Beginner’s Guide to Scrapbooking

Posted by on May 24, 2011

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At a loss with layouts? Cutters leaving you crazed? Ditch feeling overwhelmed and instead use these easy, practical tips to create your very first scrapbook.

Relax, This Is the Easy Part

woman holds scrapbook paper trimmer

Even a beginner will know the most basic supply for a first-time scrapbook: Paper! But what else does the new scrapbooker need?

Basic Supplies

Cardstock Paper — Used most often for the scrapbook page background or matting photos, cardstock paper should be acid free and typically comes in solid colors. Check out more cardstock paper colors via Two Peas in a Bucket.

Patterned Paper — Needed for embellishments and accents, patterned paper — like almost all scrapbooking supplies — needs to be acid free. Check out more pattern papers via Two Peas in a Bucket.

Scissors — Utilized for cutting the paper, photos and embellishments, scrapbooking scissors should be straight-cut and only used for paper crafts. Have scissors routinely and professionally sharpened or cut fine sandpaper for a quick sharpened edge. Or, consider a paper trimmer for fine, straight edges via

Ruler — Best for keeping photos and embellishments the correct size.

Acid-free Glue — As long as the adhesive is acid free, choosing between glue, glue-dots or glue-tape is a matter of preference. Check out this scrapbooking forum via Craftster to decide which glue works best for you!

Pen — Pens should be pigment ink, acid free, waterproof, fade proof and nonbleeding. Look for archival quality on the packaging. White ink pens, like this one from Jet Pens, are the most common color used for scrapbook journaling.

Photo Album — Albums hold, as well as protect, scrapbook pages. Beginner scrapbookers will have the most luck with strap hinge albums because pages can be removed easily. Look for ones filled with acid-free (or archival quality) paper. Check out more info for choosing the correct sizing for your scrapbook album via

Embellishments — Used to add personality to a scrapbook, embellishments, as long as they are acid free, can be almost anything — ticket stubs, ribbon, buttons, even stitches from a sewing machine. Patterned paper is the most common embellishment, though. Browse scrapbooking embellishments from Studio Calico.

Sheet Protectors — Used to keep dirt and grease from disturbing adhesive, sheet protectors can be expensive if used on every page. However, what's worth creating is worth protecting. Get scrapbook page protectors from

Don't let fancy (and expensive) scrapbook supplies turn your head. You're new to the craft, so start small. Those showy scrapbooking thing-a-madoos are for veteran scrappies who love variety. You'll get there soon enough, so for now, get your hands on the basics before branching out.

Here's Where It Gets Tricky

Creating cheerful, stylish layouts can be the most overwhelming part of scrapbooking for newbies. Why? They don't know where to start. Sketching and scraplifting are the two easiest ways to organize your page. Read on to decide which one works best for you.

sketch of scrapbook page layout
Sketching — Sketch first, cut last. With this method, scrapbookers start with the photos and use them as the source for all things inspired. Next, scrapbookers create a to-scale sketch of where they want photos to go, and then lastly, which embellishments work best.

Scraplifting — With this organizing style, scrapbookers start with the layout first, rather than the photo. Translation: they borrow layout ideas from magazines or blogs and then do their best to imitate what they like.

Whether you choose to sketch or scraplift your first scrapbook page, keep in mind that almost all layouts have specific elements. If you are sketching, be sure to include all of them, and if scraplifting, confirm that the designs have these basics. If absent, layouts may look incomplete.

Basic Layouts

Theme — This usually stem from commonalities in photos. Do all snapshots feature a unique trip, a family pet through the years or perhaps a unique emotion? Use embellishments to enhance the theme.

Photo — Almost all scrapbook layouts start with 1-3 photos — copies, never originals! You might substitute memorabilia like ticket stubs or handwritten notes.

Background Page — Whether it's cardstock or patterned paper, the background page is usually a subtle color or pattern so that the photos or images are the star of the show.

Title — Used to highlight or summarize a page via famous quotes, the title can be handwritten, a computer font, stenciled, sticker-ed or even painted.

Journaling — This might detail basics like names and dates, or include more inside jokes, quotes or even song lyrics.

Embellishments — Used to accent photos or enhance a page, embellishments are commonly stickers, drawings, buttons, ribbons or unique cutouts of patterned paper.

Mat — This layer, typically made from cut cardstock, creates a border around photos.

What You've Been Waiting For

scrapbook layout

Supplies are covered, and you've got a road map (via either a sketch or a borrowed layout). But if you're still struggling over getting from Point A to Point Done, check out this easy scrapbooking checklist for beginners.

Select 1-3 photos —  If you've gone the sketch route, you'll already have this step completed. Well done, you! For scraplifters, find the photos that best match the inspirational layout's theme: If it's nautical, choose pictures of you by the sea, for example. If the layout featured bright colors, choose cheerful, sunny photos. Easy, yes?

Choose color palette and embellishments — This, perhaps, is the most difficult part. For scraplifters, this has been done for you. You already have an example of which colors and stickers to choose. For sketchers, however, expect difficulty finding colors and embellishments that match your vision.

Crop photos — Since you're using copies instead of originals (right!?), there's no fear about cutting favored photos. Simply make light marks (pencil will do) on the back of the photos and then trim to the desired size. Cut patterned paper down to size (literally, not emotionally).

Play! — Before permanently attaching anything to anything, arrange all pieces. Do you like what you see? If so, glue! If not, reposition or crop so that the scrapbook layout looks like your original scheme.

Glue photos — Simple enough.

Protect pages — Once everything has dried, slip your very first (or at least first successfully completed) scrapbook page into the protector. Clip the page into an album, and then bask in the glow of your papered creation.

Above All...

Relax. Scrapbooking is meant to be fun. Instead of making it one more obligation in the clutter of your life, remember that this paper craft celebrates memories through creativity. So, allow yourself enough grace to fail, and simply enjoy. (That's an order!)

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