In this scrapbooking beginner’s guide we cover everything from design ideas, inspiration and materials to use. You’ll also learn about important factors to keep in mind and the benefits of this creative hobby! Continue reading below…
Scrapbooking for Beginners
Scrapbooking may be seen as multiple hobbies in one: photography, family history, journaling, stenciling, drawing, painting, collage…there are so many skills you can incorporate into a single scrapbook. This guide will show you how to get started. I’ll cover:
- Why you should consider scrapbooking
- First steps and considerations in putting together a scrapbook
- Materials needed
- Design ideas and inspiration
- A brief history of scrapbooking
Why Try Scrapbooking?
There are many reasons why you might enjoy this popular creative hobby. For example:
- Scrapbooking is an awesome way to preserve memories: Sure, you can save photos on your phone, and I certainly do: I currently have over 15,000 photos on my phone from just the last couple of years. But that’s a huge, un-curated collection that I rarely scroll through. Scrapbooks let me choose my favorite photos and organize them in aesthetically pleasing layouts. Plus, the act of putting together a new scrapbook is a way of remembering and reliving all those moments.
- You can exercise your creativity: There are so many ways to personalize your scrapbook by experimenting with color, texture, page layout, pattern, shape, text, and so on. Scrapbooking is a form of art that lets your creativity shine.
- Scrapbooks make thoughtful gifts: For example, you can give your spouse a handmade scrapbook to commemorate an anniversary. Or make your best friend a mini scrapbook documenting that unforgettable weekend trip. Or send your parents a family scrapbook full of your favorite memories with them and showing them what you’ve been up to if you live far away.
- Create a record of your family history: This is one of my absolute favorite uses of scrapbooks. There’s a scrapbook that has been passed down in my family for a couple generations now. I love flipping through the old photos, reading my grandma’s snarky captions, and discovering the little bits and bobs (scraps of fabric, dried flowers, favorite recipes, etc.) that my ancestors decided to save. I see my own scrapbooks as a continuation of this tradition; someday, they’ll provide a window into the past for future generations.
How do you get started with scrapbooking? There are so many options that this creative hobby can seem daunting at first.
Here, I’ll walk you through a series of questions that will help guide you in creating a scrapbook. There are several main considerations to keep in mind:
- What is your topic or theme?
- What kind of scrapbook album do you want?
- How big should your scrapbook be? What shape?
- What kind of binding should you choose?
- What about paper quality?
- What’s your aesthetic?
Let’s walk through each of those questions in detail.
What is your topic or theme?
All of my scrapbooks began with an idea. I wanted to document an incredible vacation to a National Park, commemorate a major milestone in my relationship, or round up all the goofy pictures of my dog into one place.
One of my friends is really into scrapbooking and astrophotography; she combines these interests by creating stunning galaxy-themed scrapbooks featuring her favorite pictures of the night sky.
Another friend documents the progress she has made in her garden. Flowers are often ephemeral, only blooming for a few days or weeks. Her scrapbooks incorporate photos, illustrations, watercolor paintings, and pressed flowers, giving her something she can enjoy even in the dead of winter.
Think of your interests, relationships, and the moments you always want to remember. These often provide excellent inspiration for scrapbook themes.
What kind of scrapbook album do you want?
Scrapbooks come in different shapes and sizes and have different methods of binding.
Size and shape
First let’s talk size. Common options include 12” x 12” and 8.5” x 11”.
I love the roomy square layout of a 12” x 12” scrapbook. This is a great size for a big family scrapbook or any more ambitious project. The size gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to arranging your photos and other design elements.
8.5” x 11” books are of course smaller, but the standard size usually means that the paper is a bit less expensive.
Smaller scrapbooks are also available, with sizes such as 8” x 8” and 6” x 6” proving popular for smaller themed albums.
Finally, remember that you can have a scrapbook of just about any shape or size you want! You don’t have to stick with square or rectangle pages in a standard size (though it certainly is easier to find paper and ready-made scrapbooks in standard sizes).
I’ve seen scrapbooks shaped like circles, hexagons, flowers, and starbursts.
As for binding styles, here are a few examples:
- Post-bound: This style of binding involves machine screws and posts that join to hold the scrapbook together. You’ll slide your pages into page protectors, which are held in place by the posts. With a post-bound scrapbook, you have the option of adding extenders to the posts to fit in more pages.
- Book-bound: This binding is just like a traditional hardback book, meaning that the pages are permanently affixed with a binding that is sewn and glued. This binding gives your scrapbook a sleek, professional feel, though keep in mind that you can’t easily add extra pages. If some of your pages contain thicker or raised items, then you may need to remove some pages to make room (and many book-bound scrapbooks come with perforations that make this easier).
- Three-ring: You’re probably familiar with three-ring binders from grade school. The nice thing about this binding style is that you can easily add and remove pages. You’ll typically use page protectors with this style, secured by the rings.
