Scrapbooking from A to Z

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Scrapbooking From A to Z
By Jill Davis, Founder of


Papers, photos, and keepsakes can deteriorate over time. That deterioration may be subtle or obvious and generally comes from exposure to acidic materials. The more acids and chemicals present in paper products, or products to which the paper is exposed, the greater the destruction. The photos and memorabilia you have saved are currently responding to chemicals and or the acids in or near them. When you store photos, paper, and keepsakes with other items that have acid in them or store them in containers that are acidic, there is always a reaction that increases the decay process. And don't be fooled by thinking you can, for example, use acid-free materials on your pages and store them in acidic sheet protectors or albums. Acid migrates from item to item. Using acid-free products (paper, stickers, adhesives, pens, die cuts, color copies, sheet protectors, mounting corners, etc.) should be a priority, since it insures that you have quality scrapbooks preserved for future generations to enjoy.


When you know where you want to go, the journey is much more enjoyable. In order to scrapbook, you'll need to make some decisions about organizing, displaying and protecting your photographs and memorabilia. This article will help you make those decisions. Items to be scrapbooked are placed in a creative and eye-pleasing manner on pages (layouts) in chronological order or by themes. The papers used for these layouts comes in two basic sizes 8?"x11" or 12"x12". Once pages have been created and completed, they need sheet protectors to keep them safe and albums for storing them. You will also need a place to store your albums?a shelf, tabletop or bookcase.


In scrapbooking, the term cropping means cutting away covering up that which is not wanted. You may also hear the word cropping in conjunction with parties or get-togethers. Hence, a late-night crop is an evening of scrapbooking with friends or fellow scrapbookers. But for now, we'll address the cropping of photos.

One of the saddest things I see on new scrapbookers' pages are photos that have been cut too small or crooked. Think BEFORE you ever cut a photograph. The most important part of a layout is your photographs. Cutting them smaller may defeat the whole purpose for putting them onto a page. You may someday regret that you cropped away your first car or an old friend out of a photograph. Cut out ONLY DISTRACTING images that detract from the feel of the event, i.e., fingers that got in the way of the shutter, clutter on the floor, distracting shrubbery, or telephone lines or undies dangling out of the drawer. Some new scrapbookers see the colorful assortments of decorative scissors that are available and want to use them on everything. I have found that decorative scissors are best used on cardstock and paper instead of photos. Photos with straight-cut edges are eye-pleasing as are mats with decorative edges to complement these photos. See our article: "Cropping, That Special Touch," for additional instruction.

I suggest that you NEVER crop a professional portrait. These will be priceless heirlooms for future generations. Your portraits may, one day, be displayed on the walls of your great-great grandchildren's homes. I strongly suggest that you NEVER mount them directly to your background papers with adhesives. Use photo corners instead. If you want a portrait to have another shape to it, i.e., oval), cut paper or cardstock as a "mat" and lay it over the portrait. NEVER cut a Polaroid photograph; mat it. A chemical reaction takes place with air and the Polaroid image disappears. Use photo corners and/or mats on photos that are over 30-40 years old. The backs of these photos are raw paper and aren't coated like photos of today. If a photo later needs to be removed from a layout (to make copies, to put on a different page, etc.), the adhesive can rip away some of the paper backing or cause the photo to tear.



  • Wash your hands before you work!
  • Invest in an acid-free testing pen to check everything you want to put into your scrapbooks.
  • Use polypropylene or Mylar D sheet protectors.
  • Look at the work of other accomplished scrapbookers to find a style that fits you. Check out the Featured Artists and Gallery for examples
  • Find a specific and consistent time to scrapbook.
  • Have a special place where you can store your materials and when possible, scrapbook in that area.
  • Store your albums upright and out of sunlight.


  • Have food or drinks on the tables where you scrapbook.
  • Leave scrapbooks in the car. (Avoid heat destruction or theft.)
  • Laminate photographs and other valuable documents.
  • Use sheet protectors made from poly-vinyl chloride (PVC) or acetate!
  • Set goals that are not achievable.


Enjoy your scrapbooking hobby and talent. Each layout doesn't have to be a masterpiece. People scrapbook for different reasons. For some, the most enjoyable layouts are works of art that take extra time. For others, simple layouts bring them joy. Scrapbooking can be a pleasure when you set the boundaries for yourself. I have scrapbooked with deadlines and often the fun left, and it became a task. I have also had scrapbooker burn-out from doing too much in too little time. Then again, some would never finish an album if pressure weren't applied. Whatever your reasons for scrapbooking, enjoy them. See our Yearly Album Challenge that is announced in our newsletter and featured on our bulletin boards . Be sure to sign-up for the newsletter if you want to some extra motivation.


