How to Get Started on a Scrapbook Project (Preparing Your Scrapbook)

etting started on your very first scrapbook project can be scary, especially if you have absolutely no idea what you’re supposed to do first. However, don’t give up just because you feel overwhelmed. All the successful scrapbookers that you know all started from the bottom, so you’re already in good company. All you need is a little bit of guidance, and you will soon find this hobby to be a very enjoyable activity for years to come.

When you start on your first scrapbook project, the first step is asking a few questions to yourself: Why am I creating this scrapbook? What size and style of an album will I need, and what materials should I get to complete my album? It is also important that you think about the easiest and most cost-effective way to design and complete your scrapbook.

You should also consider how many photos you may want to mount on your album, and if they are too many or too few. Do you already have copies of the photos you want to use, or will you be using originals? (Not recommended.) How much time can I spend every day on my scrapbooking?

Choosing the size and style of the album you will be using plays a very important role in how you will then proceed with the rest of your scrapbook project. There are many album styles and sizes to choose from. Just pay a quick visit to any crafts store and you’ll see what I mean. The most common sizes are the 12″x12″ and the 9″x9″ sizes. There are also a few other sizes available, but these two are the most used among scrapbookers. If you feel intimidated by the large 12″x12″ album, you can downgrade to a 9″x9″ or even 8″x10″ size.

For the album style, feel free to get one that fits your needs at the moment. If you get stuck in this step, I recommend going with one of the many themed albums available in the shop, since this is your first time working on a scrapbook project. There are albums that are best suited for portraits, for wedding themes, for birthdays, and for other special occasions. You can also find many albums with a nature theme or sports theme. Themed albums such as the examples I mentioned can really help out a beginner who’s having difficulty trying to think of an album style for his first project.

After this, you will then need to choose which album would you prefer — a ringed album, a post-bound album, or a strap-hinged album. The most commonly used album type is one with a three-ring binder. It’s easy for beginners to refill, remove or add more pages to this type of album. And because the pages are easily removed, you won’t feel pressured to fill the entire album all at once. (I realize this sounds stupid, but it really happens with a lot of beginners!)

The strap-hinged scrapbook album is also a popular choice. A lot of veteran scrapbookers love to use this album type, especially if they use bulky embellishments in their pages. The strap-hinged albums can easily accommodate the dimensional elements in scrapbooks today, and are also made of high-quality materials. making them more durable and expensive than the other types of albums in the market. If you can afford to buy one of these, then it’s going to be worth every penny. But I would recommend waiting for a sale at your local crafts store, or maybe search for a coupon.

If you’re just starting out, however, it’s a good idea to use a three-ring album first. Moreover, you should keep in mind that using a ringed album does not necessarily mean you’re creating low quality work, because not all veteran scrapbookers use strap-hinged albums, anyway.

A post-bound album uses metal binding posts (hence the name) to secure the scrapbook pages in between the covers. The main disadvantage of using a post-bound album is that you need to disassemble the album and take out the pages to insert or remove the page you want. Other than that, using a post-bound album is also a good choice.

If you’re still not sure which type of album to buy for your first scrapbook project, you can try asking some knowledgeable friends for help. You can discuss what you’re looking for in an album, and they can pitch in with suggestions or advice of their own. Asking someone for their opinion is never a bad option in this case.

If you want, you can also try looking for different album covers to match the theme you want. There are album covers with a frame in the center for mounting photographs, and of course, lots of covers that fit a certain theme, like special occasions or events. You can even choose if you want linen covers, or those made of leather or vinyl. Ask the shop owner or salesperson if they can customize the album cover for you, like embossing a name or title on the front, etc.

So now you have decided which album to buy. The next step is getting some page protectors. Your crafts shop will probably carry a wide selection of page protectors in a variety of sizes, so it won’t take you long to find a set that fits your album perfectly. The most important thing to remember when buying page protectors is that you avoid buying anything that has PVC in it. PVC contains acid that will destroy your photos and pages over time, and scrapbookers all over the world know that using acid-free materials is the only way to go if they want to preserve their scrapbooks in the best condition possible for years to come.

If you can afford it, try to buy as many page protectors as you can. Buy a few sets that you can use for at least two or three more albums. This way, you will save yourself from having to go on a shopping trip every time you want to start a new scrapbook project. To save even more time and money, try to buy page protectors in bulk. You can also trim them down to size if you want to use them later for smaller-sized albums.

