Digital Scrapbooking: Frequently Asked Questions

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What is digital scrapbooking?

Much like traditional paper scrapbooking, digital scrapbooking is the process of combining photos and digital papers, elements and typefaces into scrapbook pages. These pages can be saved as JPG files and printed at a local or online photo processor and slipped into page protectors to create scrapbook albums or printed through one of several on-demand print services into finished soft-bound or hardbound books.

Is digital scrapbooking the same as doing photo books online with services like Snapfish or Shutterfly?

Well, not exactly. There are similarities, of course: They both involve combining photos and journaling to tell a story and printing your story into hardbound books. But there are plenty of differences, too.

  1. Flexibility. The first and biggest difference is that with photo books, you’re limited to the layouts and design options made available by the publisher. There are usually set layouts from which to choose, set frame sizes and orientations for photos, set colors of backgrounds, set fonts from which to choose and limited areas made available for journaling. There is very little room for creative flexibility.With digital scrapbooking, there is a world of unlimited opportunity. You can use photos at any size or orientation that pleases you. You can use text where and how (and how large) you’d like. You can use a seemingly unlimited number of papers and colors on your pages, and you can use them as large or small as you’d like. You can add extra embellishments like stitching, flowers, stars, buttons, tags, journaling boxes, brads, staples, frames…and the list goes on. And the best part is, you can combine everything in a way that makes you happy. There are no limits!
  2. Print options. Another big difference is that you can print your layouts by the page, without the restrictions of needing an entire album (chronologically or otherwise in order) complete before you can hold the finished product in your hand. This is huge for me. I scrapbook out of order. I could scrap a page from 2006 today and from 2011 tomorrow. I might never be done with 2008. With digital scrapbooking, it doesn’t matter. I can print as I go and still have the ability to go back later and fill in the gaps.I will say that there are a few services that offer photo booking as well as the ability to print individual pages using their layout designs. However, there are generally still a vast number of limitations in the creative flexibility of those services. That said, these programs meet the needs and desires of lots of people, and the full exploration of digital scrapbooking might not be necessary or desirable for some.If you like the idea of total creative freedom, however, it’s worth considering the individual creative route that true digital scrapbooking provides.

What do I need to get started?

In the very simplest terms, you need a photo program you’re happy with. The industry standards are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements, but you can use any program that can output a JPG into a size you want to use in your albums. You also need photos ā€” either native digital files or scanned from prints ā€” and, if desired, some digital scrapbooking kits of products like papers and embellishments. You can use simple solid colors for backgrounds, journaling and frames, however (no kit required) and produce lovely layouts. The kits just provide you with more tools to boost your creativity on paper.

What if I don’t have a photo program?

I’d recommend taking Adobe Photoshop Elements for a test-drive. You can try it free for 30 days and then decide if you want to buy it. The regular cost hovers around $100, and you can buy it online at or at bricks-and-mortar stores like Best Buy or some office supply stores.

How can I learn how to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements for digital scrapbooking?

There are a hundred different ways. Some of my favorite tutorials can be found online at:

I have taken classes from both Renee Pearson and Jessica Sprague, and I’m telling you, you can’t go wrong with them! They will walk you through everything via online video tutorials, and you will walk away with a ton of information. The classes are reasonably priced and really invaluable if you want to pursue learning more about digital scrapbooking. Check them out!

You can always Google “digital scrapbooking tutorials” and explore the vast world of other sites out there, too. Many offer free tutorials. I have visited many…too many to list individually…and have learned a ton from these talented designers!

The key with learning Photoshop or Photoshop Elements is patience. Have lots of it. They’re not super-intuitive programs to learn, although I’d say Elements is significantly more logical for the person who’s never had a reason to learn Photoshop in the first place. Just pack your patience. You might not be creating awesome layouts in your first week, but you will with time. Just take it a step at a time. There’s a lot to learn!

How do I print my pages?

There are two options: By the page and by the book.

  • By the book. I have printed two hardbound books, and they were vastly different! I printed one 12×12 through Heritage Makers and absolutely love it. It’s high-quality, has a custom hard cover with my own design and made a beautiful gift for six family members and friends of my grandmother, whose life I was documenting.On the other hand, I printed one 8×8 book of my sister’s wedding through another online vendor, and I have to say that it wasn’t the quality I was hoping for. There were issues with the color (skin tones looked really red), the quality of ink on the page and the cover (there was glue stuck to the back, and the folding was off). And I didn’t have the option of creating a custom hard cover. I got a dust jacket custom made, though. This one was significantly more affordable (somewhere in the neighborhood of $35, compared with $80 from Heritage Makers – although size and number of pages were different, too), but I learned that you get what you pay for when it comes to these kinds of things. So I’d recommend going with a printer you know will be high quality and fork out whatever is necessary. You’ll be MUCH happier with the finished product. Check out some online reviews of the services before you dive in.
  • By the page. This is the way I have gone for all of my individual (not part of a theme album) pages. I love that I can slip them into my books where and when I’d like. Basically, when you build your page in Photoshop or Elements or any other program, you will eventually save each page as a JPG image. Then you just upload that image like you would any other photo to an online photo developer (or if you live near a Costco or Sam’s Club, I believe they offer 12×12 photo printing, too). You will receive a 12×12 photo for your album.I have loved using ScrapbookPictures.comfor my printing. They offer a ton of sizes, and each 12×12 page is just $2 to print. They used to charge a flat $2 for shipping, but I will warn you to check out their newer shipping rates (bottom of that page) before you order. You might be taken aback by the total shipping and handling costs. Keep that in mind when you order. Still, their quality has been awesome, and their turn-around isn’t terrible (usually about a week). I still highly recommend them.I have also heard good things about and, although I admit I have never used them. If you have had good luck with either, please post a note in the comments section!

How does the cost compare with traditional scrapbooking?

I have found digital scrapbooking to be significantly less expensive than traditional scrapbooking. There are several reasons:

  1. There are tons of free elements and kits to be found online. Just Google “digital scrapbooking freebies.” (I will note, though, that while these are awesome for small projects and for just getting started, you’re likely to get to a point where you’re longing for kits with more papers and elements that coordinate well together. There is definitely some good reason for purchasing larger, cohesive kits from great designers!)
  2. You can reuse your page elements — papers, embellishments, alphabets, etc. — over and over and over again.
  3. You can change the color of your page elements to multiply your stash.
  4. You don’t have to pay for individual photo printing. (In fact, this way, you could theoretically never have to pay for traditional photo printing. I wouldn’t recommend that, though!)
  5. You don’t have to pay for individual albums, pages and page protectors (assuming you go the hardbound route).
  6. You don’t need fancy, expensive tools to create amazing pages. One investment in a photo program, and you’re set.
  7. You can add as many free elements to a page as you want, and it’s still free to create and only a couple bucks to print!
  8. Even the kits that cost money are ridiculously inexpensive if you compare them to what they’d cost if they were traditional supplies.
  9. Printing an 80-page, 12×12 hardbound book through Heritage Makers (granted, this was a few years ago) only cost me about $75. If you add the costs of the album, pages and page protectors I would normally use, even before you pay for photos or paper or embellishments or stamps or paints or ribbon or flowers or anything else, you’ve already spent $75 for a 50-page book (one album @ $25, two sets of pages and page protectors @ $50).


The bottom line is, if you love your photos, love your stories, have a little patience or know-how when it comes to photo programs, this is a hobby you’re sure to love! Have fun!

If you have any additional questions, please post them below, and I’ll post answers in a later post.

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