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

Getting 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 also the author of "Scrap Ideas". You can read more about Kimmo and the "Scrap Ideas" e-book here:

Get a free course in scrapbooking that is loaded with information about scrapbooking with kids, themes and other ideas from pro scrapbookers, as well as lots of other highly useful tips and techniques. Please go here scrapbook project

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