This guide aims to help you get to grips with the basics of scrapbooking, explaining the important phrases to look for when buying materials, the different techniques and layout themes you could use, and the actual process behind making a scrapbook page!
Whilst searching for materials to use in your scrapbooking projects, there are a few key terms you should look out for. In short, these phrases explain that the material is safe for use with photos and that they themselves won't deteriorate over time. These terms are as follows...
When acid is exposed to photos, it causes them to discolour and fall apart over time. Ultimately, this chemical eats away at the coating on your photos. Many papers include acid, so it's paramount that you purchase acid-free papers to ensure your treasured memories don't age and disintegrate. However, it's not only papers you should check – your adhesives and pens must also be acid-free.
Also commonly found in paper, lignin is a natural bonding element that binds wood fibres together. Similarly to acid, lignin breaks down paper so that it becomes brittle and discoloured – it's important to buy lignin-free papers for this reason. Newspapers are renowned for containing lignin, so it's best to photocopy any important articles you'd like to include onto lignin-free paper.
If paper is of archival quality, this means that it's been tested and analysed to determine that it has safe chemical levels, enabling long-term preservation. This means that according to standards, archival quality paper must be acid and lignin-free, constructed from cotton, resistant to tearing, have a safe alkali reserve and have a high endurance when folding
With a similar definition as archival quality but more specific to photo usage, materials that are photo-safe indicate that they are completely safe for use with photos. This means that photo-safe scrapbooking albums, page protectors and papers are thoroughly tested so that they don't accelerate the natural ageing of photographs.
Colourfastness is usually associated with fabrics, however you can sometimes find this term in relation to paper and card. If a product is colourfast, it means that the dye colour within the material is resistant to running or fading.
Lightfastness is a property of pigments within art materials, such as paints, inks, pastels and pencils. Light breaks up the chemical bonds in pigments, so if a material is lightfast this means that it's resistant to fading when exposed to light.
Although scrapbooking brands work exceptionally hard to deliver these important qualities in their scrapbooking supplies, it's important to remember that you play a big role in the preservation of your work. Your photos need to be stored properly and safely, ensuring that temperatures and humidity are not too high. Lots of light can also affect the quality of your work, despite the quality of your materials. Fundamentally, if you store your scrapbooks correctly, the specialist materials will do the rest of the preservation for you.
There are a few essential items you need to ensure you have when creating a scrapbook. These materials allow you to construct a base, add basic decorations, and prime your designs for further adornment, if desired.
The most crucial element in scrapbooking, you must begin by choosing a scrapbook album. Generally available in either 8" x 8" or 12" x 12" sizes, these albums will organise and contain all your photographs and memorabilia, and are available in a range of designs and themes to suit your projects. Scrapbook albums usually contain 10 to 20 clear pages with blank inserts, however they can typically contain far more pages than are initially supplied so that you can extend your projects further.
Page protectors are essential for keeping your scrapbook pages in pristine condition, protecting your designs from getting dirty, crumpled or deteriorating over time. Not only are they ideal for preserving your pages, but they're also ideal if you want to add in extra pages to your scrapbook album. Although you're initially provided with a limited amount, an album can house far more page protectors than supplied, so it's best to buy extra packets if you're looking to complete a large project.
Scrapbooking paper is the base of your scrapbook page layout – your photos and designs will sit upon this foundation. Patterned papers are preferred amongst scrapbookers as they help in representing the overall theme of the page. Typically available in 8" x 8" and 12" x 12" sizes to match the size of the album, simply adhere your choice of patterned paper onto your blank scrapbook page to begin your page design. Alternatively, you could use these papers as photo mats or accents to highlight key elements in your layout.
Used as an alternative to scrapbooking paper, scrapbooking card can also be used as a background for your design if purchased in 8" x 8" or 12" x 12" sizes. Available as either plain (with one solid colour/shape or multiple colours and shapes) or textured, these sheets often come in pads and are strong, sturdy foundations. Scrapbooking card can also be purchased in smaller sizes, however, or in large sheets with many different components to cut out, featuring designs and sentiments to add an extra element or decoration into your layout.
Using adhesives in your scrapbooking projects is essential as they bind each of your separate elements together, creating something whole. When selecting an adhesive, there are two key attributes you should look out for – that it's acid-free and photo-safe. Other than that, it's all down to preference. Generally when working with paper or card, you only require a basic PVA or a glue stick but, alternatively, some scrapbookers prefer to use glue dots or tape for a cleaner finish. Please see our Glues & Adhesives Guide for more information on the types available.
Cutting photos and papers down to size plays a large role in scrapbooking, and you'll require a cutting tool to do this. Available in many forms, this tool will allow you to cut clean, precise lines. Craft scissors are favoured for cutting out shapes and designs, usually coming with specially designed handles for support. Paper trimmers are another preference among scrapbookers as they provide the upmost accuracy when cutting perfectly straight lines, with the ability to cut through thick materials or several layers of card at once.
Journaling pens are what help turn a decorated photo album into a scrapbook. Instead of simply arranging photos in an appealing manner, scrapbooking should feature your notes and thoughts about your memories to accurately portray how you were feeling at that time in your life, writing about the memories that the photos bring back. These pens should have pigment ink, be acid-free, waterproof, fade-proof and non-bleeding to ensure the ink doesn't affect the rest of your scrapbook pages. Your handwritten scrawls will truly add that personal touch to your designs!
For added extras to really make your scrapbook pages stand out, embellishments are your solution. As they don't require much work, you generally just stick them on with glue, adorning your pages with a variety of decorative details. From brads, buttons, bows and gems to paper flowers, glitter, stickers and ribbons, you'll be sure to find that perfect addition to your designs – there's an incredible amount of embellishments to choose from. Embellishments are available in a variety of colourways, styles and themes for consistently coordinated finishing touches.
If you're feeling creative and want to decorate your pages further than cutting, sticking and jotting notes, we stock a great deal of other scrapbooking supplies that may well take your fancy!