might think of scrapbooking as the hobby of your prim and proper aunt
or grandma, arranging pictures and mementos for posterity. But it’s far
more than little old ladies; in fact, scrapbooking is a $2.5 billion a
year industry, and that’s a figure that buys a lot of memories.
these days, instead of photos, scissors, and glue, more and more of
those happy pasts are being preserved digitally. Not, however, for web
pages. The scrapbooks still exist, printed up or e-mailed to friends
and relatives. But all the work is done on computer.
those with plenty of hard drive time under their belts that might seem
simple enough – just lay everything out in Photoshop or something
similar. And some do. More and more scrapbookers, however, are using
special software, which has become big business – digital scrapbooking
even has its own magazine. There are at least ten books devoted to the
craft on Amazon.
than any newspaper editor, scrapbookers will agonize for hours over the
layout of a page, and its backgrounds and photo mats – which can be
specific to a holiday, season, or whatever. Digital offers the chance
to tinker endlessly, to come back after a week and change things with
the click of a button; nothing is ever set in stone. It’s
indicative of the family feel behind scrapbooking that many of the
commercial sites selling software for the craft regard themselves as
communities. That’s also a reason so many digital scrapbooking sites
encourage people to become members (free of charge). The site Digital Scrapbook Place,
for example, not only sells software, but offers tutorials and
information on the staff who run the site. Their products run the gamut
from hardbound scrapbooks to software specially designed for
scrapbookers, like winter and Christmas backgrounds on digital download to fonts and quotes. They even have a monthly download club. Other
sites put out e-mail newsletters to members. If that sounds very cozy,
well, perhaps it is, but it’s simply appealing to the mindset of
scrapbookers, who do feel part of a community. Remember, in many ways,
scrapbooking is an American folk art, born shortly after cameras became
commonplace household objects.
Scrapbook Bytes is a good place for beginners to start, with its step-by-step tutorials
can guide those with just basic computer skills. Scrapbooking, as they
rightly point out, can be a way of exercising creativity.
Of course, you do need a digital image program at the heart of it all, to crop and manipulate your pictures (whether taken
with a digital camera, scanned in, or put on CD), and there are plenty
available, whether it’s Adobe Photoshop, which at $649 represents a
significant investment – as well as a steep learning curve to make use
of all its possibilities – or Microsoft Digital Image Pro, much cheaper
at $99.95. There are, of course, many others; simply look around.
Chances are you might even have a program like JASC Paint Shop included
with some other program, and many offer ,limited free trials so you can
check them out.
As an indication of how big digital
scrapbooking has become, many major companies produce software for it.
There’s Hewlett Packard’s HP Scrapbook Assistant or Hallmark’s
Scrapbook Studio (perhaps something of a no-brainer extension from
greeting cards for them), both running in the $20-30 range, and
offering some basic backgrounds and themes to get someone up and
Starting off is one thing, and we all need to take
baby steps in something new and make mistakes (of course, the great
thing about being digital is that mistakes are easily undone). But as
scrapbookers learn more, they become more ambitious – and that’s where
the sites dedicated to the craft really come into their own.
is one of many sites offering an increasingly sophisticated range of
software. Things like the Seek Within Artist Trading Cards can
embellish pages in a way no paper scrapbooker could manage, bringing
scrapbooking into the realm of the trading card world of pre-adolescent
boys, a strange and surreal mix – unless your kid is into Yu-Gi-Oh.
of the strangest things about digital scrapbooking is that in most
cases these pages aren’t destined for the web. You’d think that would
be a logical place for them, an extension of the computer work. But
scrapbookers seem to prefer actually having the page in their hands and
in a scrapbook, a physical entity few want to leave behind.
scrapbookers thrive on clutter. There are piles of papers torn from
magazines, endless photographs, and other things that may or may not
eventually be of use. All that piles up and takes up space. Going
digital can free up an entire room. But it can also create its own
problem – finding everything on your hard drive. So a number of sites
have tutorials about labelling material and keeping it in folders –
basic stuff, perhaps, but show me someone who hasn’t lost a file at
some point and I’ll show you someone who deserves a medal.
an indication as to how big this phenomenon is that a few sites now
sell their own tee shirts, caps, and, of course, tote bags. Obviously
it’s a commercial opportunity (and free advertising), but it also
enhances that sense of community.
To ease longtime scrapbookers into the new style, there are starter kits. For example, Cottage Arts
offers a starter pack with a book containing instructions for beginners
as well as two CDs of backgrounds and photo mats and other assorted
goodies to build pages. Their Mega Starter pack offers a wider variety
of CDs, and for the truly hardcore they have a special price of around
$200 on 12 CDs. If that seems like a big commitment, to many
scrapbookers it’s actually quite a small investment (think if what you
spend on your own hobbies).
Some sites can be very fancy in what they offer. Mangels Designs
goes ornate on their digital picture frames, corners, and so on – all
of them available on unlimited download for a very modest one-time fee.
Many of the designs are templates to cover all manner of occasions
(weddings, births, etc.) and seasons, while the digital scrap elements
show great imaginations, with buttons, bottle caps, paper clips to
flowers and even tools. If you want to gussie those pages up a bit, you
can do it here.
Because all of this is intended for print,
everything is a good resolution 300 d.p.i., as the pictures would be.
That’s higher than you’d use for web publication (pages at that
resolution would be slow to load), but ideal for print.
That’s because these aren’t made for global consumption, available to anybody and everybody, but for family and close
friends. While pages might be e-mailed to relatives – which, given the
size, is only feasible in the age of broadband – they’re mostly printed
up and stored…in scrapbooks. It might seem retrograde, but to
scrapbookers, it’s not. Going digital is simply a means to an end – and
the end is a physical page. The great advantage is that each page can
be changed, updated, or tinkered with endlessly, making scrapbooking a
continuous act of creation. And the filters and effects on all the
digital imaging software offer almost infinite possibilities in the use
of pictures, with anything from light shading to insets available.
digital has expanded the possibilities of scrapbooking, and it’s
helping it shake off the image of lavender, cardigans, and musty
pictures that have dogged it for so long. Everyone has memories they
treasure, pictures they value, and events that are pivotal in their
lives. Scrapbooking is simply a way of preserving those in an artistic
way that makes them special, and these software tools help the process,
in much the same way as scissors, paste, and clippings did before. The
end remains the same, only the means of getting there is different.
most fascinating is the way this form has moved quite seamlessly into
the digital age. It’s indicative not of the ubiquity of computers in
modern life, but also of the way traditions evolve. It’s true than many
who scrapbook – and they’re mostly female – are older, but obviously
they know or learn how to use computers and aren’t afraid of the
medium. The computer has fully crossed generations now.
interesting is the fact that it wasn’t businesses who first sensed the
potential of digital scrapbooking; much of the early software was
actually written by craft enthusiasts to accommodate their own needs.
It was only later, as demand grew, that the myriad of commercial
software began flowing, becoming more elaborate as time has passed.
Digital scrapbooking is still a young art, but the indications are that
it will become more and more popular as increasingly computer-literate
generations grow into it. Within another 20 years it’s likely to become
the norm rather than an offshoot of paper scrapbooking, as the
potential it offers is far greater. It’s most definitely not the
scrapbooking your grandma knew.
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