Where do you start with your stacks and boxes full of photographs and mementos? It's normal to feel overwhelmed. Anyone who has completed scrapbooks started out just like you. Here are simple guidelines to get you started:

1. Gather all photographs, negatives and other keepsakes into one place.

2. Sort them into separate boxes-one for each family member.

3. Further separate these items into two categories:

a. Items that can be placed into a scrapbook (programs, photos, drawings, important letters, certificates, ribbons and so on).

b. Items too large or bulky for a scrapbook that need to stay in the box (trophies, medals, special clothing, baby blankets, favorite toys). These can possibly be photographed, color copied or scanned at a later time for placement into your scrapbooks. See the article "Color Copying Scrapbooks." Label the box. Start a notebook for future reference that lists the box contents and the box they can be found in).

4. Sort items that will go onto pages in chronological order into a large accordion file or into file folders. Have one or two files that hold all the material for each person initially. Work from these files until everything is sorted into it's own file. This insures that items won't get mixed up again.

5. Label each file folder in one-year increments (or every five years for limited photos) of the person's life.

Example: Whitney Davis 8-14-93 to 8-14-94 (birth to age 1)

Whitney Davis 8-14-94 to 8-14-95 (age 1)

NOTE: Files can be set up to go from birthday to birthday, from school year to school year, or from January to January. It works well for many people to go from birthday to birthday until kindergarten and then change from school year to school year. After graduation it seems to work well to create files for separate events (i.e., college, job, travel, and wedding).

6. Sort doubles of photos into two stacks. Use a "photo-safe" pencil or pen to label the back of ALL photos with "Who? What? Why? Where? When? information. In years to come, you'll be glad you took the time to label photos. Then, if a photo is separated from the stack of photos or a complete scrapbook page, it can easily be returned to where it belongs. Place one photo into the appropriate file and keep the other with your negatives. File these photos and negatives chronologically in acid-free envelopes or an acid-free storage box. Date each envelope and briefly describe the event(s) on the outside. Store this box away from your scrapbooks?a safe deposit box is the safest place. Scanning and storing all your photos (and your pages) onto a CD or Zip disk, or using an online storage site or other electronic media are other options.

7. Remember that box of keepsakes that could be color copied or scanned? Put a Post-it-Note? on the files where applicable to remind you to incorporated those items into the pages you will be creating. Keep a piece of notebook paper in each file to jot down the memories that come as you work. These notes will be used later to "journal" your pages.

8. Start working on scrapbook pages from present events, then work back through time. Dates, times and details of current events are fresh in your mind. By working back through time, you also have the benefit of your first pages (which very few scrapbooks love) being hidden and not being obvious at the front of your first album..



Purchase a limited amount of basic supplies and borrow equipment for your first scrapbook pages. Decide after scrapbooking for a while if this is worth a significant amount time and money. Below is a modest list to start with.

1. Album (when full, store upright)

2. Sheet protectors (free from PVC)

3. Cardstock (acid-free), is used for the background on pages so that photos won't bend when mounted or when pages are turned)

4. Photo-safe pencil for writing data on photo backs

5. Pencil

6. Eraser, white polymer

7. Ruler

8. Cutting tools: straight-edged scissors (one regular, one embroidery-size with sharp points), a personal trimmer (that uses replaceable blades), Exacto knife

9. Archival pens that are permanent, waterproof, light-fast and fade- proof in fine point (.005) and broad point (.08)

10. Adhesives (liquids, tapes, tabs or pastes)

11. Photo Corners

You can purchase most of these at your local scrapbook store, or from the Neighborhood Store

The Process:

1. Choose a few of the best photos from a single event, and discard the blurry ones or photos that don't help tell the story. You should have from three to five photos left to scrapbook.

2. Pick one focal point photo that best depicts what your layout will be about. It should be the largest photo, so don't do much cropping on it. Crop the other photos only if necessary.

3. Choose a theme for the page. This will become your title. If you have a difficult time with titles, you may want to check our the "Play on Words" electronic book.

4. Choose cardstock that complements your photos. Look at the whole scene in your photos and see what colors are dominant. Use these in your background paper and mats for your photos. You can use an extra layer or two of color to mat your focal point photo so that it stands out. Mount photos using corner mounts and/or and adhesive. Make title and journal boxes and finish with lettering.

