raster imagery is pixel specific, meaning that if you enlarge a raster image, it gets blurry. If we size down, however, we don't lose quality.
We could have a whole separate tutorial on resolution, honestly. For the purposes of this article, keep the following in mind:
- Dots per inch refer to the number of dots printed per inch. So a high-resolution photo, for example, would have more dots printed per inch than a low-resolution photo—it would affect the quality of your print.
- When it comes to the web and sharing digital content, it may be more advantageous to focus on pixel dimensions. For example, my iPhone's wallpaper size is 1920x1080 pixels. If I wanted to use my scrapbook page as a phone wallpaper, I would need to keep these dimensions in mind.
12" high by 12" wide, at 300 dpi, is a common size and resolution for digital scrapbooking pages and papers. This would be appropriate for printing. This is, however, 3600x3600 pixels, which might be rather large for web-based, digital-only sharing.
Printing at Home
I love printing at home, because it's easy and quick! However, keep in mind that many consumer printers aren't necessarily equipped to create high-resolution prints. That means that when you try to print out a photo, the quality might look grainy or dull.
There are two big factors to consider, when it comes to printing at home:
- The quality of your printer. Can your printer, for example, print quality photographs? Check your printer's manual to find out more about its specifications. If you're looking to buy a new printer, make sure it's equipped to print things like photographs and higher quality prints. In addition, keep note of what size prints your printer can make. For example, I have a large format printer, so I can print up to 13"x19".
- The quality of your paper. The nicest printer in the world isn't going to make a great print if the paper isn't right for the job. For example, imagine printing a high-res photograph on computer paper, rather than on thick, glossy photo paper. It just wouldn't turn out right—the ink would bleed, because the paper would be too thin.
Personally, I prefer luster or matte photo paper, because glossy is a little too shiny for my tastes, especially if I'm printing an entire scrapbook page. Test out different papers and see which ones you prefer!
If you don't have a high-quality printer at home, or you just want to have a professional print your work, you might want to consider seeking out a professional printer. There are tons of options out there—check for local shops, but online vendors can be great too!
Here are some questions that you may want to ask, when working with a professional printer:
- Do you offer short run printing? "Short run" generally means low quantities—as in, you only want a few books, not a commercial run of books (up in the hundreds or thousands of books).
- What binding options do you have? Perfect bound is a softbound, paperback book, and might be perfect for your project. Spiral bound is another common type, which is more like a "ringed notebook". Hardcover can be quite classy, but is often more expensive.
Ask about document sizing, resolution, and bleed. Your document size is going to be the size of your book. If you already have dimensions in mind, make sure to let your printer know, when asking questions. The bleed refers to the area outside of your document—if you have full-page images, you may need to work with a bleed to ensure your images go to the edge of the page, after trimming.
- What file type should I prepare for you? Your printer will let you know what file type to deliver to them, as well as how to do so. This might involve uploading your work onto their site or delivering a file to them in person.
- Ask about the paper. Remember, the paper quality matters!
A good, professional printer will be happy to help and answer your questions. Arm yourself with knowledge, and don't be afraid to ask for a proof—a paid, test print—to make sure everything is just right!
Sharing Your Scrapbook Digitally
But you don't have to print your digital scrapbook—in fact, you can avoid printing or any printed material entirely, if you'd like to!
When sharing your work digitally, I recommend saving and distributing your work at smaller sizes, unless you intend for others to print your work. Why? Lower quality, smaller imagery generally means lower file sizes. That means quicker sending and less space it will take up on devices. It might be a strong idea to save a high-quality, larger version, but then share a smaller one, for convenience.
And we can, of course, share our digital scrapbooking projects online! This can be a very user-friendly, easy way to share our creations with family and friends.
When doing so, keep the following, web-friendly file types in mind: JPG and PNG. There are other file types, but these two are most likely the best fit for sharing your finalized scrapbook pages.
Stickers, Tabs, Papers, and More
DIY and Make Your Own
One of my favorite aspects of having digital tools for scrapbooking is: I can make my own assets! I can make my own scrapbooking kit with any theme under the sun, no matter how obscure the theme—because digital tools give me the means to do so.
This applies to both digital and traditional scrapbooking, too! For example, I wanted some stickers that looked like clothing buttons, but I just couldn't find any. So I took some photos of buttons and turned them into printable, digital stickers! Voila!
Scan and Use
If you're like me, you have some precious old photos that just feel super priceless. They're irreplaceable to me, especially the ones my grandmother gave me that are quickly approaching 100 years old.
Scanning your photos is not only an amazing way to preserve treasured photos, but also to utilize them in your scrapbooking projects without worrying about cutting or gluing them to a page. Now, you can reuse them, as many times as you like, worry free—and with a digital copy that will remain safe for a lifetime.
