Ten Steps to Building a Scrapbook Page

Ten Steps to Building a Scrapbook Page

You’ve got the photos. You’ve got the papers. You’ve even got the time! You’re ready to put together your first scrapbook page. Now what?

I follow a pretty straightforward system when I put an album page together. It’s a system that’s worked for me the past eight years! Give it a try and see how it feels—as you get more experienced you may develop your own methods.

scrapbook projectStep One: Pick a selection of photos

These can be from a specific event or occasion, or just a collection of family photos. They don’t all have to be from the same event—you might choose photos that represent your family’s Christmas traditions, for example, instead of having all photos be from Christmas 2004.Yet they all should have a common theme, whether that’s “bath time for the kids” or “Susie’s fourth birthday”.

I generally put 2-4 photos on a 12”x12” background paper. If you have 4-6 photos, you might opt to do a double-page spread, which is two pages that lie side by side to present a unified spread when your album is open. You can choose to have these two pages coordinate by background paper or theme—but don’t feel like they have to. Many scrappers simply create single page by single page. Let’s start with one page.

Step Two: Pick one favorite photo

This will become the focal of the page. It might be the best-looking photo, the one that seems to sum up the theme of the page, or simply the one you like the best. This is where you want the viewer’s eye to go first when he or she looks at the page. Once you’ve selected this picture, set it aside—we’ll come back to it in a few minutes.

scrapbook projectStep Three: Pick your background paper

Don’t be afraid to use props. If there’s a tree in the backyard, have your subject stand next to it or lean against it. A child can hold a ball, a doll, flower or toy. An item of interest helps to focus the viewer’s eye on the subject.

a. By the theme: Paper patterned with baseballs for Billy’s baseball pictures, or one with flowers for Grandma’s birthday party.
b. By color: Paper with red stripes to match the colors in your niece’s red striped dress or tan speckled paper for heritage photos of Great-Grandfather.
c. By personality: Heritage photos look great on papers with subtle patterns and muted colors. Kids’ pages, however, generally look best on colorful paper with fun patterns.

I usually use patterned papers as my background. Why? Because they give instant color and help establish the theme. If I’m doing a double-page spread, sometimes I use two of the same background sheet, or “companion” papers (two papers designed to work together as double-page spreads). I often use two papers that coordinate, but don’t necessarily match. These usually come from a “family” of papers. An example would be a red stripe and a red dot—they’re not the same, but because they share the same color (red) they can easily work together.

Step Four: Choose companion papers

Once I’ve picked my background papers, I choose coordinating papers to match, which I use to layer, punch shapes, create a border or use in matting. These layering effects are an easy way to add color, dimension and visual interest to the page.

Step Five: Choose photo mat paper

I pick one or two solid colors to mat all my photos with. This is especially important if you’re using patterned paper. Try this experiment: Place an unmatted photo on top of a patterned paper. It sort of gets lost, doesn’t it? Now place a piece of solid paper under the photo, leaving about 1/4” showing around the edges. See how this mat makes the photo stand out from the patterned background? That’s because matting your photo acts as a visual barrier between the colors and images in the photo and those in the background paper.

When it comes to picking the color of the mat paper, I look at the colors in my background paper and choose the secondary color. For example, if the background paper is mostly white with little red flowers, I use a red mat. If the paper is mostly red with white flowers, I choose a white mat. When in doubt, black or white is always a safe choice!

Do I still mat my photos if my background paper is a solid color? Yes! Matting photos gives them a little extra polish. It’s like hanging a picture on a wall—it definitely needs a frame before it goes on a wallpapered wall, and a frame will make it look better against a white wall too.

In the case of a solid background paper, I choose a mat color that contrasts with the background while sticking with the overall theme of the page. For example, if I put photos of my husband on a blue background paper, I’ll mat my photos on brown to keep the masculine theme. If I put photos of my daughter on pink paper, I’ll choose white paper mats.

scrapbook projectStep Six: Plan your layout

This will depend on the number of photos per page and whether they’re vertical or horizontal. Make sure to leave room for your journaling, whether you want to write a lot or just include captions for the photos.

I arrange my photos in different ways on the page before I glue them down. It’s okay to tilt photos or have them overlap a bit at the corners—this also gives visual interest and the illusion of depth. Consider if you want to add a torn paper border or any embellishments to the page (cut-outs, tags, etc).

scrapbook projectStep Seven: Mat your photos

To mat your photos, place a little adhesive on the backside of the picture at each corner. Place the photo on a solid paper and trim, leaving about 1/4” of the paper showing around each edge. For adhesives I like photo tabs or an acid-free glue stick—both of these are widely available at craft or scrapbook stores.

For my focal photo, I might leave the mat a little wider (like 1/2”) or mat it twice using two different colors. I also like to mat the photo three times: once on a solid paper, again on your patterned companion paper, then on another solid paper—either the same color as the first mat or a coordinating shade. This will give the photo the extra visual impact to make it a focal of the page.

Step Eight: Journal

Before I glue anything down, I write down my journaling. This is the story behind the photos. Sometimes I’ll journal just the names, dates and occasions shown in the photo (“Lauren, age three, playing in Grandma’s front yard. Spring 2003.”). Other times, I’ll tell the complete story with anecdotes or special details I want to include. You can handwrite or computer-generate your journaling, whichever method works best for you. I’ll often write my journaling on white paper, mat it just as I would my photos. Consider adding a title to your page. You can place a title across the top of the page, along the bottom, the side—wherever you want.

Step Nine: Glue it all down

Arrange everything until you like it, then use adhesive to glue everything to the background sheet.

scrapbook projectStep Ten: Put it in an album

Congratulations, you’re done! Now what? Put your page into a sheet protector, then in an album (either a 3-ring binder or a post-bound photo album). Now you’re ready to do more pages!

LeNae Gerig is the author of LeNae’s Scrapbooking Basics. She’s a busy mom who loves scrapbooking; she calls herself a “realistic” scrapper because she wants to create great pages quickly and easily. She is the host of Scrapbooking101.net and contributes regular monthly columns and layouts.

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