Creating Your First Layout

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Article Courtesy by Maureen Spell

You’ve seen scrapbooks and think you might be interested in creating some pages of your own. Maybe you’ve bought all the supplies but just aren’t sure where to begin. Everyone has his or her own individual approach to creating a page, but all good layouts tend to have some common elements.

Step 1: The Pictures

First you need to sort through your photos. You do not need to use every picture you take, only those that best represent the event or memory you wish to capture. If your photo has a lot of empty space around the subject, trim off that extra space with a trimmer or straight-edge scissors (not decorative scissors). We call this “cropping” the photo. Be careful not to crop too much. You want to leave some space around the subject. Don’t crop out any objects that have sentimental or historical meaning in the photo.

I was taking photos of my youngest daughter one day. I loved how they all showed her personality, but I decided that my favorite photo, the one of her laughing looking up, would become my main, or focal point, photo. I also liked three others and decided to use them as secondary photos on the layout. I enlarged the focal photo, and cropped each photo to showcase my daughter.


Step 2: The Concept

The next step is to look at the pictures and see what theme or concept you want your layout to have. This is when you think about titles and what you want to say. Consider where you might place the title and journaling. This is an important step because you want your page design to reflect the message. If you don’t know what the message is, your page will lack unity between the photos, journaling and design elements. Also, you need to plan how much space to leave for journaling and where to place it on the page.

Looking at my photos, I decided that my layout would have the theme of laughter. I didn’t have a long story to go along with these pictures so I thought I would do a couple of short journaling strips. I found a vellum quote that worked perfectly with my theme and could double as my title.

Step 3: The Colors

Picking the right colors can seem daunting until you learn a few tricks. Use the photos to help you pick your colors. In these photos, my daughter is wearing a navy blue dress with red flowers. Since the pictures show my daughter laughing, I wanted to create a fun feel in the layout. The polka dot patterned paper and red cardstock helped create that mood. The red also contrasts with the blue dress, causing the photos to stand out.


*Choose colors based on the mood you want to create. For instance when we think of Christmas we usually think of red and green, while romance makes us think of red, and babies lead to pastels.

*Choose colors using color schemes: monochromatic, complementary, triad, split-complement, analogous (a color wheel is a very useful tool when picking color schemes)

See these additional articles for more in-depth information:

Color Wheelin’ and Dealin’

Everyone Loves a Complement

Pick a Color

Step 4: The Embellishments

Embellishments, such as stickers, charms, diecuts and ribbons to name a few, can help unify the photos, paper and journaling. They can be simple or elaborate. Once again, look at your photos for inspiration. I chose to use three metal flower brads that mimicked the flowers on my daughter’s dress. Choosing embellishments that relate to your theme helps create unity in a layout.

Step 5: The Final Layout

Now that you know what pictures you are using, what your theme is going to be (what you are going to say), and what elements you are going to add—the next step is to put it all together.


Focal Point
You want the viewer to know what the most important thing is on the page. Usually this is your focal point picture, but it could be other memorabilia. You can add emphasis to a photo by:

  • enlarging it
  • matting it
  • leaving a lot of space around it
  • adding color


I enlarged my main picture and I left space around it. Now when a viewer sees my layout, they know exactly what the most important picture on my layout is.

You want to have the viewer’s eye move around the page in an orderly fashion. Think about what element(s) should be repeated. Remember that odd numbers are easier to place on your page than even numbers.

“The Rule of Thirds” is a principle that divides your layout (or photo) into 9 equal parts. The intersecting points on the grid represent the best places to place your focal point picture/element. Avoid placing your photo directly in the center of the layout, as it causes the layout to lack impact. Once you understand this principle, you can apply it several different ways. Use it when composing your pictures in your viewfinder before you snap the picture, when figuring out where to place a photo on your layout, and when placing other elements on your page.

Try using only one or two different font types and embellishments. Repeat certain shapes, colors or textures to bring consistency to your layout. Your goal is to reinforce your theme with everything you add to your page.

After everything is in place and you’re pleased with the layout design, adhere each item with acid-free adhesive. Slip the final layout into a page protector and you’re done!

Now you are on your way toward finishing your first layout! May there be many more to come!


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