Aside from the albums and page protectors, you’re also going to need a few basic supplies to get started on your scrapbook project. Right off the bat, you’re going to need adhesives. When I talk about adhesives, though, I don’t mean only the ordinary white liquid glue that most people use at home or in school. There are several kinds of adhesives that scrapbookers use for their projects, and all of them should be acid-free.

There are different kinds of adhesives specifically used for mounting photos, such as photo squares or photo splits. Scrapbookers love using these because they can easily remove and reattach photographs (and other memorabilia or embellishments) without defacing the rest of the page. There are also glue sticks for attaching other elements to your pages, although I don’t recommend using these in areas of high humidity.

Never, ever use water-based adhesives like the popular Elmer’s Glue or rubber cement. These adhesives are not made for scrapbooking, precisely because they are not safe for using on photographs. Acid-free materials, remember?

Of course, you cannot create scrapbooks without paper. You will need to buy some background paper to mount on your page, before attaching all the other elements like photos, journaling, and embellishments. The style, pattern, and color of the paper you will buy depends on your personal preferences and the theme you are using for your scrapbook project.

But no matter what style of paper you choose, always remember to buy the ones that have low acid content, and also lignin-free. To determine the acid content of paper, make sure to look at the packaging label. If it has a pH level of 7 or higher, it is safe to use for your scrapbooking.

In choosing the style, pattern, and colors for your background paper, it would help if you consider the photos you will be mounting on the page. How would the photos look with the paper as the background? If you can, try to bring a few photos with you (the ones you’re going to use in your scrapbook) when you go shopping for paper. Find some papers you like, then take out a photo and place it on top of the paper to see what it would look like. For this reason, I highly recommend picking out the photos you will be using for your scrapbook before going out to buy some background papers.

After buying background paper, you should go look for cardstock. If you can afford it, it would be better to buy cardstock in bulk, rather than individually. Cardstock are great for a variety of purposes. Scrapbookers use them for mounting photos or adding some accents to photos, plus they can also be used to add dimension to pages. You can check out a few of my other articles for more ways to use cardstock in scrapbooking.

Next item on the list should be a pen or two. Some would use permanent markers, so it’s your choice. A black pen will be great, but you should also buy a white pen if you can. This way, you will have at least two choices when it’s time to do some journaling later on. A white pen looks stunning on darker backgrounds, and much easier to read. You can also use these pens to write down any information on the photos and even on the page itself. Of course, the pens should use permanent ink, be acid-free, and waterproof.

You will then need scissors for cutting, cropping, and trimming. A simple pair of scissors will do if you’re just starting out, and you can buy a few more pairs for specialized purposes later on as you need them. But whatever kind of scissors you are using, you should always check to see that they are clean and sharp. Using a dull pair of scissors will do more harm than good, especially for your scrapbooking. Whether you’re using ordinary or decorative scissors, you will want to have them always sharp, so that they produce a clean edge every time.

For embellishments, you can easily find a good selection in your local crafts shop. Bigger stores even have whole shelves dedicated to scrapbooking embellishments alone. They are available in pre-packaged kits with a common theme, so if you’re looking for embellishments to fit your birthday, wedding, or Christmas scrapbook, you won’t have a difficult time looking for embellishments to match.

Aside from the kits, you can always find embellishments being sold individually, so you can easily mix and match those you need. If you’re buying stickers or any other embellishments that have adhesives on them, make sure that they are also acid-free.

If you don’t have a designated table or working surface for your scrapbooking, you can use any table at your home, but I recommend that you cover the table first with an old tablecloth or sheet. Some scrapbookers use old newspapers if they don’t have a spare cloth, so you can also consider this option. Using a cover allows you to protect the surface of the table you are working on, as well as catch any drips from your liquid materials such as glue, paint, or ink.

Some other supplies that you will need can be found right inside your home, like a ruler, tweezers, cotton swabs, and cookie cutters. A ruler is indispensable if you want to produce straight lines and edges, while tweezers can be used to pick up tiny items that are impossible to grab with your fingers. They are also great for precision handling while you attach small objects to your page.

Cotton swabs, on the other hand, can be use for mopping up small drops of liquid on your page (like glue and ink), and you can use cookie cutters for creating templates for embellishments, etc. Buying templates at crafts shops can be expensive, especially if you’re buy often, so using cookie cutters can save you some money in the long run.

These are the basic supplies and materials that you will need for your first scrapbook projects. You will eventually find yourself needing more tools and materials as your skills and interest in the craft progresses, but I recommend that you do not buy all of the materials at once. You will just waste money because you won’t be able to use all of them when you’re just starting out, so it’s better to wait until you’ve been scrapbooking for a while and you feel like you can comfortably step up to the next level.