- Ribbons: I’ve bound some of my smaller scrapbooks just using ribbon. It’s a simple, handmade binding that looks pretty and does the job.
There are other binding styles out there, but these are some of the major ones. Take a look at your different options to get a sense of your aesthetic preferences. I love the smooth look of book-bound albums, though for scrapbooks full of raised or thicker items, I often prefer a book that’s bound with rings or spiral coils.
If you’re determined to put your full creative stamp on your project, then you can always look into handmade bindings. So far, I’ve only experimented with simple ribbon bindings.
Regardless of the size and binding, I recommend using acid-free and lignin-free paper for your scrapbook so that it lasts a long time and preserves your photos properly.
Here are just a few sample albums to give you an idea of the options.
- 8” x 8” Spiralbound Hardcover Scrapbook: Simple and straightforward, this basic scrapbook can easily be customized to suit your personality. It’s available in a variety of colors.
- PartyKingdom Wooden Scrapbook: This adventure-themed scrapbook has a distinctive wooden cover and measures approximately 30cm x 20cm.
- Leather Scrapbook: Available in multiple sizes, this scrapbook is perfect for a more rugged aesthetic.
- Personalised Scrapbook/Photo Album: This book is basically a blank canvas that can be personalized to your taste. Choose between 8” x 8”or 12” x 12” and have the front cover emblazoned with a custom message.
- Finally, here are several super high-end handmade albums and scrapbooks—they’re absolutely stunning and on my wish list!
What’s your aesthetic?
Are you aiming for a fresh, beachy feel that reminds you of the smell of salty air and the warmth of the sun? You might fill your scrapbook with blues, greens, and teals, with a splash of yellow, along with beachy textures that evoke sand, water, driftwood, and blue skies.
Maybe you’re documenting a trip to Portugal, and you want your scrapbook to capture the distinctive colors and patterns of azulejo tiles.
You may want a cozy, inviting aesthetic for a family scrapbook.
Or perhaps you want to capture the magic of a perfect night with glitter, shine, and sparkle.
In any case, you’ll achieve your desired aesthetic through your color scheme, page layout, and use of texture, pattern, and other design elements.
Putting some thought into your scrapbook’s overall aesthetic beforehand will help you create a unified album. More than just a collection of photos, your scrapbook will have a strong feel to it and, much like a good work of fiction, it can transport you to another place or time.
So you know the type of scrapbook you want to make—now what? It’s time to gather your materials. Here’s what you’ll need to make a scrapbook:
- The scrapbook itself: As outlined above, this may take a variety of forms, but at the most basic level, you need some pages and a way to bind them together. Depending on what you choose, you may be purchasing pages and/or page protectors separately from the album itself. Make sure these are acid-free for maximum longevity.
- Photographs: You’ll need to print out your photos, either at home, at a photo store, or someplace like Costco.
- Adhesives: This includes various forms of glue and tape. Basically, you need some way to affix your photos and other design elements to your scrapbook. You can buy scrapbooker’s glue and tape at stores such as Michael’s, Joann, and Staples, or you can find them online. Ideally, look for acid-free adhesives.
- Pens: Get nice quality pens that won’t run or blur.
- Scissors: I have a small, precise pair of scissors that I only ever use for scrapbooking. Good scissors are important since you’ll be using them so often to trim photos and paper. You may also want to get a paper trimmer, which makes it easier to cut paper quickly and accurately.
- Additional art supplies: Your exact needs may vary, but here’s what I like to have on hand for scrapbooking: colored pencils and pens, watercolors, and cardstock in a variety of solid colors.
- Design accessories and embellishments: In addition to your basic art supplies, there are so many possibilities for decorating your scrapbook. From patterned paper to adhesive borders, you can find just about anything you can imagine. In the next section, I’ll give you some examples of my favorite scrapbooking items.
Awesome Patterned Papers and Scrapbook Embellishments
Personally, I love to create a lot of my own decorations. I’m always cutting cardstock into interesting shapes, trying out new stencils, sketching pictures of my dog, and improving my watercolor skills.
That said, there are some really lovely decorative items out there that will make your scrapbook look amazing. Things like eye-catching patterned papers and interesting borders to complement your photos. Here are a few of my current favorites:
This colorful glitter cardstock by BigOtters is so much fun!
I also love these white marble patterned papers.
As for embellishments, I love the look of these metal steampunk gears, an easy way to add charm and atmosphere to your scrapbook. Keep the steampunk theme going with these die-cut coffee cups and zeppelins.
Floral embellishments are a classic way of adding color and texture to the page.
Vintage buttons add a unique twist to your scrapbook pages, and their designs often give me new ideas for color combinations and patterns.
And finally, you can’t go wrong with rhinestones!
I love having fun with my scrapbooks and trying out new ideas. Looking for a little scrapbook inspiration? Here’s a list of some of my favorite ideas for scrapbooking. Some of them I’ve tried out over the past few years, and some I’m still hoping to do in the future.
