Introduction: Create Your Own Scrapbook

Create an archive quality scrapbook

This guide will instruct a beginner on how to organize and assemble an archive quality scrapbook to preserve memories for themselves and their descendants.

In order to create an achieve quality scrapbook that is going to hold up for generations, you need to start with quality materials. Your album should be sturdy, to last through many years of viewing. This would include; flex–hinge binding so the albums lay flat, page protectors to avoid fingerprints or liquid falling on pictures, and jeeped pages, pages that have reinforced edges. The paper you choose for mounting your photos needs to be acid and lignin free in order to preserve photos and keep them from fading and discoloration. Even the quality of the photo adhesive you choose has an impact on how well your album holds up over time. Links to quality products have been provided within your supply list.

This material is presented for informational and educational purposes only and without any guarantees or warranties.

Step 1: Identifying a Theme - Chronological Order

Annual chronological albums start in January, above left, and go through December, above right

Chronological order

A chronological album is something I use for my year to year photographs. Each album starts in January and goes through December, ending with any photo Christmas cards we receive from friends and family as the last page(s) in the book. A chronological album can also be a child’s school album. The album would start on the first day of Kindergarten and end with the last. On the pages in between you could have photos, art work, report cards, class pictures, field trips or any other activities throughout the school year. Another example would be a “school days” album which starts with a few photos and artwork from Kindergarten, a few from 1st grade, 2nd grade, etc. This type of album packs a lot of years in just one book, so you would want to be particular with what you chose to include, using favorite photos and artwork to put together. This type of album could conclude with graduation photos or photos as your child heads off to college or career.

Step 2: Identifying a Theme - Special Event

Grandparents album, above left, School days album, top right, Christmas/Holiday album, middle right, Baby album, lower right

Special event

Special event albums are fun to create for weddings, graduations, baby books, 1st year of life, Bar or Bat Mitzvah albums, Grandparents albums, Christmas, holiday, etc.

Step 3: Identifying a Theme - Travel

A smoke filled Grand Canyon near sunrise, above left, Kalihiwai Bay, Kauai, above right


If you are like me, and take far too many photos while on vacation, you can create an entire album dedicated to a trip to Disneyland, Europe, camping trips or tropical vacation.

Step 4: Selecting Photos to Include

Bryce Canyon, above left, near identical photos, pick the best shot to use in your album, you do not need all three, above right

Digital photography has revolutionized picture taking for the armature photographer. Photography has become a much cheaper hobby now that there isn’t the purchase and developing costs of film. We can see instantly if we have captured the picture, take multiple options of the same subject or evaluate if we need to take additional shots for any reason. The down side would be too many photos to fit in one album. Be particular in the photos you choose to print, you do not need to print every photo you take. You also don’t have to put every photo you print in your album, it is ok to throw extras away if you decide not to use them. When selecting photos to include in your album, pick the best of the best. Use your favorites to include or highlight. The photo of Bryce Canyon, above, is the best of four nearly identical pictures I took of the same view. I selected this photo because the colors were slightly brighter, capturing the view at its best.

Step 5: Cropping Photos

Don’t be afraid to crop photos, (cropping means cutting away part of a photograph). Some pictures can be improved by cropping out extra fore/background. See examples above of cropping extra space in order to get a close-up picture of subjects. Notice the contrast, above is the same photo in original format, slightly cropped, and cropped close.

Step 6: More on Cropping Photos

Another example, if you have a photo where background lighting is too bright; cut away the excess area and/or source of light, it brings the main subject(s) into better focus and is less distracting to the eye, see before and after photos above: notice the subjects skin tone is improved, enhancing the overall appearance of the photo.

You can also use cropping to eliminate people in the background of your picture or people in unflattering poses. Cropping can be used if someone’s hand or elbow gets in your shot or if a person has their back to the camera, you can crop them down or out. Cropping also allows you to fit more photos and/or journaling on a page. With digital photography, you can crop and enhance your photos before printing them, like I’ve done here, or wait to see how they print before making the decision to crop a photo or use it whole.

Step 7: Exceptions to Cropping

Above is a great photo of my son out snowboarding...however, by cropping this photo, what you have lost is the entire panoramic view of the mountain side he is standing on...

  • Never crop or alter antique photos. Scan your antique photos and make copies if you want to crop or adjust them in any way. Antique photos are irreplaceable, leave them intact as much as possible
  • Never cut or crop polaroid pictures, they contain chemicals that are damaging to surrounding photos and memorabilia
  • If you are working with older photos where the background is a memory in itself, you might want to consider keeping the photo whole. An example of this would be a photo of your parents standing in gramma’s living room. Your parents are the focus of the photo but the old television set and grandfather clock in the background contain a memory of your gramma’s home, which you haven’t seen since she died 20 years ago. You aren’t going to want to crop that memory out, it’s part of the story that is going on in the photo as a whole
  • If the background of a photo completes the story, don’t cut it out, see photo above

Step 8: Selecting Memorabilia

Memorabilia can include ticket stubs, brochures, foreign currency, newspaper clippings, maps or parts of maps, menus, and boarding passes. Newspaper clippings are best preserved by photocopying them, then adding the copies to your album. Acid free, lignin free paper is best for permanency, but any copy is better than newsprint which will yellow quickly. Another method is to take a picture of the clipping to use in your album, see memorabilia examples above.