For your “advanced” shopping list, I suggest getting a paper punch, die cuts, mulberry paper, and rubber stamps.

A paper punch, if used properly and creatively, can be worth many times over the price that you paid for it. You can create dozens of designs and embellishments using this tool, and the price itself is relatively inexpensive. Paper punches are actually one of the earliest tools to be used by scrapbookers and it is still a favorite among scrappers today. There are paper punches for a wide variety of shapes, designs, and functions which you can usually buy at the nearest crafts shop.

Die cuts are used to dress up your pages in lots of gorgeous ways. They are made out of a variety of materials like paper, cardstock, vinyl, and foam. Scrapbooking veterans love to use them to decorate their layouts, and you can easily find a huge selection of die cut embellishments in almost every shape, size, and color that matches the theme or design you are going for. If you happen to have a die cutting machine at home, then you can create your own custom die cuts and won’t even have to go to the store to buy some.

Mulberry paper is a special kind of paper that is used not only for scrapbooking, but in a variety of other crafts as well. It is a handmade, fibrous specialty paper that is often mistaken for rice paper. Mulberry paper can be used for creating textured backgrounds or for layering, and it is also quite translucent (although not as much as vellum paper).

Rubber stamps are used by both beginner and advanced scrapbookers alike. They are very useful for adding ink-based embellishments to a scrapbook page, and they are very easy to use. Just take a few minutes to practice so that you can get the hang of it and learn how to apply just the right amount of pressure, and you will soon find yourself enjoying this useful tool for your scrapbook projects.

Now that you have the album, the materials, and the tools, you just need to consider how much time you can afford to spend for your new hobby. Don’t pressure yourself on spending two or three hours every day if you cannot handle it at the moment. remember that the quality of your work is not really dependent on the number of hours you spent on it. Just set aside a specific amount of time each day that you feel comfortable with, and use that as a guide.

Try to follow that guide as much as possible so that you learn to be consistent, but don’t stress out yourself if there are times when you cannot. Last but not the least, I recommend working on only one scrapbook project at a time. Don’t put too much on your plate, because that is one surefire way to get frustrated and give up early. Scrapbooking is supposed to be enjoyable, not stressful.

For the next part of this series, I will be discussing how to organize and crop your photos, so watch out for that!

Aside from being an accomplished artist and art/design teacher, Kimmo Hakonen is

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50 Ideas to Get Organized and Enjoy Your Scrapbooking Hobby

Scrapbooking is a wonderful hobby! Besides being relaxing and fun, it also allows you to be creative and to spend quality time with your family and friends. Plus, it results in a storybook of lifelong memories.

One very important element of scrapbooking is getting it all organized. This includes, but is not limited to:

storing all of your supplies in an organized fashion so they can be found instantly when you need them.
remembering what supplies to pick up at the store, and eliminating duplicate purchases.
finding time to research new and creative ways to spruce up your scrapbooks.
finding enough time to enjoy the art of scrapbooking in your busy life.
TELL A STORY. Plan your photos, before you shoot. Instead of taking random shots of someone standing here, or someone else sitting there, tell a story. For example, let’s say it’s Halloween. You may plan on taking four photos of your child:
on the hayride taking him/her to the pumpkin field.
looking for a pumpkin.
finding a pumpkin.
with the carved pumpkin later.

GREAT PHOTOS.
Photos for your scrapbooks can be extra nice if you take a little bit of time to learn some basic photography. Visit http://www.kodak.com for a quick photography tutorial. Getting organized has a lot to do with preparation and this site is filled with helpful tips and ideas.

WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN.
Organized documentation is important for the serious scrapbooker. The main goal is to eliminate future questions such as “Who or what is that?”, “Where and when was this photo taken?”, and so on. Document photos as you’re taking them, so you’ll know exactly what is on each roll of film. That way you’ll be prepared when you’re ready to organize the photos in your scrapbooks.

TAKE CARE OF THAT UNDEVELOPED FILM.
If you find rolls of film around your house that are ready to go to the developer, bring them today. You may consider mailing all of your film to a supplier such as http://www.mysticcolorlab.com so you don’t have to spend time dropping off film or picking up photos. Simply mail your film out, and you’ll get your photos back in the mail a week later. From now on, always get your film developed as soon as you take the used rolls out of your camera.