5. Arrange the photos, title and journal boxes on the background paper in a pleasing manner. If there are too many photos for one page, do a two-page spread. For ideas on layouts, see our Page Gallery.

6. When you are satisfied with your arrangement, secure all pieces in place with an acid-free adhesive.


What you scrapbook today will be history tomorrow. Are you preserving worthwhile memories that someone will enjoy looking at and reading about in the future? Do they tell a story? Does every page answer the vital questions: "Who?" "What?" "Why?" "When?" "Where?" and sometimes "How?"


Today there are more scrapbooking products available than you can imagine to help you do great artwork. Just a few years ago, you had to hand letter page titles. Now you can design them on your computer or with die cuts, add the colors you want, or you can buy the preprinted title, with mats and diE-Cuts that all match by theme. Making your own mats, title boxes and die cuts, however, is still the most economical way to scrapbook.


Journaling is second only to the photos on a scrapbook page. Including the information that answers "Who?" "What?" "Why?" "Where?" "When?" and "How?" increases the value of the page. Pertinent information of your life now will be significant and interesting to someone in the future. Journaling can also be thoughts and poems that help to preserve the memory of the event(s) in the photos. Make your pages interesting to look at and fun to learn from. Always use acid-free pens.


More is not always better in scrapbooking. Remember that the photos and the memories associated with those photos make up the most important part of a page. Papers, stickers, die cuts and other embellishments only help tell the story. Any good story always focuses on the characters.


Lettering is different that handwriting. Lettering is a series of geometric shapes and lines put together to form letters. The more you practice lettering styles the more your confidence grows. Practice Makes Permanent! Any lettering should complement the photos and story. Using fancy frilly letters on the page of a little boy collecting bugs wouldn't be as appropriate as thick and solid letters with bugs added. Titles that depict what is happening in your photos are sometimes hard to come up with. The Play On Words is an excellent resource and help for titles that you will hand letter or create on your computer. A title for each new page will help your scrapbook flow smoothly. Write everything in pencil first. Choose ink, colored pencils and chalk colors that complement your photos.


Our lives are full of things that have to be done. Is there ever time left to do the things we want to do? I can give you an emphatic yes to that question. By setting aside a regular time to scrapbook it becomes a priority. I have found extra time through effective housecleaning and by finding recipes for meals that seem to fix themselves. (See the article "The Ultimate Secret Weapon...In the Fight for Scrapbooking Time" in the Articles and Tips Section of the Learning Center).


If you save newspaper clippings you can de-acidify them with Archival Mist or your can color copy them. The Store is one of the few places we know of that carries Archival Mist.


I was at a meeting once when a man joked that organizing was for people who were too lazy to look for things. As funny as that comment is, there are plenty of people who live that way at certain times in their lives. I also attended a workshop on organizing where the teacher stated that if it takes longer that 15 minutes to find something, it's time to change your organizational system. It is fun and so easy to scrapbook when your photos and supplies are organized and your workplace is clear. I can collect my thoughts and photos in just a few minutes if I know where everything is. Think about how you now have things organized and how you could improve your system.


Photographs are the heart of scrapbooking. Knowing how to take good photos and how to use your camera lets you turn ordinary into interesting, and memorable into captivating. If you're in the market to purchase a new camera, unless you are really interested in photography, purchase one that does everything automatically. Ideas: Take photos of a child on his/her birthday with fingers up to show how old they are. Take photos of you alone with each child, then write them a letter expressing your feelings about them and add it to their own scrapbook. Do the same thing with your spouse. Take photos of your homes. Take photos of everyday living that would interest someone 20 years from now?like you climbing into your new will be a relic one day.

TIP: NEVER cut a Polaroid print. A chemical reaction takes place with air and the image will eventually disappear. Always use photo corners and/or mats over photos that are over 30 years old. These photos may not have a negative and many old photos don't have protective coatings.

Damage to photos occurs from:

  • Sunlight
  • "Magnetic" photo albums (those with "sticky" pages)
  • Water & humidity
  • Rough handling - getting bent, ripped or scratched
  • Dirty or oily hands
  • Fluctuating temperature: basements and attics
  • Highly acid surroundings
  • Regular ink pens used to write on the backside
  • Contact with acidic materials (see "Acid-Free" above)


All papers, die cuts, stickers, printed die cuts and title cards need to be acid-free to insure that your photos will be safe for years to come. Buy from a reputable company or store and check your products with an acid-testing pen. Through the years I have seen companies cut costs by using paper and cardstock that isn't acid-free and not inform the buyer. Buyer, beware .


