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Scrapbooking styles aren't yet definable in a truly formal sense. Instead, they're as individual as the scrapbookers themselves, and scrappers are constantly experimenting with new looks and techniques. But to give you a feel for what's going on in the scrapbooking world, here are some general style categories. By looking at them, you might discover which one (or more) of these styles resonates best with your own general style preferences.

You may choose to try a shutterbug, an artist's, or a classical style, or decide instead to use a craft, shabby-chic, heritage, modern, or pop approach. Like other scrapbookers, as you gain experience, you soon adopt and adapt these and many other different looks, and in the process, develop a style that you can call your own.

Adjusting your focus: A spotlight on the photographer

Many people are drawn to scrapbooking because they like taking really good photographs. You can tell by glancing at their albums that the photos are what matter to them. Their pages prioritize the photo or photos, and they tend to accessorize minimally — if at all. The base pages in their scrapbooks may be used more as backgrounds for the photos than for design elements. Plain papers in low-key colors and patterns are the norm, with the photos taking up most of the page real estate.

The photos on the shutterbug scrapbooker's pages aren't necessarily extra large — as many as six or seven smaller photos may be used on a page. Moreover, the photos are of good quality. They're well-lit close-ups or carefully cropped photographs that draw the eye to essential elements in the picture.

If you like the discerning photographer style, you may decide to journal on journaling blocks placed next to the photos on a one- or two-page layout or even do your journaling on a completely separate page. When you make a two-page spread, for example, you can place the photos on the left-hand page and the story (or stories) that go with those photos on the right-hand page. You may even want the journaling entries to be handwritten on paper adhered to a mat over the same base-page paper you used for the left-hand page.

Don't expect to use each and every photograph that you thought would fit well in your album. Choose photos that have the most significance for you and your audience and then count them so you can determine an approximate number of pages you'll be making for that album.

Analyzing the artist

Looking through a scrapbook artist's albums is like taking a stroll through a museum. Artistry, and not mere handicraft, is predominant on the pages. Scrapbookers often use tools and techniques that artists use, including acrylic paints and even watercolors. At the same time, they make certain that their materials are archival-safe.

Scrapbooking manufacturers, following the trend toward fine arts in scrapbooking, have begun repurposing art-supply products like acrylic paints, chalks, watercolors, inks, and colored pencils for the scrapbooker-as-artist design style.

Scrapbook artists who work in the fine-art end of the scrapbook spectrum may reveal their artistic proclivities in a variety of ways. One artist may focus on photo tinting exceptionally lovely black-and-white photographs. Another may concentrate on some aspect of design layout, sketching with pencils, paints, and other tools, doing intricate paper designs, or working with some other innovative technique — anything that fits into the artistic style that has done so much to enhance the reputation of scrapbooking as an art form.

Creating classics

In general, a classic transcends historical fads and fashions. Picture a classic car, identify a classic film, recall the title and tone of a classic novel, or listen to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. As is true in other classical forms, the classical scrapbook style exudes timelessness, aims for a clean, uncluttered look, and uses traditional design elements, such as straight, balanced photo mats and frames (rather than playful, tilted ones), a minimum of accessories, fewer stickers, and often more journaling in black rather than colored inks and in an unpretentious rather than a busy font (if typed) or in clear, precise handwriting. A tasteful page of a scrapbook created in a classical style has a wide, if not universal, appeal that's common with other things classical.

Cropping with the crafty

If you like crafts, craft accouterments, and detail, you'll like the craft style in scrapbooking. Craft-oriented scrapbookers typically include crafting mediums such as wooden charms, yarns, and fabrics on their pages, and they like to use traditional craft techniques such as stitching, paper weaving, and stenciling.

The craft style is about handiwork, about mixing and matching a variety of elements, about light-heartedness, and to some extent, about tapping into an overarching Americana craft tradition that is easier for most of us to recognize than it is to define. A crafter loves to use a gingham-patterned paper and adhere some little wooden slats on top of it to make a picket fence. Often, the crafty page gets its message across more with materials than with journaling and photos, but that depends, of course, on the preferences of the individual scrapbooker.

Doing shabby chic

Shabby-chic albums feel comfortable, cozy, and homey. The look is vintage and worn (the look of old cracked china and furniture that's been lightly sandpapered). Shabby-chic scrappers use plenty of tendrils, flowers, and pastels in the form of papers, stickers, die-cuts, and other embellishments. Torn, stitched, and inked papers are commonly found in these albums, and so are pastel, solid, and patterned papers.

Shabby-chic pages are eclectic and fun. As you can see, the shabby-chic style often features journaling tags, eyelets and laces, chalk techniques, and crumpled papers. Computer-generated fonts that suggest early 20th-century handwriting styles commonly are used for journaling in shabby-chic scrapbook layouts.

Handling the heritage style

Personal-history (featuring one person) and family-history albums are considered heritage albums and make use of the design elements typically used in the heritage scrapbook style. Personal-history heritage albums differ from illustrated family-history albums in that they include more than just the facts and basic photos, but both include birth, marriage, and death dates of ancestors and other family members. Personal-history albums instead only imply heritage through design, themes, memorabilia, and other scrapbook elements in addition to the photos. Colors tend to be muted rather than bright, and designs include crinkled papers, pieces of lace, and other materials that suggest age and historical context.

Because a personal-history heritage album contains all the information you can garner about someone's life, journaling is more extensive than in the more recordlike, illustrated family history, or family tree, album. Whenever possible, use your own handwriting and choose the highest quality papers and journaling pens with black pigment-based ink.

Making it modern

Albums in the modern style often demonstrate interesting uses of lines and shapes. Think of modern furniture with sparse lines or of modern art that relies heavily on hard edges and geometric shapes and angles to create its images. In a modern scrapbook layout, the designs look clean and usually are executed with a few well-placed lines or shapes. The modern look in scrapbooking tends to include geometric shapes, angular lines, and bold colors.

As you'd expect, accessories are downplayed (if used at all) on a modern scrapbook page. Journaling, however, may be another matter. Again, scrapbookers who prioritize journaling always find ways to incorporate it, even on modern pages. They may, for example, tuck a folded sheet of journaled text into a sleek, geometrical page pocket they've adhered to their modern layouts.

Playing with pop

Pop style is what you might expect — edgy, fun, contemporary, with plenty of little metal doodads (like eyelets and brads) punched through the papers. Pop scrapbookers use the newest and most innovative products — metal frames and charms, fibers, beads, brads, and buttons.

Some pop scrapbook stylists (emphasize some) tend to minimize journaling text on their pages, replacing the words that tell their stories with symbols and images — a tendency that we generally associate with the image-based pop culture. A pop scrapper may, for example, use a miniature metal baseball and bat to emphasize and symbolize the importance of the pastime instead of writing extensively about it. These techniques and embellishments attract people (by the droves) to the pop scrapper's pages.

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