STORING PHOTOGRAPHS.
Once your photos are developed, you need a place to store them until you’re ready to put them in your scrapbook. Keep them separated by year or event, in Ziplock bags. Label each bag with a number, and put a corresponding number on your Documentation Form. Then, store them in a photo box. Keep the box in a dry, cool place to protect your photos until you’re ready to put the photos into your scrapbook.

ORGANIZING BOXES OF PHOTOS.
If you have boxes of photos that span from the beginning of the 1900’s to now, it’s time to start getting them organized. Schedule a day and time to begin sorting through them and stick with your appointment when the day rolls around. Get your kids, or friends, to help out. Begin by making piles, categorized by event or year. If you don’t know the exact year, at least sort them by decade. This may take a little while, but once everything is separated, scrapbooking your photos will be much easier and more pleasant. Once they’re all sorted, store your photographs as mentioned above.

WORK BACKWARDS.
If you’re planning to scrapbook lots of photos from way back, start with the most recent photos you have, and work backwards. Chances are, you have a journal describing recent photos, and even if you don’t, you can probably recall the details more easily. Older photos–the ones that you don’t have a journal for–will take a little more thinking.

BABY STEPS.
If your scrapbooking hobby seems like a colossal job to you, it’s not going to be fun. Don’t feel like you have to put ALL of your photos into scrapbooks. You can always put the majority of your photos in acid-free photo albums or photo boxes where they will be safe. Choose a small set of photos to begin scrapbooking. Once you’re done with this small set, you can then decide whether you want to dig into your photo albums or photo boxes and continue scrapbooking them, or leave those photos where they are, and simply scrapbook any new photos in the future.

DOUBLE PRINTS.
Double prints will do you no good if they’re just sitting in your photo box taking up space. Do something with them. Perhaps send them to someone who is in the photograph. It’s a great way to keep in touch. Or, pass the doubles onto your young children who may like to create their own scrapbooks. It’s a great way for them to learn your beloved hobby and decide if they would like it to be a hobby of their own.

RELATED STUFF.
Sometimes, for the purpose of creatively decorating your scrapbook, you may wish to keep tickets, brochures, maps, postcards, and so on, that are related to a particular trip or event. Use manila file folders or catalog envelopes for this purpose. Label the folder/envelope so that you know which photos/Documentation Form it corresponds to. File these until they’re ready to be used.

KEEPING IT ALL TOGETHER.
Already have a pretty good idea of stickers, diecuts, etc. that you’re planning to use with a particular set of photographs? Keep them in the same Ziplock bag with the photos until you’re ready to put them into your scrapbook. This way, everything will be in one place and ready to use.

STICKERS AND SHAPES.
Stickers and punched shapes can be kept in acid-free sheet protectors, plastic baseball card sheets, business card sheets, or even Ziplock bags that are 3-hole punched. Each sheet should be categorized and labeled by theme: birthday, Christmas, Halloween, wedding, springtime, etc. Insert these sheets into a 3-ring binder. If you have a large number of stickers and shapes, you may want to use index dividers labeled with general categories. For example, a general HOLIDAY category, may hold Easter, Christmas/Hanukkah, Halloween, etc., a general SEASONS category, may hold Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring, and so on.

TINY STUFF.
For very tiny diecuts and other small items, consider storing then in empty film canisters. The clear ones are best, but if you only have opaque ones, simply stick a label–or the actual diecut attached with a piece of tape– on the canister indicating what is inside. Baby food jars serve the same purpose well.

PAPER.
Where do you keep all of that cool paper until you’re ready to use it? You can get a plastic, portable filing container–research its composition to assure archival safety–that holds hanging file folders. Label the hanging files by theme or color. You may want to place a manila file folder into each hanging file folder, to keep your papers from curling. Or, you may buy file folder pockets or sheet protectors that fit into a 3-ring binder and store your papers inside each pocket, categorized and labeled. By the way, be very careful not to store acid-free paper with other paper.

STORAGE CONTAINERS.
Do a little bit of research and purchase a scrapbooking organizer, which will hold papers, supplies, etc. There are many products on the market that can help you keep it all together. Many office supply stores carry six-drawer organization stations. They’re vertical and have 6 see-through drawers of equal size. Each drawer can be designated for a different purpose–papers, templates/diecuts, stickers, etc. Plus, they have wheels, which makes them very easy to transport from one room to another. Or, if you often bring your scrapbooking supplies outside of your home, such as to a friend’s house, use a portable system that isn’t too heavy or cumbersome, and comes with a handle.

