Digital Scrapbooking for Beginners 101

Digital Scrapbooking for Newbies!

I started paper scrapbooking around 2003 when I wanted to make a family memory book with a bunch of old photos I found in a family album. The photos were in one of those old albums that weren’t preserving the photos very well, plus they were starting to fall out. At that time, paper scrapbooking was very popular and I really loved working with all the beautiful papers and embellishments that were available. The problem became that all that stuff took up room and after a day of creating, the cleanup was a pain. However, my creations were very satisfying and the resulting albums became family treasures.

Once I discovered “Digital Scrapbooking”, I was hooked! It was the perfect hobby to combine my love of computers, photography, genealogy, and art. Back in 2005, digital scrapbooking was an emerging new craze that has evolved into the art form it is today and is as popular as ever. Anybody can do it and best of all, there are lots of resources out there if you have an inquiring mind. With film cameras almost a thing of the past, digital cameras (be they on phones or whatever), have evolved to the point that you can take good quality photos of almost anything. It seems a waste to leave those photos in the bowels of an electronic device when they can be scrapped into a memorable piece of art that can be preserved for future generations!

What is Digital Scrapbooking?

Simply put, it is the term “for the creation of a new 2D artwork by re-combining various graphic elements. It is a form of scrapbooking that is done using a personal computer, digital or scanned photos and computer graphics software.” (Wikipedia)

What is cool about the skills you learn while digital scrapbooking, is that you can apply them to other things you create like posters, invitations, labels, cards, etc.

Why Digital Scrapbooking?

  • No mess to clean up!
  • You can use papers and elements over and over again as long as you keep the original files intact.
  • Once you learn your graphics program, you can customize your paper and elements any way you want.
  • Finished projects are easy to copy and share with family and friends!
  • Shopping is easy! By downloading your purchases, you can use them quickly without leaving home.
  • Finished pages can either be printed at home and placed in an album, or by using an online printing service.
  • If you still like to scrapbook the old-fashioned way with paper, you can incorporate digital pages into your layout. This is called “Hybrid Scrapbooking”. I still do this with incredible results.
  • There are no mistakes that you can’t fix……best of all, you don’t waste supplies!!

How do I get started?

  • If you have a computer you are good to go. (I’m assuming that you also have a mouse, keyboard, etc. as well)
  • Software – this is where your biggest investment will be depending on what you plan to do.
    • Photoshop Elements – for most digital scrap bookers, this software is amazing and easy to use. It’s very simple to edit photos and use scrapbook kits to create amazing layouts which is why it’s become such popular program that so many scrapbookers use. There are lots of resources and tutorials out there specifically for this software so the learning curve is not so long. I have personally used Photoshop Elements since version 3 and have been very pleased with the many improvements made over the years. This software is a less complicated version of the professional program (see next) that has been geared towards the average consumer, but with lots of the same amazing features.  The price point is around $129 (CA) for the program (I never purchase the Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements combo because it costs extra and I only want the Photoshop Elements part of the package). I like this software because most kits are compatible with it and I’ve never had a problem findiong resources and tutorials written specifically for Elements whenever I wanted to know how to do something. You can even download a trial version from Adobe to see if you like it before committing to purchasing it.
    • Adobe Photoshop CS 2-6 or CC (Creative Cloud) – This is the profession version of Photoshop Elements that graphic professionals and digital scrapbooking designers generally use. Version CS6 is the last that you can buy out of the box because the CS versions are no longer supported, which means there are no more updates or bug fixes. I am lucky that I have version CS3 that works well for the few times I need it and use Elements the rest of the time. On the other hand, the Creative Cloud option is available via subscription. The cost is from $9.99 up to$79.98 US per month. I personally don’t like this option because you just keep on paying and don’t have a physical product, however, you do get the most up to date version, support, tutorials, etc. It is purely a personal choice that depends what you plan to do with it.
    • Corel PaintShop Pro – I don’t have any experience with this software because I found that most graphics (papers and elements, templates, quick pages, etc.) were created within the photoshop realm, and didn’t find much online support or resources for this program at the time I started scrapbooking. It may have changed, since then, but I will stick with Elements. However, current reviews suggest that if you don’t have a preference for Adobe and don’t want to pay a subscription, that this might be a program to consider. The price point of $79.99 is quite reasonable.
    • If you are inclined to prefer programs that are strictly for scrapbooking, easy to use and save time, programs like My Memories Suite or MemoryMixer may be a consideration These programs have pre-designed templates and kits in a variety of themes, are cheaper and are geared strictly for scrapbooking. In Photoshop Elements, you have full control over your designs and layouts and have the addition of excellent photo editing capabilities. There are also free options like GIMP and Paint.NET. Both these programs are often compared to Photoshop because of some of their capabilities. If you don’t want to make a software investment just yet, this is a great option. Who knows, this may be enough for what you want to do!

