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Scrapbooking Basics

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People preserve memories in a variety of ways. Some stick photographs in an album to create a visual record of a birthday party or anniversary. Others may write a journal of a trip around the world, or keep confetti from a wedding. Scrapbookers, however, try to keep all sorts of things that stir memories in one book. A backpacker's scrapbook, for example, might contain photographs, cuttings from newspapers, train tickets, excerpts from their diary and postcards, to try to capture not just the memories, but the feelings and moods that the trip evoked. This Entry is not a comprehensive guide to scrapbooking, but a starting point, containing ideas and suggestions to set you on your way.

The Essentials

With so many scrapbooking supplies out there, it's easy even for an experienced scrapbooker to get confused about what's truly necessary. This brief guide will show you the basics you'll need to set you on your way to scrapbooking bliss.

The Album

The first thing you'll need is an album. Scrapbooks differ from photograph albums in that pages tend to have one large pocket rather than are split up into photo-sized ones. Good scrapbooks will have removable posts, to allow extra pages to be added. You'll want to take size into consideration. Some scrapbookers want all their albums to be the same size, while others like them to be different. There are two standard sizes available: 8x8 inches and 12x12. Other sizes and shapes are available, but most card and paper comes ready-cut in these two sizes. The smaller size is easier for beginners, as less work is required to fill a page; in fact, you may wish to start with something even smaller, just big enough for one photo per page. You'll also want to find an album with a colour or pattern that fits the theme of your scrapbook. Memories of a happy summer beach holiday may be enhanced by bright, cheerful colours, whereas a scrapbook remembering a recently deceased relative might look a little odd in these colours. Don't forget refill pages - make sure you know the right size and manufacturer.

When buying card, paper or adhesives, it is important that you buy acid and lignum-free materials. Ordinary paper, like newspaper, contains both acid and lignum, which make it go yellow over time. The acid in some papercraft materials is particularly damaging to photographs. Generally, anything bought in a papercraft store will be fine, but beware of discount store bargains. Your scrapbook will hopefully be kept for decades and it would be a shame if it were to be spoiled by cheap materials.

Cutting and Gluing

At a very basic level, you will be cutting things out, so you will need scissors and/or a rotary cutter. Scissors range from the cheap and nasty to the ridiculously expensive, and you tend to get what you pay for. Scissors blunt quickly and are difficult to re-sharpen, so don't go overboard. Rotary cutters, which look like pizza cutters, have interchangeable and replaceable blades but require a cutting mat when you use them. You can also buy 'shape cutters' in various shapes to make cutting complex shapes such as stars and circles more straightforward.

Adhesives are also essential. An acid-free adhesive that works on both card and photos is a good one to start with. Non-toxic adhesives are preferable, especially if you're working in an area that isn't particularly well-ventilated, as otherwise the fumes can make you feel light-headed and give you a headache. Glue sticks are cheap, easy to use and available in acid-free versions. There are two types of adhesives – permanent and temporary. Temporary adhesives let you move things around on the page until you are happy with your design.

Card and Paper

Card is the base of your scrapbooking page. Make sure it's thick enough to stop glue seeping through to the other side. It is available in a bewildering array of colours and designs. Papers are what you use to decorate the page. When choosing your card and paper, bear in mind what your particular scrapbook project is about and co-ordinate the colours - that seaside holiday scrapbook in lots of bright summer colours, for example.

Don't be afraid to have fun with this and mix up different colours, textures and patterns. You'll be amazed at what you'll come up with. If something doesn't work out as you thought, you can always use it later. Finally, don't forget journal pens; again, look for acid-free, permanent pens with fine tips for your handwritten journal entries. If you do calligraphy, you may also want to check out the great-looking pens available with various-sized tips. Black ink is the most popular, but you may want to have several colours to coordinate with your scrapbook colour scheme. Again, don't hesitate to experiment with different colours and tip sizes to find your individual style, because when it comes to scrapbooking, that's what it's all about! Many people don't like to write in their scrapbooks, as they think their handwriting is bad. Remember, however, your scrapbook may be passed on to your great-grandchildren, and they will be absolutely thrilled to see entries written by the person who put the scrapbook together. Your handwriting will be part of their heritage and will help to make it a precious memento.

Using Photographs

Many scrapbooks don't actually have photographs in them; they are full of ticket-stubs, pressed flowers, menus and the like – things that bring back memories. However, scrapbooking has become popular as an interesting variation on photo albums, so the chances are you will be using photographs.

If you have a modern photograph and you have the negative, don't be afraid to cut it up for use; you can always get replacements, after all. However, if it is an old or particularly precious picture, consider having a quality photocopy made. Cutting up photographs makes them visually more interesting, and can add a quirky feel to your album.

Three Quick Tips on Creating a Focal Point

Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned scrapbooker, creating a focal point may be a challenge. A focal point is the first thing you notice on the page. It has two other goals as well: to show your reader where to start, and to set the mood or tone of the layout. Here are three tips which will quickly and easily have you on your way to creating great focal points:

  • Size is important. Generally, a large photograph makes a terrific focal point. It tends to be the first thing to catch the eye, and you can easily build your page around it. If you have a photo you love that's small, but which you think would make a great focal point, then have it enlarged.

  • Matting matters. This is the technique whereby you cut a piece of card slightly larger than the photograph that gets glued onto it, thus giving it a border. A good time to consider matting is when you have a seascape picture and your backing card is blue. By adding a yellow border with the mat, this will help define the picture and make it stand out from the page. When matting a photograph, you should always select colours that complement it, not overwhelm it. You want the mat to enhance the photo. The width and size are also important - a mat should be proportional to the size of the photograph; in other words, a large, wide mat is probably not a good idea for a small photo. Grouping several small photographs together and then matting them creates a pleasant focal point for your scrapbook layout page.

  • Consider the shape before matting your photograph. It's easy to get stuck in the rut of limiting yourself by following the shape of the photo. To call attention to your focal point, try using a contrasting shape. For instance, try a circular or oval mat for a square photograph. You'll be surprised how easily this increases the overall effect of your focal point.

Following these quick tips will help you create dazzling focal points on your scrapbook layout pages, but they are only a starting point. Every scrapbook page is unique, and it is up to you to fill in the spaces. You might have pictures of a trip to the theatre for instance, in which case you could put the ticket stubs beside the pictures. A wedding picture may be complimented with little horseshoes or a ball and chain cut out of card. It really is a blank page for you to personalise as you see fit. It's not a competition; every page is personal to you. Hopefully these very basic pointers will encourage you to get creative and come up with some great scrapbooking ideas of your own.

Enjoy Yourself

Try to remember that scrapbooking is fun. Allow your creative side to run riot. It's only paper and card after all, and scrapbookers don't make mistakes - they only have learning experiences!

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