Friday, September 24, 2010

Digital Scrapbooking 101: What IS Digital Scrapbooking?

Welcome to the wonderful world of digital scrapbooking!

If you’re coming from a paper scrapbooking background – where you combine paper, buttons, ribbons, and such with glue and scissors – the transition to digital scrapbooking will have definite benefits. For one thing, once you buy something to use digitally, you can use it over and over again. There is no limit to how many times you can use a brad or button in layouts. If you’re familiar with your photo-editing program, you can easily recolor embellishments to suit whatever theme you’re working with.

For another thing, digital scrapbooking is often less expensive, not only because you can re-use items but because digitally created items typically cost less than physical items.

Another benefit to digital scrapbooking is that you won’t need a large workspace or specialized tools like edging scissors or die-cut machines. All you’ll need is a computer with a photo editing program installed, and the know-how to use it.

If you’ve never scrapbooked before, digital scrapbooking can be better than paper scrapping because it’s easy to fix mistakes. Don’t want that button there? Move it over here! With paper scrapping, once you glue it on, it’s on. In the digital world, the handy “Undo” feature of photo-editing programs make it easy to reverse a decision, move an item, or start over completely, without wasting a thing.

One final benefit of digital scrapbooking over paper scrapping is that if you spill a drink on a paper page, it’s ruined; if you spill your drink on a digital page, you can re-print your page and replace it in the album. Paper pages also fade over time and lose color or brightness, especially if stored in a sunny area; digital pages may fade, but they are also replaceable.
So how does digital scrapbooking work? Basically, you create your layouts (also called “pages”) in your photo-editing program. In this tutorial, I will be using Photoshop CS3. Photoshop is a popular program among digital scrapbookers, but can be pricey. The less expensive version, Photoshop Elements, can also be used, but it won’t have the full functionality of Photoshop. Other scrappers use PaintShop Pro. You’ll find kits and other items to use in either programs at various sites around the web.

In this tutorial, I am using 12x12 (“full size”) kits. For full size kits, background papers should be 12 inches by 12 inches at 300 ppi (pixels per inch). Basically, the higher the pixels per inch value, the better quality the items will have close-up. Always zoom in to look at things at 100% size when digital scrapping! Elements and alphas can vary in size but should also be 300 ppi. Sometimes you’ll find items advertised as “dpi” which means “dots per inch” and is essentially the same as ppi for scrapbooking purposes.
“Elements,” also called “embellishments” can be anything that you can use for a paper scrapbook page, and more. They can be digital representations of things you’d ordinarily find in a paper scrap page, such as buttons, clips, or bottle caps, or they can be more abstract things. In Photoshop, you have brushes, which are options for the brush tool, in so many different shapes and sizes that it would be impossible for me to list here. For example, for Halloween I own brushes of witches, pumpkins, black cats, moons, stars, skulls, and more. If you were to buy stamps to provide all of those on a paper layout, it would cost a lot of money, but brushes that do the same thing in Photoshop cost much less. In fact, I bought many of my Halloween brushes in one set that cost under $10. And I’ll be able to use them indefinitely. A comparison to a brush would be a stamp used in paper scrapping; you would need a lot of physical storage space to keep the actual stamps, compared to brushes stored in your computer’s hard drive taking up no space at all.

You can also accomplish great effects when digitally scrapping that you wouldn’t be able to do via paper scrapping. For Photoshop, you can create or purchase “styles” which give your embellishments great effects at the click of the mouse. If you were paper scrapping, it could take hours to emboss something, but you can do it in Photoshop in about 10 seconds.

There are drawbacks to digital scrapbooking over paper scrapbooking. Many people enjoy using their hands and having something physical to show off (although with digital scrapbooking, typically you print the finished layouts at an online site and put them in an album, so you do still have a finished physical product). For many scrappers, the tactile feel of creating something is more important than the finished product. Also, a printed digital layout lacks that three-dimensional appeal of a paper scrap page with its various textures and finishes.

There are various ways to start a layout. Some scrappers begin with a background “paper” which is a 12x12 patterned image. A good paper should have some kind of texture when you’re zoomed in at 100% magnification. You don’t want a completely smooth finish because the printed layout won’t look as realistic.

Other scrappers begin with the picture that they want to use, and build the layout around the picture. Still others have a theme in mind – for example, fall festival – and choose a picture, paper, and elements to fit that theme.

Next time: How do I Get Started?

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