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Before you start a scrapbook, spend some time planning it. Start by collecting items for your scrapbook, and organizing your materials and thoughts so that your finished scrapbooks have the look you want.

Deciding on your scrapbook's purpose

Some people scrapbook because they love the craft. Others care more about highlighting their current family events — for the enjoyment of those living now. Still other scrapbookers focus on preservation and the archival aspects of scrapbooking — always thinking about how long their albums will last.

Understanding your general and specific purposes for scrapbooking focuses your decisions about the direction of your work. The following list helps you determine what your own purpose or purposes for scrapbooking may be:

  • Documenting events and milestones: Scrapbookers make pages and albums about every conceivable event and life milestone. The industry creates themed products that work well with all your events. Whether you want to scrap graduations, birthdays, confirmations, weddings, or travels, you can find stickers, stamps, and plenty of other materials to go on your pages.
  • Focusing on individual biographies: Perhaps you want to scrapbook the life of one family member, an illustrious ancestor or some relative who lived in an interesting historical era.
  • Giving a gift or gratitude book: You can make a mini scrapbook album relatively quickly to give as a gift for a special event (such as a birthday or anniversary), to say thank you, or just because you want to help someone feel better.
  • Illustrating an autobiography: Some of the best scrapbook albums are illustrated autobiographies. No one knows the details of your life as well as you do.
  • Promoting healing: Many a scrapbook served as therapy for people experiencing pain, suffering, and loss by reminding them of the many wonderful experiences they and their loved ones have had and of the sheer fullness and diversity of their lives. The terminally ill often scrapbook their own lives, and many people scrapbook the lives of lost loved ones.
  • Recording an illustrated family history: These albums are like glorified genealogies that chart a family's history as far back as possible.
  • Setting examples: Your purpose may be to use scrapbooks as places where you can make your voice heard and where you can influence your children, your grandchildren, and many others. With photos and journaling, the albums you make document your own and your family's travels, successes, school activities, relocations, deaths, and other experiences that illustrate life's challenges and triumphs.

Choosing memorabilia and photos for your scrapbook

At the backs of drawers and shelves or somewhere tucked away in the corners and crevices of a garage, attic, or closet, you have a hidden treasure that we call your M and Ps — your personal and family memorabilia and photographs. When you begin scrapbooking, just finding your M and Ps may require a major effort. But be resolute! Press forward! Your goal is to gather all the memorabilia and photographs together in one place — the bigger the place, the better. Try Print File's drop-front, metal-edge containers for this initial gathering effort. Professional photographers and museums use these lignin-free, acid-free boxes — which range in size from 8-1/2 x 10 inches to 20 x 24 inches and are priced from $10 to $19.95. You can order them direct online at Printfile.

You don't want to store your M and P treasures in just any big cardboard box you find in the garage. Corrugated material in some of those boxes is not good for your photos, and even though your intentions are noble, you may not get all of those M and Ps out of the box and into archival-safe photo boxes or page protectors straightaway.

Your memorabilia can include anything you've saved that's small enough to put in a scrapbook: matchbooks, airline tickets, keys, house deeds, and so on. Collecting memorable items can add dimension to your daily life. When you're constantly on the lookout, you come upon memorabilia stuck in the most unlikely spots — and probably smile or shed a few tears as you put an item in your memorabilia holding place.

After you put all the photographs and memorabilia you can find in the same place, you need to go begging. Ask family members and friends for photos or negatives you may want to use but don't have. Negatives are better because both parties then can hold on to the photos. Whenever possible, make prints from negatives rather than copies of photos because photos made from negatives always are clearer than copies of photographs.

If you're missing documents, such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, call the counties where the events took place. County officials usually are glad to send you copies of the documents you need for a nominal fee.

Creating a cohesive scrapbook

As you get ready to select the items you want to put into a particular scrapbook, ask yourself this question: Does this item contribute to or detract from the unified look of the album? Unity is as critical in scrapbooking as it is in any creative work. You want your scrapbook to look cohesive and to convey a sense of purpose and order. You achieve unity when each part of your scrapbook becomes essential to the whole.

Following the suggestions we give you in the list that follows can help you narrow your item choices and ensure that you choose items that contribute to the unified look of your album.

  • Decide on a theme. Choose the event or experience that you want to scrapbook @ -- your infamous vacation, for example. Find all the M and Ps from that vacation and put them into page protectors. Then you can select an album (think of the album as your first item) that goes with your vacation theme.
    Just because you put all the big vacation M and Ps into your page protectors doesn't mean that you're going to use all of them in your scrapbook. The selection process is about refining and sifting through the many to finally decide on a choice few.
  • Select the same photographic look. "Photographic look" doesn't mean that all photos you use in your album are exactly the same size or that they all have exactly the same colors. But if you want to create a historic, old-world look with black-and-white photos, use black-and-white pictures throughout the album. As a general rule, using black-and-white photos alongside color photos doesn't contribute to the unified feel that an album needs. But modern scrapbook stylists experiment with breaking a rule and do so successfully. Scrapbooking is full of rule-breakers.
  • Choose a color scheme. You may get ideas for your color palette from your album cover, from one or a series of your photographs, or from some other source.
  • Choose memorabilia related to your purpose and storyline. Look at all the memorabilia that may go into your album and then use the items that best complement the purpose, theme, story, photographs, and colors you've decided to use. A mix of types of memorabilia can add interest: maps and other flat items on some pages and bulkier items on others.
  • Use materials consistently. Choose stickers, papers, and other materials that go well with your photos and memorabilia, the colors in your palette, and each other. Careful thought when making these choices pays off big time in the finished album. Pick an ink color (or colors) for journaling that complements the M and Ps and other items on your pages, and make sure you use quality materials like journaling pens with pigment-based inks.
    Just because you bought out the scrapbook store doesn't mean that you have to use everything in one album. Gather a few goodies that coordinate with your theme and color scheme and have at it! Make it fun and keep it simple, especially when this is your first album. Even seasoned scrappers get carried away when choosing album materials.

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