Let Me Tell You: The Essentials of Basic Scrapbooking

I’ve been scrapbooking for eight years when brads were only found in office supply stores. I was pre-Xyron days and eyelets were used in making clothes, not scrapbook pages. So I have come to realize that not every product is a necessity and it all depends on how you approach the hobby. My approach is about the “book” part of scrapbooking. I don’t want anything to take away from my photos and the story they tell. That is the real reason to scrapbook. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Scrapbooking is about having fun creating a little piece of memorabilia whether for family or friends. But to do that, you need the proper supplies.

So here’s the beginner’s list. If you must know, after eight years of trial and error, it’s also my only list. I don’t spend money on anything else.
You will need: 1. an album
2. adhesive
3. paper
4. embellishments
5. journaling pens
6. cutting system
7. storage
I know it looks like a lot but we are going to narrow the field quite a bit. I’m going to tell you what you need. I’m not going to beat around the bush and say “you can get what you want”. If you want all the guess work taken out, then you can follow my advice, the advice of the Scrapbook Nazi. (You vill do vhat I say und you vill like it!) Or you can adapt some of these tips if you feel more comfortable in your skills as a scrapbooker or paper crafter.

An Album
Albums come in a variety of sizes and the size of your album will determine the size of your paper. The type of your album will determine whether you need cardstock or not. The Scrapbook Nazi says, “Buy the 12 X 12 size with a strap hinge mechanism.” Strap hinge albums are the easiest to add refill pages to and can expand to almost twice their original size. Do NOT buy a post bound album. They never allow you to expand the album and the ones that do are challenging to take apart and put back together.

The 12 X 12 size is the most available and common size which means you will have a greater variety of papers and embellishments from which to choose. I will concede that 8 Ã?½ X 11 is a good size, too, but for beginners, Bigger is Better. Don’t get sucked into the small size albums right away! You need to practice your techniques before you start limiting the space you have to play in. You will need space for a few embellishments, a headline or title, but mostly for journaling. Remember, you’re making a book.

The Scrapbook Nazi orders you, “Not to buy Glue sticks of any kind!” Yes, they are cheap and yes, they are photo safe and acid free but don’t waste your money. Glue sticks are messy and unforgiving. Try NOT getting fingerprints on your photos when your fingers are all sticky from the glue.

I highly recommend an investment in a refillable tape runner. These plastic devices deliver a ribbon of double stick tape wherever you want it. It forms a strong bond and you don’t need to put it everywhere. Just a few swipes into the corners and middle of a photo and it’s ready to stick down. They take a little practice to use but you will be saving time in the long run. And remember I said, refillable. If you can’t refill the tape by popping open the plastic case, don’t get it. Make sure you can use it over and over again.

This is where the Scrapbook Nazi is good to have in your corner because there is no single essential that confuses beginners more that the paper aisle in the craft store. But believe me, simple is the way to go here. Don’t lose your head or your retirement fund in this aisle.

Paper is made by a gazillion different manufacturers who also make cute little stickers and embellishments to go with them. But if you can keep these few things in mind, you won’t be overstocked on paper you’ll never use.
1. Size: Remember what the Nazi said about album size. Same here. Get the paper that matches your album size. 12 X 12. See, easy.
2. Cardstock?: Here’s where a lot of beginners get messed up. Cardstock is a heavy weight paper used primarily as the actual page of the album. Some albums already have pages in them. By a page, I mean, an actual piece of paper that you can attach your photos to, not the plastic sleeves. If your album only has plastic sleeves, you need to buy cardstock as your base page. Otherwise, don’t buy cardstock; it’s too heavy for embellishment purposes. The Scrapbook Nazi says, “Plastic sleeves need cardstock. Real pages, don’t.”
3. Patterns: The Scrapbook Nazi says, “To start, buy only three pieces of patterned paper.” Why? Because patterned paper when used in great quantity on a page can be a distraction from your photos and journaling. It’s nice as a border or an embellishment even as a mat for your photos but don’t go crazy. Themed paper is the same thing! You don’t need a paper for every holiday. Red works for Valentine’s Day and for Christmas. Get it? Use solid colors in varying shades. Solid colors rock!
4. Pre-Printed paper: “Don’t ever buy pages with a large pre-printed embellishment on it” the Scrapbook Nazi says. I’ve discovered more often than not, my pictures never fit into a preprinted frame or the large flower is in the wrong corner. Don’t be fooled! You can create your own focal interest using scraps of paper.

So to sum up the essential that is paper, you need to keep in mind four things. Be aware of the size of paper you need, whether your album requires you to buy cardstock, don’t buy a lot of patterns or paper that says “insert photo here”.

This essential group is the most diverse of the scrapbooking world and scrapbookers have varying ideas on its value. This group can give those solid colors a little personality, a little pick-me-up, but vary widely in their expense. Embellishments range from stickers and die cuts to eyelets and ribbon. They can be flat or 3-D. So how do you narrow your focus in such a wide field?

The Scrapbook Nazi says in a loud voice, “Go with stickers and brads and forget everything else!” Yes, you heard me right, forget everything else. When you’ve made an album or feel confident that you really can make a page just like the one you saw in that magazine, you can buy a different kind of embellishment. But for now, you will only use stickers and brads.