STENCILS.
Put your stencils/templates into sheet protectors that can be purchased at any office supplies store. Then insert them into a 3-ring binder for easy access. By the way, you can store two templates in one sheet protector with a piece of paper in between each–white or colored depending on the color of your template. This will make it easier to see the designs and eliminate them from catching onto each other.

SUPPLY CADDY.
If you always scrapbook at home, use a kitchen utensil caddy with a number of divided compartments, like those you normally keep tall kitchen spoons, ladles, and spatulas in. The ones that spin will keep everything you need at your fingertips.

HANG IT UP.
If you’re lucky enough to have a room specifically designated for your scrapbooking hobby, hang a large pegboard above your work area. You can then attach scissors, templates, crimpers, rulers, stencils and more, all within easy sight and reach. In addition, you might hang a small ledge or shelf nearby, to store all of your corner rounders, photo corners, and so on. If you prefer everything out in the open, this system will work like a charm.

RUBBER STAMPS.
Store rubber stamps in shallow, plastic containers, a rubber stamping organizer, or a plastic organizer with shallow drawers. Don’t stack stamps. They should be stored in a single layer, so that you can always see the top of the stamp showing the design.

OTHER STORAGE IDEAS.
Fishing tackle boxes–with compartments and levels that expand and collapse–are wonderful for storing scrapbooking supplies and tools. Plastic tool boxes, with many see-through drawers are also great for this purpose.

SCRAPBOOKING MAGAZINES.
Is your closet full of scrapbooking magazines? There are a few things to do about this dilemma. 1) You can go through your magazines, find the articles you wish to keep and organize them into file folders by category. In other words, keep the article, toss the magazine. 2) Or you can keep the magazines in cardboard magazine boxes. If you do this, you should always keep a list of the title/issue of the magazine, the pages that interest you, and a few words describing why they interested you. This way, you can just scan your list, instead of going through the entire magazine to find what you’re looking for. You can even use your computer and create the list in a word processing file. Then using the Find feature, you can simply search for key words in your document.

HOLD THAT THOUGHT.
Rather than keeping all those great scrapbooking ideas and tips in your head–you know, the ones you pick up from magazines, web sites, etc.– keep a 3-ring binder with some notepaper inside for all your thoughts and ideas. Plus, when you see something in a magazine, you can simply tear the page out of the magazine, 3-hold punch it, and place it in your binder. The same goes if you see something on a web site that you wish to refer to later; just print it out and insert it into your binder. You can even separate the binder into a few different sections, such as page layout ideas, organizing ideas, neat tools/supplies, etc.

CHOOSE A DESIGNATED WORK AREA.
Scrapbooking is more fun and less of a chore, when everything is in one place and in close, accessible proximity to your working area. Designate a room, or a portion of a room, in your home for this activity. You should be able to retrieve your supplies, photos, etc. in seconds, without having to walk into another room, or rummage through a closet.

SHOPPING.
Use an organized shopping system so you remember what you want to pick up for your hobby –scissors, crimpers, papers, etc. This will also eliminate purchasing items that you already have. When you think of something you need, immediately put it on a SCRAPBOOKING PICK UP list, and bring this list with you when you go shopping. Using 3 inch x 5 inch index cards, make examples of your cuts and punches on them. Label and keep them in your day timer, or a tiny 3-ring binder. Bring these cards with you when shopping for scrapbooking items, and you’ll never buy duplicates. This also works great for remembering what color pens/pencils you have. Just draw a line on your index cards and label them.

USE WHAT YOU HAVE FIRST.
Resist the urge to buy a million new papers, punches, and so on, until you’ve used some of the craft supplies you already have. Unless you’re planning on opening a scrapbooking warehouse, it’s best to be choosy before emptying your wallet on new items, when you already have items you could use in your current supply.

SHOP ONLINE.
You’ll save a lot of time running back and forth to the store, if you commit instead to making your purchases online.

TRADE.
If you have something that you haven’t used in a year or more, such as craft scissors, stickers, etc., swap them with a friend. Who knows? Perhaps your friend will find immediate use for this item, and you will get something you can use right now in return.

GOALS.
Always set goals for your scrapbooking hobby, perhaps one to two pages a week. This is especially necessary if you’re creating a scrapbook for an upcoming special occasion.

PLAN.
Before you start working on your pages, plan ahead. Arrange your photos in chronological order and gather stickers, diecuts, etc. that correspond with your photos. Think about your layout and how you plan to document each photo. This will ensure you’re going to be happy with the final results, and will reduce the need to redo things.

DO THE TWO STEP.
Step One: Assemble your pages with your photos, documentation and cri

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