Thursday, October 21, 2010

DigiScrapping 101 - Getting Started

Getting started

You’ve decided that you would like to give digital scrapping a try. Where to start?

There are many sites out there to purchase digital scrapbooking kits and individual items. Here’s a list of general terms.
“Papers” – these are the background images for your layouts. They should be 12x12 inches (although there are some folks out there who use 8x8, 12x12 is standard) and 300 dpi.

“Elements” or “Embellishments” – these are the various items that you combine with photographs to create layouts. These can be buttons, brads, frames, swirls, or a variety of other items. Generally, if you’re buying a full digiscrapping kit, you want to look for a nice variety of elements. Some kits will have the same item colored several different colors – unless there’s more than 20 elements in the kit, steer clear of these. You don’t want to pay a lot of money for a kit, only to find two or three items in different colors and that’s it. The whole point of digital scrapbooking is to be able to reuse the supplies – if you’ve only got a few different items, that point is moot.

“Alpha” – this is a set of alphabet letters in a theme. The letters might be broken out into their own files, one for each letter, or it might just be one page with the whole alphabet on it. You’ll decide which format you like better as you work more with digital scrapbooking.

“Templates” or “Quickpages” are useful tools if you have a photo you want to scrap with but aren’t sure what you want to do, or you want a particular theme and don’t have the supplies to do it. Many new digiscrappers start with templates so they can learn the basics of good positioning, using negative space, and so on. If you want to try templates or quickpages, look around and find a designer’s work that you like, and stick with that designer until you feel comfortable trying others.
Here are some general things to watch out for:

Design Quality

If a designer isn’t paying close attention when creating elements, it can be very easy to lose a pixel here or there, or have a pixel up off in the blank space that shouldn’t be there. She may not even notice and then will sell the kit and you, the buyer, wind up with incomplete items. If this happens, try contacting the designer to see about getting a revised replacement item. We all make mistakes! But if you buy a designer’s work more than once and see it happen again, I would scratch that designer off your list.
Most reputable designers these days have a quality checking procedure that they use on all of their items. I personally use a Quality Check-Me action for Photoshop that checks for stray pixels, drop shadows, blurriness at 100%, and dpi. When I first started designing, I wasn’t aware that things that look good at 16% magnification won’t look that great at 100%, and so on. It takes designers some time to learn things as they go; give a designer the benefit of the doubt if you see her work improving. If you like a certain designer but have noticed quality problems, see if she gives out freebies and download and monitor her progress. She just might clean up her act and produce some great product these days!

Piracy is serious business in the digital scrapbooking world. Programs like Photoshop are so capable these days that it is fairly easy to create realistic-looking items such as buttons, brads, bows, and so on. It can be easy for two designers’ elements to look similar, although if the items are identical something is probably fishy. Don’t be quick to scream “pirate!” unless you are very sure that the designer’s work is not her own. Also, she may be using someone else’s work with permission; check her terms of use (TOU) or readme file if you are unsure.
There are loads of unscrupulous people on the internet who trade digiscrap items on blogs, sharing websites, and the like. If you are a freebie hunter, that’s perfectly fine; if you know that you are downloading pirated work as a freebie, that is NOT fine. Should you download a freebie and read in the TOU file that it is not meant to be given away as a freebie, you are committing piracy by using that item. Likewise, you should never give other people your digiscrap items, especially if you got them for free; you just don’t know where the item originally came from.

Many freebie sharers say “What’s the harm?” in distributing pirated material. Yes, digiscrap items are created by hobbyists and designers, usually in their own homes. Many of them, however, are doing it as a business, not just for fun. Would you want to spend hours creating something to sell, for your own income, only to see people sharing it amongst each other so that no one has to pay money for it? It’s not right, but it happens often. Don’t enable it.

Commercial Use

If you decide to try your hand at designing your own items, or even giving things away for free, and you use someone else’s work to do it, make sure that that designer has granted you a Commercial Use license. That means that they authorize you to use their work to create your own work to sell. Most designers generally won’t allow others to give their work away for free, so in general giving away other designers’ kits or elements is considered bad form.

Now that you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, where can you go to get good quality kits? There are many sites out there on the Internet where you can purchase items. In general, you will want a Paypal account ( with which to pay at these sites; Paypal protects your financial information and identity in interaction with online merchants. You typically have to have a credit card to sign up with Paypal, but you would need one otherwise to purchase items online.

Designs in Digital (
Divine Digital (
My Life & Scrap (
LogYourMemory (

Ebay and Etsy are not, in my opinion, places to get high quality, non-pirated, digital scrapbooking materials. I have seen many items for sale on those sites that are copyrighted material – for example, The Little Mermaid from Disney, complete with the named characters. Disney is well-known for persecuting copyright infringement, even amongst the little people. They do not take copyright violations well. The bottom line is, if you MUST have that Little Mermaid kit in order to create some invitations for your 7-year-old’s birthday party, just know that you’re breaking the law by buying it, and if you place any layout with copyrighted characters in a gallery online, you may be subject to criminal penalties.

Ebay and Etsy are also not typically quality checked or policed by anti-piracy groups. At the stores where I sell my items, there are Quality Control teams that review every item in my kits for missing and stray pixels, drop shadows, and more. If an item isn’t good enough for the store to sell, they won’t put it up for sale – and yes, I have had items turned away by the QC team until I could fix the issues. A Quality Control team is a good thing when you’re spending your hard-earned money on fabricated items.

Next time: How to build a layout


  1. Thanks Maitri. I did not know any such thing as "check me" actions existed. I just bought one and will give it a try. Thanks for your part of the train too. It's great! Hugs, Edna B.

  2. Such wonderful kits, thank you for sharing these darling gifts.