Color Blocking


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Article Courtesy by Jennifer Miller

I remember a couple years ago, talking to my friend about scrapbooking (which is usually our main topic of conversation) and her telling me that she wanted to do some color blocking layouts. I had no idea what she was talking about. I also had no idea that this would soon become one of my favorite techniques. I will not pretend to be an expert on the subject, however, speaking as a fan, I would like to share some of my thoughts and insights regarding the topic.

As you know, scrapbooking has a tendency to be very trendy. How many of you were so excited the day you brought home that brand new oval cutter to go with the circle cutter you had used religiously for the last 6 months. All of a sudden, circles and ovals were “out” and those cutters have done nothing but collect dust in your desk drawer. Fortunately, I think color blocking is here to stay! This is evidenced by the influx of products designed for the sole purpose of facilitating the creation of layouts using this popular technique. The following is an exploration of 3 different ways to implement color blocking into your scrapbooking style:

General Color Blocking Techniques

When I think of color blocking, the first thing that comes to mind is creating blocks of colors (thus the name) most commonly cut into squares and mounting a photo in the center. Of course, this is a simple, classic technique that always works. In reality, the blocks don’t have to be square and they can be made from solid paper, patterned paper or any combination thereof. You can cut them any size you want and place them in any direction you choose. In fact, you can make as many blocks as you want. It’s all up to you. In the sample I provided, I actually blocked my layout using 3 colors that complimented each other, and the photos. I added my photos and used some simple embellishments. I finished it off with a title and some journaling. It was a quick and simple page, but it captures the essence of color blocking. Here are a few more tips for creating great layouts from scratch (compliments of Jennifer Sizemore):

  1. Blocks can be adjacent to each other or layered.
  2. Turn to your scraps.
  3. Instead of cutting your blocks, try tearing them.
  4. Try vellum in a layered technique. The overlap area will give you yet another shade.
  5. Look at your photo for shapes and lines that can be used in your layout
  6. Try a monochromatic look. Use all papers of one color, in varying hues.
  7. Try matting your blocks for even more depth and contrast in your layout.


Layout by Jen Miller using basic color blocking techniques.


Pre-Color Blocked Paper

Anyone who is familiar with my work, is probably equally familiar with my love of pre-color blocked paper--particularly the papers created by SEI. I instantly fell in love with this product the day I was introduced to it and I have the layouts to prove it! When people look at my layouts, the most common response I receive is “I love the paper but I don’t know what to do with it”. I think the problem is people overanalyze it. The key is to let the paper do the work for you. And it doesn’t matter if you scrap 12x12 or 8-1/2x11. It is easy to cut and the possibilities are endless. Here are a few tips for creating layouts using SEI or other pre-color blocked papers:

Layout by Jen Miller using pre-color blocked paper by SEI.


  1. Select the paper you think works best with your photos. I usually choose from the colors in my photos to determine which colors I would like to draw from. In my example, I decided that I wanted to focus on the pink in my dress. Lucky for me, the pink color blocked paper matched perfectly.
  2. Rotate the paper to determine which direction would work best with the pattern and your photos. This gives you four different options to make the pattern and the shape of the blocks work best for you. If you scrap 8-1/2x11, determine which part of the paper you wish to use and trim the paper down to size.
  3. Determine where you want to place your photos, taking into consideration where you would like to place your journaling and embellishments. As I looked at the pattern, I felt that the picture would look best in the largest square. I decided that there would be plenty of room for my journaling and embellishments in the remaining blocks.
  4. Mount your photos (if you want) on coordinating cardstock and then attach to your page. With this pattern, I decided that white cardstock worked the best. However, SEI makes a variety of solid cardstocks that coordinate very nicely with the colors of their paper.
  5. Add your title/journaling. I decided that I wanted to use a quote for this particular layout and that it would fit nicely in the top right-hand square. Since I scrap 8-1/2x11, I was able to print it directly on my layout. Another option would have been to print on vellum or some other coordinating cardstock. I always run a test sheet to make sure that it will print in the right place. I would hate to get this far and ruin an expensive sheet of paper.
  6. Embellish as much or as little as you would like. I believe the mistake a lot of people make is thinking that all layouts have to be heavily embellished. This isn’t true. SEI paper has so many interesting elements that they can easily be over-embellished. Using a few coordinating eyelets or buttons will often do the trick. I chose to create some hearts using acrylic gemstones. To create my hearts, I placed a template over the area where I wanted the gemstones and I set them inside. Then, I glued each one down and removed the template. It was a quick process and gave me the look I wanted to achieve.