Eyelets are overrated in my opinion. You see them in so many professional layouts but here’s what you don’t know. Eyelets require a special punch and setter to attach them. Another added expense. It’s also a noisy and sometimes frustrating process. I have tried them on several different occasions using several different setters and was never happy with the result. Follow the Scrapbook Nazi’s advice on this one. I have yet to find a use for an eyelet that a brad cannot fulfill.

Brads are those thumbtack-like paper holders you usually find in office supply stores. You punch a small hole, insert the brad, fold back the tabs and you’re done. I recommend a small (1/8 inch) hole punch since you can’t push the brad through the heavy cardstock papers.

Stickers are wonderful embellishments. They are the most basic, useful and yet underrated embellishment of all. I am the Goddess of Stickers, Sticker Queen, to my sisters. And I am an example of going overboard with buying stickers I will probably never use. So the Scrapbook Nazi says, “Why are you buying that sticker sheet?” If you don’t have a current project the stickers will go on, don’t buy them. What most beginners don’t understand is that stickers do have a shelf life. They don’t last forever. They begin to deteriorate after only a couple years. It may sound like a long time but I’ve got stickers that I had when I started scrapbooking eight years ago! Now, they’re no good because I can’t get them off the paper.

But if you don’t buy more than one sheet of the same design, even alphabets, and you can think of a use for them in the next 3 months, you’ll be okay. Just make sure what you’re buying says acid free on them!

This one is brief and easy. “Invest in a good set of fine tipped journaling pens in the basic colors” says the Scrapbook Nazi. You are going to be using them and several colors make for more interesting pages. You may as well spend the money on a small set rather than buying one at a time. Zig makes a good quality product. The basic colors are black, blue, red, and green so make sure your set has at least all of these. You can buy larger tipped pens if you think you will be stenciling headlines and titles but I usually use alphabet stickers for those.

Do NOT buy gel pens of any sort. They work for about 5 words then peter out. The ink stops, you shake it, it writes a couple letters, stops again. The Scrapbook Nazi will not tolerate any kind of gel pen. “If you think you will be writing on dark paper, think again!”

Cutting System
I only add this here because when you use paper as your primary embellishment you need to cut it into shapes or strips. Scissors is the good old stand by. I recommend having two pairs, one to cut ONLY paper and the other to cut anything sticky. This system allows me to have a sharp pair of trimming scissors for paper.

But to cut those large 12 X 12 sheets I told you to buy, you will need a paper trimmer of that size. Many manufacturers make them and they are widely available. For smaller pieces of scrap paper or to crop photos, a trimmer box may be purchased. A trimmer box is more like the old paper cutter you used to have at school with the big handle with the blade in it that chops off the end of a piece of paper. CutterBee makes some good cutting tools but if you’re really serious about this hobby, you’ll need to invest.

The Scrapbook Nazi says, “Buy Creative Memories trimmers and cutting system!” This direct sales company has the best sharp metal objects in the industry. Contact a CM consultant and have her fix you up. They have the best tools of the trade available for cropping photos and cutting paper. These tools make even a beginner’s page look neat and professional. You can find a consultant in your area by visiting their website at www.creativememories.com. Some consultants even have a site where you can place an order with them on-line. Though, I do highly recommend that you have the consultant demonstrate how all of these products work because some of them require a little practice.

This is an essential for almost every hobby we undertake. We need a place to store our stuff. “If you can’t find it, you won’t use it. If you don’t see it, you won’t do it.” The Scrapbook Nazi is right. If you can’t keep everything set up on a work table for whenever you have a few minutes to sit down, then there’s only one thing to do.


If you keep all your supplies in a single scrapbook bag that is ready to roll wherever you need it to go, you can do your scrapbook pages anywhere and you’ll get more accomplished. You can take it to any empty table in the house or take it to a friend’s house, or even to a crop party. You won’t have to scavenge through everything to find what you need; it will all be at your fingertips.

Most scrapbook bags will accommodate a 12 X 12 album and all the essentials. But here’s the best advice: Get a bag with wheels. I always stuff so many materials into my bag that I’d break my back lifting it. So I just pop the handle and roll it along just like another piece of luggage.

That’s it, all the essentials you need. If you haven’t figured out the Scrapbook Nazi’s method by now, it’s to limit your choices. Simplify! If you can’t tell your sister what you’re going to use it for, you don’t need it. (That’s my secret system!) So take time to develop a few basic skills then you can move pass the Scrapbook Nazi’s strict rules.

So here’s the basic shopping list as per the Scrapbook Nazi:
1 – 12 X 12 strap hinge album
1-refillable tape runner
12 X 12 solid colored paper
12 X 12 solid colored cardstock (if necessary)
1 pkge small gold or silver brads
Stickers to match photos
1 set fine-tip journaling pens
2 pairs of scissors
1 paper trimmer for 12 X 12 paper
1 scrapbook storage bag (if necessary)
So there you go, what are you waiting for? Go shopping then get scrapbooking!

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