I generally recommend a flatbed scanner for photographs. When deciding on a scanner, make sure to keep an eye on resolution, as we discussed earlier, especially if you plan to print your work. Not all scanners are created equal; your scanner should be able to scan at a resolution appropriate for the goals of your projects.
Digital Scrapbooking Kits
Digital scrapbooking kits are awesome—they typically come with papers, patterns, textures, and decorative elements, all working within a given aesthetic or theme. They are such a fun choice, especially when you're looking for just the right set of items for a special occasion, season, or holiday.
That's one of the best parts of working with a kit—you generally get a whole package deal, rather than having to search for matching items to create a layout design.
Make sure to check the resolution and/or image sizing of any digital kit you might purchase, to make sure it'll work for your project.
Digital Scrapbook Stickers
I love stickers, but I never want to "stick" them on things, know what I mean?
Digital tools not only solve that problem—they open a world of possibilities. For example, I have a consumer die cutting machine (they tend to run in the $200 USD price range). It means I can take any digital paper, texture, or photo and turn it into a sticker sheet, ready to stick on any traditional scrapbook page. Need another sheet? Just print and cut another one!
But we can push that even further. With the magic of software, you can "place" your stickers right on your layout. No glue, no loss of "stickiness", nothing like that. Move and adjust your assets all you want, without damaging the sticker or the paper.
Get Creative With Digital Embellishments
Walking down the scrapbook aisle at my favorite art store is definitely a joy. There are usually so many nifty little elements to look at—ribbon, confetti, tabs, labels, stamps—all kinds of items with texture and personality.
One of my favorite things about working digitally is the ability to create your own elements. How about using the stub from your plane ticket as your own custom embellishment in your layout—while still preserving the original. No need to cut it or paste it to anything. Receipts, postage, letters, report cards, and other memory-filled items suddenly have the power to become reusable assets for your creative experimentation.
Play It Safe and Respect Other Creators
Keep in mind, just because an image is on the Internet and you can save it, doesn't mean it's free to use—especially for commercial usage (meaning, work you intend to sell or distribute). A good rule of thumb is: respect content creators the way you'd want your content to be respected.
But this does leave us with a problem: how do we find content to use in our projects?
One idea is to search primarily for royalty free or public domain imagery. For example, I like to keep a little bank of free imagery on my computer, that I know I can use for any project—personal, professional, or otherwise—without worrying about copyright concerns.
Unlimited Content, Copyright Friendly
Sometimes, however, you can't find exactly what you're looking for in a public domain search. There can be a lot of benefits in using a paid service for your image (and other multimedia) needs—benefits such as professional service and finding everything you need, all in one place.
For example, Envato Elements is just $16.80 a month, with an annual subscription, and you get thousands and thousands of assets, like images, graphics, fonts, and more at your disposal. Honestly, I use this service regularly for my freelance work, my professional work, and even my holiday cards. As a creative professional, having assets at hand just makes everything easier.
And There's So Much More to Explore!
Thank you for joining me on this guide to digital scrapbooking! There are so many ways you could use digital tools to create wonderful, memorable projects. I hope this article inspired you to try out some of your own! Here's to making your best digital scrapbook yet!
Before we go, check out these awesome assets. They could be a perfect source of inspiration or maybe even the latest addition to your collection of scrapbooking goodies.
I absolutely love this fun and colorful digital scrapbooking paper pack from DesignLoverStudio. They're seamless, so you can make them repeat to any size you prefer. This could work for so much more than scrapbook pages, too!
Yes, you read that right—110 hand-drawn seamless patterns! That is a lot of patterns to work with! They're fun, whimsical, and have a ton of potential applications. Take a look!
This is another set that is packed to the brim with content! It's also got brush swatches for Adobe Illustrator, if vector art is more your cup of tea! These could be perfect for digital scrapbook tags too!
Aren't these flowers pretty? And they're just the beginning of this kit, as it has over 70 elements and 8 patterns included for your projects.
Geometric patterns can bring such a classy look and feel to your design—this would be perfect for a graduation layout, anniversary, or for capturing some New Year's memories!
With 50 illustrations and 24 patterns, this is such a big, beautiful kit to work with! Birds, feathers, insects, branches—this one's a great fit for anything outdoorsy!
I love hand-drawn elements, because they just add so much personality and an organic feel. These planner doodles would be great for writing little notes, dates, and other tidbits on your layouts!
I am so in love with these beautiful lace papers! I think they're some of my favorite digital scrapbooking papers of all time, and I keep sneaking them into my own designs! Check them out!
I love stickers, and this giant set of love themed stickers are just the cutest. Whether your scrapbook page could use an extra "I love you" or a funny little love pun, this set is adorable.
This scrapbooking kit is filled with hand-drawn elements—florals, clipart, and more! The character art even comes in alternative colors! Really love the extra sparkle here, don't you?
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