Step 9: Choosing Color/style of Paper to Compliment Photos

An elaborate two-page spread using multiple colored papers, patterns, stickers, and a journaling box to tell your story, above left. "Naked” or plain pages with no embellishment, leaves room to journal, top right. Photos mounted on a simple background paper which adds a pop of color, also leaves room to journal, lower right

You may choose to put your photos on a blank canvas, using white space as your background, sometimes referred to as “naked” pages. There are also pages which have simple background colors or use small pops of color to highlight key photos. These papers are chosen as a compliment to colors already present in your photos or a contrasting color to those found in the photos. Contrast colors enhance and bring out the photos, play around with different color options. A third style would be a more elaborate design using color, contrasting color, patterns, stickers and embellishments for a more artistic look.

Step 10: Draw Attention to the Most Important Photo on a Page:

By placing a photo in the center of the page, it becomes the focal point of the page, above

  • Place photo in the center of the page
  • Place photo in the upper right-hand corner of the page
  • Crop photo into a circle, oval or other shape
  • Mat photo with colored paper
  • Dot and/or dash around the picture in ink

Step 11: Journaling

Journaling is the key to preserving memories for future generations; it is the main reason to create albums. Photos are important in creating your albums but without the journaling, over time, the story behind the photos is lost. At the very least, make sure each page tells “who, what, where and when”. Adding some “how and why” to your journaling will make your pages come alive for future generations. Don’t worry about your handwriting. In fact, when I see my parent’s handwriting, it brings an emotional reaction. Your writing is an important part of who you are, and your handwriting will look great on your pages.

Step 12: Supply List

12" Straight cutter, above left, travel album, top right, decorative paper, lower right

Supply list:

Step 13: Optional Supply List

6" Personal trimmer, above left, punch example, top right, lettering stickers, lower right

Step 14: Putting It All Together

Create a title page for your albums, give a preview with a few favorite photos, the destination and date visited, above left. Example of creatively cropping similar photos to make a collage and fit more photos on a page, top right. Example of creatively cropping photos to fit on a page. Red decorative paper enhances the photos and coordinates with the red shirt worn by the subject in the photo, lower right.

In this example, for uniformity and consistent references in the step-by-step instructions, the theme of travel/vacation scrapbook will be used. These ideas and instructions can be translated into any of the scrapbooks described above.

Now that you have your supplies ready, your photos and memorabilia chosen, it is time to start putting your scrapbook together:

  1. Take photos and arrange them in chronological order with the first photos to go in the album at the top of the pile, working your way back
  2. Take memorabilia, fliers, brochures, ticket stubs, playbills, etc. Insert the memorabilia between the photos that coordinate with each piece of memorabilia, keeping everything in chronological order
  3. The first page of the album is customarily set up as a title page, see photo above left for an example. Whether doing a scrapbook that goes from January-December, a vacation, wedding or baby book, setting the first page aside as a title page is the perfect way to show what pictures have been captured in the album. The title page of the album is similar to a title page in a book. If you aren’t sure what to do with the title page or are stuck for ideas, leave it blank for now, come back to it. A lot of times getting the first pictures in the album is the hardest part. Once started on your album, you may become inspired for a title page idea. At that point, go back and fill it in
  4. Approximately 1-7 photos can be arranged per page, depending on the size of the photos and whether they are cropped or used full size. From the top of the photo/memorabilia pile, choose a group of photos to go on the first double page spread, two pages using the same theme/color scheme which face each other
  5. Decide what color paper would coordinate with or enhance the photos which have been selected. Choose a color scheme for the page by laying individual photos on a selection of colored paper, see example page below
  6. Decide if you are using the photos as full size or if they need to be cropped for any reason:

a. To fit more photos on the page, see photo, above right for an example of cropping to fit many pictures on a page

b. To enhance the main subject of the photo, see photo, lower right for an example of cropping to enhance the main subject

c. To cut away unimportant details

Step 15: Color Themes and Embelishments

A simple border, plenty of room to journal who, what and where, above left. A little more elaborate page using a title, bottom border, sticker and two "picture frames" to insert your photos. Insert two photos or journal in one area and place photo in the other, above right

  1. You can create a themed border using the color scheme selected. Example: for a Disneyland vacation, you may want to use bright red, yellow, and black bordering your page which contains pictures of the family and Mickey Mouse and Pluto. These colors would capture the Mickey and Disneyland theme depicted in the photos. If the photos are of princesses, you may want to choose pastel pink, purple or blue. A border can be as simple as two strips of colored paper down the outside edge of the page, adding a few stickers or it can be more elaborate and take up the whole page
  2. Using photo safe adhesive, mount your photos on the page
  3. Add a title – optional
  4. Journal what is going on in the photos. Try and capture “who, what, where and when” and if applicable, “how” and/or “why”
  5. Enhance your page using stickers or other embellishments - optional

Step 16: Making It Social

Attending a workshop, scrapbooking in a group gives you an excuse to get together with friends or make new friends. It is wonderful to have the social aspect to bounce ideas off of each other. Friends, even new friends, can provide emotional support if you are working on a project that is close to your heart such as a deceased family member or friend. Sharing your story with a scrapbooking friend, can encourage you to finish your album, and may also help others to be able to finish their difficult albums. Another benefit of attending a workshop is being able to save money by sharing tools with everyone. Working on an album in a group is also motivating when you experience a creative block and are not inspired to keep working.