March 22, 2012

Tools For Digital Scrapbooking

Thinking of getting into digital scrapbooking (or, as the internets call it, digi-scrapping)? If you are, you’ll probably need more than just a computer and an internet connection to really start working your skills. What kinds of tools, aside from the requisite computer, will you need if you’re going to get serious about this activity?

A Scrapbook Software

Some people do their scrapbooking on all-purpose digital imaging applications. While that’s a perfectly valid route, we really encourage everyone to go for more specialized craft product, such as Craftartist’s line of software. Simply put, it strips out a lot of the work that you’ll have to do, as everything is tailor-made for digi-scrapping enthusiasts, rather than trying to serve a wide range of users.

Sure, an all-in-one imaging tool like Photoshop lets you use it for more than just scrapbooking. If you want to clean up photos for your Facebook page or mash a couple of images for your Tumblr blog, you can easily do them on those products as well. However, having those features also mean it serves up a whole load of tools that have nothing to do with scrapbooking, making the whole business of digi-scrapping more complicated than it has to be. If you don’t believe me, try to get on a computer with Photoshop (borrow one from a friend) and see if you’re able to find your way around it within an hour. Chances are, you’ll be scratching your head more times than congratulating yourself.

A specialty scrapbook software, on the other hand, will carry just the right amount of features you need for digital scrapbooking. You’ll get textured scissors for cutting images, shape punchers for dressing up your pictures, photo-editing tools for adding professional effects and plenty of built-in scrapbooking decorations for making gorgeous album layouts, among other things. Contrast that with general-purpose imaging tools where you’ll likely have to search for and individually download multiple stencils, shapes and tools that will be useful for your purpose.

More importantly, specialized scrapbook software will include wizards that will help you produce page upon page of layouts with a few simple clicks. That will give you a quick way to finish pages without having to slave over layers, color pallets and shape tools. Chances are, it can also print your creations by album, rather than individual pages, so putting your digital work to paper is also a heck of a lot simpler. It’s just a whole lot easier way of doing things, especially if you’re not really interested in hardcore graphic design work.

A Digital Imaging Software

This is optional, but if your scrapbook software doesn’t include a few editing tools that you’d like to use with your photos, then a digital imaging software should help. We suggest downloading one of the free open source applications, such as GIMP and Inkscape, instead of buying, especially if you only intend to use it as a secondary option for making scrapbooks.

In case you’re opting to use a general-purpose imaging software for designing your scrapbooks, make sure you pick one that supports layers at the least. More importantly, though, choose a software with a strong scrapbooking community behind it, since tips and advise from more experienced hobbyists can only help. Plus, you’ll get more options for add-on kits that way.

Add-on Packs

Always check to see if there are downloadable add-on packs available for the scrapbooking software you’re using. There will usually be plenty, both from the publishing company itself and from independent designers. While you won’t really need add-on packs if you’re using a scrapbook application, you could chance upon a cool layout, stencil, mask, frame, border or some other element that you’ll really love. We suggest searching for free downloadable kits first (there are tons of them online), unless you have a specific design you want in mind. Do note that paid bundles from professional designers are usually a lot better than what you can get for free.

A Printer

If you plan on printing your digi-scrapbooks to paper, as most people do, you need a color printer. Preferably, you’d want one that can print on wide photo paper (12 x 12 inch format), as you’ll likely end up doing a lot of those sizes with your scrapbooks.

Make sure you pick up a printer that’s specifically geared for printing photos, as images will play the centerpiece in many of your scrapbooks. Most every printer manufacturer has them, usually with branding that indicates it producing quality photo prints (e.g. HP Photosmart, Epson Stylus Photo).

Chances are, you won’t need to invest in a high-end photo printer for scrapbook use — anything from low- to mid-end will do, even if you intend to join scrapbook competitions. As long as you don’t need to print commercial material in high volume, high-end printers won’t be necessary.

When buying a printer, don’t just consider the price of the machine. More importantly, take into account how much a new batch of cartridges will cost. A lot of the time, manufacturers will sell printers for cheap but bust your wallet when it comes to buying ink for them. And don’t restrict your search to just the popular brands like HP, Epson and Canon. Other companies, like Brother, Samsung and Kodak, also make good printers and you could save some money going that route.

A Scanner

A combined printer and scanner will probably serve you well, especially if you plan to scan old analog photographs, printed memorabilia (like invitations, tickets and cards) and other physical printed matter for use in your scrapbooks. A two-in-one is also likely to be cheaper than separate machines. However, there are advantages to buying separate printers and scanners (e.g. if you need to take the scanner for repair, your printer comes with it), so consider them when making your choice.

A Camera

Obviously, you’ve got to have photographs to include in your scrapbooks, so you’ll need a digital camera to shoot those images. Even $200 point-and-shoots (or decent cellphone cameras) will probably do, since you’ll likely retouch the images via software anyway before slapping them onto one of your albums.


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