Now What?

So, you’ve got the computer and software. Perfect! Time to get started. It may look daunting, but a good place to start is by downloading a free mini kit and actually start scrapping. I’ve included a small mini kit you can download here for that purpose. Play around with it and start creating. If you want to share, I’d love to see what you do with it!!


As you slowly delve into the world of digital scrapbooking, you will find that there are lots of places to find digital goodies on the internet. In fact, you can go a bit crazy downloading all the freebies just because they are free and never get to actual scrapbooking.  I fell into that trap when I first started and ended up with stuff I will never use and take up a lot of hard drive space. After some massive housecleaning, I ended up buying an external hard drive that I use strictly for digital scrapbooking purposes and backups, so don’t download stuff you will never use.

**(A word of caution that some freebies can be downloaded from questionable sites and may contain viruses, spybots, etc.)

Next step is to check out the many resources and tutorials that are available to teach you the basics. I’ve included some links below to help you get started. There weren’t as many available when I first began digiscrapping and now find that they keep changing as techniques adjust to software updates. Whatever software you choose, there are resources to go with them.

How do you come up with layout ideas?

Everyone is unique in their own creativity, but sometimes you need inspiration to get the creative juices flowing.

  • Quick Pages – these are pages that are already done….you just have to add your photo and maybe a few extra embellishments or journaling to spruce them up and customize them for your particular purpose ! There are some lovely quick pages out there, both individual pages as well as in album form. These are especially handy if you are in a hurry and want to get a project done in a timely manner.

quick page sample


  • Templates or page sketches – These are great for creating layouts in that they are like blueprints……they give you an idea where photos should go on a page as well as embellishments, journaling, titles, etc. The difference between the two of them is that templates generally come in layered files (mostly .psd, though they can be flat .png files), while sketches are just an example of how a layout could be created. You have to pick papers and elements and create a page based on the sketch.  Sometimes designers will include actual layouts so you can see how they can be utilized. The great thing about these is that you are only limited by your imagination. The downside to the template is that not everyone knows how to use layered templates, but there are good tutorials to remedy that.

  • Scraplifting – if you are experiencing a creative slump, one of the best ways to get over it is to study what others have done and copy their design and put your own spin on it. There is nothing wrong with this practice unless you plan to post publicly. Please credit the designer if you plan to do this!!
    • Pinterest – lots of ideas to spark your imagination and get your creative juices going
  • Classes – sometimes taking a class with others is just the place to get inspiration as well as learn new techniques


Lots has happened in the digital scrapbooking world since I took my break from scrapping and designing in 2010. Software has gone through several version upgrades resulting in outdated tutorials and several of my favorite stores, designers and blogs disappearing. However, new ones are popping up to replace those as fresh talent and different trends emerge. Pinterest and YouTube have become goto places for ideas, resources and information.

Through it all, my style and tastes remain simple and more traditional as I concentrate on the story-telling aspect of scrapbooking, though I can still appreciate the artform this wonderful hobby has transformed into. There are no rules to creativity (except stealing someone else’s work and claiming it as your own without giving credit), possibilities are endless and in the end, you are leaving a piece of yourself behind that tells a story which will be appreciated for generations to come.

Scrapbooking Resources:

Getting Started in Digital Scrapbooking– .pdf eBook from Designer Digitals

Scrapbooks Gone Digital: GIMP text and video tutorials

GingerScraps – Program/Software Tutorials and Questions Forum

Digital Scrapper tutorials: Photoshop Elements (Formerly Scrapper’s Guide)

ScrapGirls beginner’s tutorials

Traci Reed Design

Club Scrap tutorials

The Daily Digi tutorials

Get It Scrapped -subscription based

Photoshop Tips and Tricks – Kate Hadfield


Scrappers Workshop


Becky Higgins

Cool How To’s

Making it Real with Shadows-6 Ways to Add Shadows to Clusters – Jennifer White

Gimp: How to add and clip papers in a template – Tracee Reed Design

Learn how to face swap! – Janelle Van Leuven

Printing Digital Layouts


Persnickety Prints


Presto Photo



National Photo Lab







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