Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Digital Scrapbooking: What You Need to Get Started

Ever since I started blogging about my adventures in digital scrapbooking, I have had several friends and family members ask me how to get started. Since then, I have been putting together a little list of sites, software and tutorials that really helped me out in the process so I thought I would share with everyone :-)

For me, getting started with digital scrapbooking wasn't easy. I spent HOURS Googling, playing with different sites, reading blogs and tutorials, etc. I understood the basics of photo editing, but I had no idea how people were turning these pictures into digital scrapbooks. So I first went in search of software. It is incredible how many photo editing and digital scrapbooking programs are on the market. I had no idea where to begin, but I always liked the word FREE. So let's start with some of the free software I have found to be incredibly useful.

The first site I ever tried was Scrapblog.com. It was free and SUPER easy to use. But, Scrapblog has now merged with a website called MixBook. I haven't used MixBook a ton yet, but from what I can tell, it is an easy to use site for scrapbooking. The only problem I see with this site is that all scrapbook pages, invitations or other projects you create with them must be printed by their website. You do not have the ability to save your pages or projects to your computer, and therefore you do not have a back-up file or way of printing at home or with a different company. Because I have fallen in love with anther printer (which I will talk about below) I haven't chosen to work with MixBook yet. BUT...that is not to say that they don't have great options. Setting up an account is free and all the scrapbook pages and embellishments they offer are free as well! You only pay to have things printed. This is an incredibly nice feature for beginners because it gives you the opportunity to play around with lots of tools and tricks, without having to purchase anything. If you like the word FREE and don't want to invest any money until you are sure you want to go the digital route, I recommend giving MixBook a try.

Now, in addition to MixBook, I have found Google's Picasa to be a great FREE option for digital scrapbooking. You don't have the ability to use embellishments the way you can with other scrapbooking or editing software, but you can use digital scrapbook paper as backgrounds and get creative with fonts and webdings. There is no way I could ever write a tutorial more effective than the ones Sarah has done over at Clover Lane, so I will link to all the posts that will help you not only make scrapbook pages, but also photo cards and blog headers :-)


She has several more posts on Picasa if you search her blog and I know that Persnickety Prints has a page on Picasa with video tutorials and step-by-step picture instructions. Sarah is the one who inspired me to start all this so really...you must check our her blog and see all the adorable pages she has made :-)

Now, like I said above, Picasa doesn't give you the ability to use embellishments like you can with other editing and scrapbooking software. By embellishments I mean fancy borders, stickers, overlays, frames, etc. The problem is, most of the digital scrapbooking embellishments you find online are set up as .png files. These files have a transparent background which gives you the ability to layer them with photos and other paper. Picasa only supports .jpeg files and unfortunately, all .jpeg files have a solid color background (usually white). Now, if you are using a plain white page for your scrapbook, invitation or blogheaders, you could use a .jpeg file embellishment and it would work. You just won't have the ability to layer it or use any other background color.

Have I confused you yet? Just remember that to use a .png file, you have to use something other than Picasa to edit your page. MixBook does allow you to upload your own .png files which is AWESOME, but again...you have to print all your work from them. You can't save to your computer or print somewhere else. Just something to keep in mind.

Now, if you want the ability to use all types of digital scrapbooking files, you will need to work with software that has that option. In my experience, it seems that the most widely used software on the market is Adobe Photoshop. It's seems all designers who scrapbook professionally or for hire use Photoshop, but the problem for me was price and ease of use. I know I would find Photoshop to be easy once I had hours to spend playing with it. I did download a free trial and was able to learn a few things after about 4 hours of watching YouTube videos. It was just too much for me to understand. But if you are a quick learner and want the ability to do anything and everything with your photos, invest in Photoshop.

I realized a few weeks ago that I needed something more than Picasa. I am SO SAD Scrapblog is gone because the ability to save all your projects to your computer is a huge asset. Obviously, you can see where these sites were losing money though so I suppose it was only a matter of time. So, my mom and I went on a search for some affordable digital scrapbooking software that would:

1. Support all file types
2. Allow you to import papers and embellishments from other sites
3. Allow you to save to your computer and/or print anywhere you want
4. Offer updates and free material
5. Be EASY to use

Meeting all these criteria wasn't easy, but we did come across My Memories Suite software. It has fantastic reviews and the price tag is MUCH more affordable than Photoshop. Sadly, I was not able to find a free trial, but I did walk through their demonstrations and tutorials and it looked very easy to use. I was also able to find a 15% off coupon (MMS15off) so it brought the total of the software down to around $33. It comes with a TON of papers and embellishments and they offer new ones for free all the time. I have only used this software for a short time, but so far I LOVE it! Well worth the money so far.

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In short...you have to answer two questions when getting started with digital scrapbooking:

1. How much are you willing to invest?

2. How creative do you want to get?

As you can see, there really are a lot of great free options. Even though Picasa doesn't allow for embellishments, Persnikety Prints (the printer I am in love with) now offers a lot of FREE Picasa ready pages that have embellishments and borders already set up for you. All you have to do is upload the paper into Picasa and add your photos and text. I used one of their Picasa Ready pages for Blake's one year pictures and look how cute?!


If you like simple, cute and clean, I honestly don't think you need anything more than Picasa. But if you do want to get more creative with your scrapbooks, photocards, invitations, etc., investing in software is a good idea because it gives you SO many more options. Here is a page I did with scrapbooking software...


All of those pumpkins, leaves and the big tree are embellishments I added to the green background. I layered them so that they would blend into the picture. You simply couldn't layer like this in Picasa.

The key to really deciding what software you want to go with for digital scrapbooking is taking the time to give all these sites a test run. Do some playing around, read some tutorials, and get your hands some FREE digital scrapbooking paper and embellishments. I find a lot of great stuff at Persnickety Prints and Shabby Princess. If you Google "free digital scrapbook kits" you will find a lot of other random sites that offer free digi goodies. It's all worth collecting, especially if you get the option to save it to your computer or store it in Picasa.

Well I know this was a LOT to take in at first, but I hope this will help everyone get started. I would love to be able to put together some of my own Picasa Ready pages by using my scrapbook software and once I figure out how to do that, maybe I can share some freebies with you as well! If anyone would like me to answer any other questions on digital scrapbooking, I am happy to help. I am no pro, but I have quite a few online resources now so just leave a comment and hopefully I can direct you the right way.

6 comments:

  1. I bought My Memories Suite but will need you to show me how to really use it effectively!! It really did get great reviews and was rated high for ease of use. Right up my alley!!!

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  2. Thanks for sharing all of this! I actually found Sarah's website a month or so ago when I was looking for a tutorial on how to make a blog header in Picasa. I love her blog!

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  3. Thanks so much for this!!! I won't be able to hop right to this... because um... I'm kinda busy (when am I NOT?!) but I definitely will refer back to it. :o) I haven't been commenting much lately but you know I always read!!!!!

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  4. Such a great post! Thanks for the taking the time to put this together!

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  5. Thanks for writing this review! I was on the edge about this software and one other, but I decided to go with MMS. Thanks also for the promo code!!

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  6. Are you able to upload your completed pages to Persnickety Prints? Thanks! Your blog is great!

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