FAQs: Digital Scrapbooking

Yesterday I was responding to an e-mail from someone about getting started with digital scrapbooking when I accidentally navigated away from the page and LOST the whole thing. I about cried. It was a long e-mail, and it was suddenly floating out in Cyberspace. The thought of starting over left me dreary even before I began again. Then it hit me that this wasn't the first time I had written all of this out, and it might not be the last. Light-bulb moment! Blog it! Then I can just link people back to this page if the opportunity presents itself again. (And if you know anyone who might be thinking about digiscrapping, you can send her/him this way, too!)

Q: Is digital scrapbooking the same as doing photo books on Snapfish or Shutterfly?

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

The first and biggest difference is that with photo books, you're limited to the layouts and design options 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 and limited areas for journaling. There is very little room for creative flexibility. With digital scrapbooking, there is a world of unlimited opportunity. You can use photos 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.

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 — ready to go. This is huge for me. I scrapbook out of order. I could scrap a page from 2006 today and 2010 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, like Creative Memories' digital program, that can print individual pages, too. But there are still a vast number of limitations. 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.

Q: What do I need to get started?

A: In 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 — either native digital files or scanned from prints — 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. (Here's an example of a simple, no-kit-necessary layout.)

Q: What if I don't have a photo program?

A: I'd recommend taking Adobe Photoshop Elements for a test-drive. You can try it for 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 adobe.com or even at Best Buy or some office supply stores. 

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

A: There are a hundred different ways. Some of my favorite tutorials can be found online at Digital Scrapbooking Magazine (no longer in print, but the site still exists), in the book(s) Digital Designs for Scrapbooking (at least two versions) by Renee Pearson (I believe this is/these are no longer in print, but check out Renee's Web site), and my all-time favorite place to refer people to, JessicaSprague.com. I have only taken a journaling class from Jessica's Web site, but I have forwarded several people to her site, and I know three have taken and loved her introductory class for digital scrapbookers. In fact, I'm dying to take her third digital class, as well as a couple of others of hers. There's a lot I could learn from this chick! Her classes are reasonable, and she walks you through everything along the way. Excellent! (I'll put money on Renee's classes being awesome, too. I just haven't experienced them yet!)

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!

Q: How do you print your pages?

A: 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 Blurb, 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 I didn't have the option of creating a custom hard cover. I got a dust jacket custom made, though. Blurb was significantly more affordable (somewhere in the neighborhood of $35, compared with $80 from Heritage Makers – but size and # 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.

All that said about Blurb…and I need to note that I just visited the Blurb Web site, and they now offer hardcover custom covers and the 12×12 size. Might be worth revisiting sometime. If anyone else has used it and had a great experience, I'd really love to know about it!

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 p
age 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.com for 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 ScrappingSimply.com, although I admit I have never used them. I think I might go that route with my next order and give them a shot!

Q: How does the cost compare with traditional scrapbooking?

A: 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."
  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.
  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 (and there are plenty of benefits to buying full kits) are so 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).


Well, that's a good start. I'll answer more questions — like where to find kits and some blogs I'd recommend following — in another post. (If you have any additional questions, just post a comment!)

(Update: Here's a recent post about blogs I follow/sources of inspiration.)

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! :o)


And because every picture-less post feels naked, here's a layout for you.


We had gone fishing twice during this trip — once in this exact spot at Cornerstone, Papa's development — before this day, but with no luck. But this morning was different. Using live worms, you threw your line into the water, the first time without a nibble. The second cast, however, turned out to be your lucky line! You brought in your first-ever fish — and it was a doozie! It was a trout that your dad guesses was about 18 inches long. Thankfully Papa helped you reel it in! Congratulations, Bud! Aug. 6, 2009.


  • Elements: A Mojito Kind of Day kit by Eva Kipler, EvaK Designs.
  • Fonts: 2Peas Tiger Tails (title). I honestly don't remember what the journaling font is.

6 thoughts on “FAQs: Digital Scrapbooking”

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  2. Heidi Nordstrom

    Thanks for all your info. I can’t wait to get started! Now if I could just get muy husband to buy me my own personal notebook computer I would be one happy gal!
    Thanks Heidi

  3. haha…I guess I should have read further down in your blog to see your “how-to” on digital scrapbooking (spring break left me very far behind on blogging!) Thanks for the info. I really want to try this soon!

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