If you don't have time to write lengthy journal entries, consider the Five-Year- Journal . With this unique journal you are able to record the events of the day quickly and permanently. When you scrapbook an event, you can locate that time in your journal quickly to see if anything else significant to your scrapbook page was going on and journal the page accordingly. Well kept records are a plus to scrapbooking. They make pages more interesting as we compare life now to what it use to be. We can learn about ourselves from our records.


Every scrapbooking product and tool is easier to locate and used when it has a safe place for storage. Storage containers work well for larger items and for those smaller pieces, use baseball card sheet protectors in a notebook.


Scrapbooking is more effective when done with a theme in mind. Organizing stickers, die cuts, and page ideas by theme saves time and effort.


Scrapbooking is a journey and not a destination!


Old photographs and portraits need to be taken out of those acidic photo mats/frames that were used years ago. Use your acid-testing pen to check the acid content. I always make color copies of old photographs that are passed on to me. This enables me to put the copy in a frame for my home and keep the originals in the safe environment of a scrapbook. Old photos look best when mounted in scrapbooks on deep, rich colors. Check out the Vintage Photo Paper in the Store . Modern products, such as stickers and die cuts detract from the feeling of old photos. When in doubt, keep it simple. Deckle edge scissors are designed to duplicate the jagged finished edges of older photos. Remember: don't crop old photos; mat them. Handle with care. Don't mount with adhesives; use photo corners.


The ideal workstation is the one that has all your materials organized and within reach. It should be easy to find things and put them away. Have a large work surface on which to spread everything out. Have shelves to store your supplies. Have efficient storage containers for equipment. A comfortable chair is a must. If possible, a waist-high surface is ideal for a paper cutter.


1. Decorative scissors

2. Decorative papers

3. Templates and stencils

4. Rubber stamps

5. Stickers (available in images, letters and borders)

6. Die cuts

7. Circle & oval cutter

8. Punches

9. Colored pens

10. Decorative rulers

11. Pens in different colors with different sized points

12. White pencil

13. White, gold and silver pens

14. Calligraphy pens

15. Preprinted mats, die cuts and page titles

16. Computer clip art

17. Colored pencils

18. Blending pens and sticks

19. Chalks (pastels)

Y -YOU'RE...

Going to affect generations to come with your scrapbooks.


Z best albums are Z ones that are done!

Jill Davis has scrapbooked for over 20 years and is President of

8 2001, LLC

Great Scrapbook Page Ideas

As a bonus to the neighbors, We've included a number of ideas to help get the creative juices flowing. You may want to print this list out and keep it nearby.

First Helium Balloon

Favorite Doll

Where Does Daddy (Mommy) Work?

Bubble Blowing

Mowing the Lawn

First Black Eye

Family Outings

Bathing the Dog

Playing with My Friends

First Ice Cream Cone

Painting the House

First Cookie

Wedding Day

Raking Leaves

Dirty Faces

First Day of School

Kisses for Mommy (Daddy)

Our First Car (My First Car)


First Bike (Tricycle)

Lazy Days of Summer

Dress Up

In My Sunday Best


Making Faces

Favorite Pet

Fixing My Hair

Playing in the Rain

First Haircut (save a lock of hair)

Trick or Treat

Water (Balloon) Fight

Paint Ball War

On the Computer

Gymnastics in the Yard

Star Scouter

First Perm

Great Vacations

Watching T.V.

Choosing the Christmas Tree

Potty Training

Easter Egg Coloring (or Hunt)

Baking Cookies

My Favorite Teacher

Playing Ball (football, softball, etc.)

Fourth of July Fireworks

First Trip to the Zoo

Tucked into Bed

Birthday Bash

Pajama Party

School Daze

Graduation Night (Day)

School Dances

Family Reunion Time

Pillow Fights

My Missing Tooth

Picnic at the Park

Into Mommy's Make-up

Popcorn Popping

Best Buddies

Teeth Brushing

Happy New Year!

Pumpkin Carving

First Fender Bender


First Steps

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Our First Home

A Visit with Santa

Tubing on the River

The Honeymooners

After-school treats

My Favorite Babysitter

Preschool Buddies

Laundry Day Blues

So, So, Sick

Helping Grandma

My Favorite Things

Fashion Fads

Favorite Foods

First Airplane Trip

Playing in the Hose

Listening to My Favorite Music

My Best Handwriting

Talking on the Phone

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