Building a Page

Are you ready to make an album page? It's easy—and fun! First, know there are no hard-and-fast rules, only guidelines to help you get started.

Pick your photos

Select your photos based on one theme or event—a child's first birthday, your weekend trip to the coast or an everyday event like the kids' bathtime. Think of each page as having a story to tell.

Many layouts are created in a double-page spread—meaning, when you open your album, the page on the right and the page on the left will match in color and theme. Consider this when you pick out your photos. You might choose to have one very special photo on a page, or you might want to fit 3 or 4 photos per page. Scrappers typically use 2-3 photos per 12"x12" page and save single photo portraits for their own page. Keep in mind that while it may feel like progress to fit a lot of photos on one page, pages often look better when they're not quite as crowded.

What if your photos won't work on a double-page spread? It's fine to create single pages rather than a double-page spread—don't feel you must always do one or the other. Work with what you have, rather than how you think your album should be laid out. Remember, there's no right and wrong!

Whether you place one really special photo on a page or 3-6 photos on a page or spread, there should be a common theme connecting them. Once you've chosen a theme, decide which pictures look best together. Don't be afraid to edit. Just because you took a hundred photos at Christmas doesn't mean you need to use all of them.

Pick your papers

Once you select your photos, pick a patterned paper for your background, which instantly adds color and depth to a page. A patterned paper is a great way to mirror your photo's story.

Let the paper pattern help you tell your story and make creating your album faster and easier: Choose a pattern that enhances your theme, like an elegant paper for a page of black-and-white photos, or a fun print for kids' pictures. Then pick a coordinating plain paper or cardstock to mat or "frame" the photos. Note: You might make your double-page spread using two background papers that match—or you may choose two papers that coordinate instead. The choice is up to you, but they don't have to be the same. It may be that their only similarity is color.

Mat your photos

When using a patterned paper as a background to your photos, remember the Golden Rule of Patterned Paper: Mat your photo onto a solid paper so the colors and shapes in the photo don't compete with those on the paper. To mat a photo, just glue it onto your solid matting paper and cut 1/8"-1/2" away so you have a border around the picture. A mat provides a visual "space" between the photo and the paper. Think of it as framing a picture before you hang it on the wall.

How to select the color of your mat? You might choose to mat your photos with a solid paper that matches the accent colors in your background paper. For example, if the paper is mostly pink with some white, mat your photos on white. When in doubt, remember that black and white (or off-white) are classics and can be used with nearly everything.

If the pattern on your background paper is especially large or brightly colored, try giving your photo a wider mat—maybe 1/2".

For more matting techniques, click here.

Lay out your page

Arrange your photos on the background paper. Before you glue them down, move them around to make sure you like the placement.

There are dozens of layout ideas you can use for inspiration (or copy directly!), but the following are good rules of thumb.

  • The center of your album page attracts the eye first; if it's empty, the page will look incomplete. Overlap elements in the center, or add an embellishment in the center of the page.
  • Consider borders. Add a border to the top and bottom or sides of the page to add visual "weight", then offset the photos in the center.

Journal your story

You can write directly on the page, but sometimes it's easier (and less stressful) to journal onto a separate scrap of paper, then mat this piece and glue it to the page. If you goof, you can just flip the paper over and start again. You can also journal on your computer and print it out. This is great for those of us who hate our handwriting or need to use a spell-check!

For more journaling tips, click here. To learn about computer journaling, click here.

Add your embellishments

Now comes the decorating fun! Before you glue everything into place, lay out a few embellishments to finish off your page and add color and theme to your layout. Try brads, ribbons, buttons—just about anything will do!

When you're finished with your scrapbook page, simply place it in a sheet protector, then in your album.

So: Background paper, solid paper for matting, a little (or a lot of) journaling and that's it—you've completed your first page!