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From the Archives: 10 Scrapbooking Techniques

I am super duper sick and so today I'm giving you a post from the Balzer Designs archives.  This one was originally posted on July 21, 2008.  And the amazing thing is that four years later, I still agree with every single point!  Enjoy!

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Today I thought I'd share 10 techniques that I use on almost every scrapbooking layout I make...

1. Ink the edges of the photos.  Several years ago I read an interview in Scrapbooks Etc. where the designer said that she inked the edges of all of her photos.  I had long inked the edges of my paper, but it had never occurred to me to ink the edges of my photos!  It's amazing how a black ink pad run along the side of your photo just makes it pop!  If you look at my layouts, virtually every single one has inked photos!

2. Turn it upside down.  When a layout is not quite coming together or when I'm putting down embellishments, I often turn my layout upside down.  Why?  Because it allows you to see the design of the page.  It sounds silly, but give it a try.  I think you'll be surprised!

3. Use a ruler to draw those lines.  I'm a fairly freestyle girl.  And I do lots and lots of things on the fly.  In fact, I rarely use a paper trimmer.  I cut most things by hand. I like that off-kilter, organic look.  But when it comes to journaling, I almost always draw guides.  I believe (and I have no formal art training, so it's purely my own conjecture) that text must be easy to read and visually pleasing (i.e. relatively symmetrical) or it will throw off the entire layout.  At least that's my experience.  So I use a mechanical pencil and a quilting ruler to draw my lines.  I write my journaling and then use a big white eraser to get rid of those lines.

4. Employ a color wheel.  About two years ago, I bought a color wheel.  I wanted to improve my scrapbooking and felt that I was stuck in a rut with my color choices.  I figured that a color wheel would help push me out of that rut.  I was right.  I will admit that it has become second nature to me now, but for the first year and a bit, I pulled that color wheel out for every single layout.  I try to push myself to use color combinations that aren't necessarily instinctive.  Although I mostly do it by instinct these days, my color wheel still sits on my desk and I will turn to it whenever I need some inspiration.

5. Kick it up a notch.  When I was growing up, my mother always used to ask me, "What is going to make this perfectly fine 'B' paper into an 'A' paper?"  She taught me to do more than "enough."  To really think about what the little something extra might be.  I have translated that idea to my scrapbooking.  Sometimes a layout is fine, but it's not special.  So, I look and think and try to figure out what will kick it up a notch and make it great!  Oftentimes it's something small.  A little embellishment, a dash of color, a bit of doodling.

6. Use the Coco Chanel rule.  Coco Chanel famously said that before you leave the house, you should look at yourself in the mirror and take off the first thing you notice.  This will ensure that you're never wearing too many accessories.  I have a tendency to keep poking at a layout or trying to make something work that isn't.  Sometimes I fall in love with an embellishment or a patterned paper or an idea and I'm loathe to let it go.  But, if it's visually pulling the layout, it's time to bite the bullet and get rid of it.  Even when it's really cool.  I can always use it in some way on another layout, right?

7. Always have a black pen and a white pen handy.  I use them to outline and "inline" letters, photos, embellishments, prints, etc.  I cannot scrap without my black and white pens.  Whenever a layout looks a bit unfinished, I find that a doodle dot or a bit of pen work makes it look complete.

8. Remember, it's only paper.  So take a risk!  I'll be honest. This is one of the things that I have to repeat to myself out loud.  It's hard to cut into that gorgeous paper or snip that embellishment in half or cover all that work with paint.  But if you never take a risk you can never achieve greatness.  I really believe that.  You can do things well.  And even very well.  But everything spectacular comes from trial and error and lots of failure.  In my work life I tell my actors to "fail gloriously."  It's a phrase I've taken to heart in my scrapbooking.  Be brave.  You can't ever get better if you're afraid to try.

9. Figure out the story first.  Oftentimes I'm in a big hurry to try out a technique or use some fun new paper and I just start slapping stuff together.  And that is lots of fun.  But more often than not, I don't like the final results.  However, I find that if I take a few moments and really think about what I'm trying to say, the story I'm trying to tell, the layout comes together more quickly and looks better.  Because everything - the photos, the design, the paper, the embellishments, the journaling - is pointing towards a single idea.

10. Ground it.  Don't let things float on your page.  Some people do this instinctively.  For others, it takes a while to get the idea.  But the number one thing that makes a page look "off" is when things are visually floating.  It's hard for me to describe in words, so here's a visual...

Design

You can see that everything - the photos, the journaling, the embellishments -- it's all floating on the page.  The pieces of the layout aren't relating to each other in any way.  There are many ways to fix this but the two easiest are...

(a) Ground It

Design-2.1

Everything is in the exact same place, I just grounded everything with the addition of the large circle (see how it touches all the elements and brings them together visually?) and the ribbon.

(b) Group Them

Design-3.1

These are the exact same components as the first two examples, but I've rearranged them.  By simply grouping everything together, the elements stop floating.  They relate to each other because of their proximity.

So, I make sure to use one of these two methods on virtually every layout I do.  And if something looks weird, I can usually fix it by utilizing one of these two techniques!

How about you?  Do you have a great tip or technique that you use every day?  I'd love to hear it!

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