Really, creating the perfect layout using pre-color blocked paper is much easier than most people think. It just takes a little time and imagination. Just try to keep it simple and it will be worth the effort.

Color blocking Templates

Another popular technique that has come about in recent months is color blocking templates. These essentially take the guesswork out of creating a color blocked layout. Whether you want to use a lot of photos or a lot of embellishments, the possibilities are endless. In the example provided, I used a Deluxe Cuts color blocking template. However, the template did not work exactly as I wanted for my photographs, so I altered it to create the design I was looking to achieve. To use these templates, here are a few tips:

Layout by Jen Miller using a color blocking template from Deluxe Cuts.


  1. Select your photos and embellishments, then purchase your template (I learned this from experience). Of course, if you already have a template, select the photos and embellishments that will work best with the design of the template. Make sure these items coordinate with the background paper to which each of the blocks will be mounted. Normally, I choose my colors from the clothes in my photographs. However, in this instance, I decided to pull some of the background colors from the photos.
  2. Place the photos and paper under the template and trace lightly around the boxes. I placed each photo under the template where I thought they would fit best. I decided the photos stood well enough alone and that I didn’t want to mount them on cardstock, so I traced my lines for cutting. I also traced my lines on each sheet of paper that would be used for the title and journaling blocks.
  3. Cut the paper and photos accordingly.
  4. Adhere your photos to the background paper. Do this once you have placed the template on your background sheet and after you feel confident that each of the cut outs is where you want it.
  5. Add journaling, embellishments and anything else you want to the remaining boxes. I originally thought I would place some type of embellishment in each of the four small squares, but realized that they would work nicely for my title. I kept it simple with uppercase alphabet stickers. I completed my title in the remaining box on the page by reversing the color combination and using lowercase stickers from the same alphabet collection. On the second page, I fit my journaling into the large box. As always, I printed a test sheet before printing the final version. This left one box left for embellishment. I found a dinosaur button that matched perfectly and I added some coordinating fibers to finish it off. Again, I chose to alternate the blocks of color for each of the squares that did not contain photos.


I found that, even though I slightly altered the design of the template, it worked perfect for the photographs I had for a nice crisp, clean look. I always enjoy using Becky Higgins sketches when working with a lot of photos, but in this case, I don’t think one of those sketches would have worked any better. I should also mention that I only used a Deluxe Cuts template on the first page. The second page was created from my own design. I just wanted to create something that would coordinate nicely with the first page and that would work with my photo and journaling needs. Obviously, a template isn’t even necessary to create a wonderful color blocked layout, although, I will admit they make it much easier!

As you can see, color blocking has come a long way and I imagine innovative companies will continue to create products that make this technique more fun, challenging and creative. At the same time, they are simplifying the work and allowing scrapbookers to easily create wonderful pages in no time. Most of the products mentioned can be found at any scrapbook store. So, next time you are shopping for supplies, buy a few sheets of SEI paper or a template. You’ll be amazed how easy they are to use!


A Brother is a Friend
Cardstock – SEI
Buttons – Making Memories
Twistel – Making Memories
Font – 2Peas Cookie Dough, P22 Garamouche

Only One Happiness
Cardstock – SEI
Acrylic Rhinestones – Westrim Crafts
Fonts – P22 Hopper

Play Time
Cardstock - SEI
Stickers - Mary Engelbreit
Dinosaur Button - Dress it Up
Fibers - Fiber Scraps
Font - Scrap Casual


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