Combine journaling and scrapbooking. Both of these hobbies are all about self-expression. I have one ever-expanding scrapbook that I use as a visual journal. I add pictures and keepsakes as I accumulate them and make sure to leave space for writing.
Create a series of mini themed scrapbooks. My astronomy-loving friend has made a series of mini scrapbooks devoted to her photos of different planets; she’s got books for Mars, Venus, and Jupiter and is working on Saturn. As for me? I’ve got a mini themed scrapbook for each of my pets!
Try a combined scrapbook/recipe book. You can include old family recipes and old family photos, or you can try out challenging new recipes and document the process—or both. A scrapbook/recipe book captures the experience of cooking (and eating) each dish.
Use a scrapbook to capture an interior design aesthetic. Collect and compile patterns you like, try out new color combinations, and imagine how each scrapbook page might translate into a room in your house. A design-oriented scrapbook is like a Pinterest page brought to life.
Think like a family historian. I’ve seen some beautiful scrapbooks that integrate historic family photos and show how a family’s story has unfolded over time.
Put your life in context. Often scrapbooks are intensely personal. But we all live in a wider context and take part in things larger than ourselves. So let’s say you attended a record-breaking event, or were involved in a quirky festival that made the local news. Why not include a newspaper clipping alongside your more personal photos?
Try some embroidery. Take inspiration from the creativity of medieval scribes, who often patched up holes or imperfections in their parchment with stitches. It’s a cool, distinctive look, and there are many ways to incorporate embroidery into your scrapbooking. In a travel-themed scrapbook, for example, you can use a simple backstitch to sew your itinerary onto a map.
Ideas for Your Photos
I have some lovely scrapbooks that are very simple, almost like traditional photo albums with a few added design flourishes. But sometimes I want to jazz up my photos, try new ideas, and really let my creative side run wild. Here are some ideas for altering and embellishing photos to make a truly unique scrapbook.
Crop your photos into different shapes. For instance, I like cutting my photos into hexagons, which can easily be placed alongside each other into a cool pattern (it’s a very Settlers of Catan aesthetic).
Creative cropping adds interest to your page layouts. You can choose shapes that complement the content of the photo and boost visual interest.
Affix photos to the page using patterned washi tape. This is a fun and easy way to spice up your photos. Washi tape is available in all sorts of colors and patterns, and you’re sure to find one that suits the atmosphere of each picture.
Put a new stylized spin on your photos. I have a tried-and-true technique for creating stylized versions of my favorite photos:
- First, I print out the picture on matte (not glossy) paper in grayscale with ~65% transparency; the photo will still be visible but can now be easily embellished with colored pencil.
- Next, I use dark colored pencil to go over outlines and edges and fill in some of the finer details of the image.
- I usually add color to the background next. For instance, I might use watercolors to recreate a dreamy floral background, and in some cases I might add a little sparkle with glitter.
- Then I start gluing things on. Fancy sparkly paper or specialty paper, flower cutouts, sequins, rhinestones, fabric, anything goes.
- I take a look at my masterpiece, add anything I think it still needs, and then admire my handiwork. The end!
A Brief History of Scrapbooking
You may be surprised to learn that scrapbooking has a rather long history. Some would say that the origins of the modern scrapbook lie in the commonplace books that became popular around in 15th century Europe.
People used commonplace books to compile things that interested them: ideas, quotations, images, recipes, lines of poetry, and so on. These books were a convenient way to gather all sorts of information in one place.
Friendship albums emerged in the following centuries. Analogous to today’s yearbooks, friendship albums were a tangible way for people to celebrate their friendships with each other and to remember their deceased loved ones.
The owner of an album (often a well-educated young woman) would have it signed by friends, who wrote poems or sentimental notes, made drawings, or even provided locks of hair to be preserved in the album’s pages.
During the 19th century, friendship albums remained popular, and so did other forms of “scrapbooking.” Many people continued to compile things that held sentimental value (such as opera tickets, trinkets, or letters) or that were useful (such as recipes, coupons, or cold remedies).
Famous author Mark Twain sought to improve scrapbook technology. An avid scrapbooker, Twain was fed up with the drawbacks of traditional scrapbook paste.
As he wrote, “When the average man wants to put something in his scrap book he can’t find his paste – then he swears; or if he finds it, it is dried so hard that it is only fit to eat – then he swears.” Twain solved this problem by patenting a self-pasting scrapbook design in 1873.
Also during the 19th century, it became possible to take and incorporate photos into an album. Today, it is hard to imagine a scrapbook without photos!
I hope that this guide has combined two of the primary goals that have defined scrapbooking over the centuries: 1) compiling useful information into one place, and 2) providing creative inspiration.
This hobby is incredibly rewarding. I’ve hosted arts and crafts nights with friends to work on scrapbooks together. I’ve made family scrapbooks that have a special place on my shelves. And I’ve experimented with all kinds of different designs.
What kind of scrapbook do you plan to create?