Scrapbook Shortcuts: Essential Supplies

Today I’m sharing all my favorite (and most essential) scrapbooking supplies. This is fourth in a series of posts devoted to Scrapbooking Shortcuts. To read the first three, follow these links: Introduction: Making Scrapbooks for Multiple Children, First Things First: 4 Steps to Getting Started, and Sorting: How to Get Organized without Getting Overwhelmed. Then check back next week, as I plan to continue this series on Saturday.

Scrapbooking Shortcuts that will save you time and money, from

As I mentioned yesterday, a friend of mine gave me a scrapbook as a baby shower gift just before my oldest son was born. It was a large, 12 x 14 Gibson book with paper pages. (I’d post a picture, but that son is married with soon-to-be six sons of his own, so all his scrapbooks stay at his house now.)

Jon's Family

All to say, I started scrapbooking before the scrapbooking craze really took off, before there were aisles upon aisles at every craft store dedicated to scrapbooking albums and stickers and papers and stamps and scissors and adhesives and all the other things that make this hobby look so fun (or so intimidating, depending on your personality and perspective).

Scrapbooking Supplies: Sticking with the Essentials

So I made due with the supplies I had on hand — a pair of scissors, a bottle of glue, and a ball-point pen. Later, when paper-crafting came into vogue, I acquired a lot of other goodies, as well.

Scrapbooking Supplies: Sticking with the Essentials

However, 95% of everything I do when scrapbooking is done with just these few basic tools:

Scrapbooking Supplies: Sticking with the Essentials

  • Scrapbooks & Pages
  • I recommend you find a size/style of scrapbook you like and stick with it, for uniformity’s sake. Most of my older children have 12 x 14 scrapbooks, as that was all that was available when I was just getting started. When that size started getting scarce, I ordered enough extras to allow me to finish out the memory books for those older kids without switching sizes.

    My younger children all have the 12 x 12 square scrapbooks that are currently so popular. They have really cute covers — all different — but the sizes remain consistent, so they look neat sitting on the shelf, which I like.

    Scrapbooking Shortcuts that will save you time and money, from

    My original books came with white, archival quality paper pages, which I’ve continued to use (even cutting my own when they stopped making the sizes I needed) just because I prefer to keep things uniform, and I like being able open up cards and letters I’ve saved in the scrapbooks.

    That being said, I can definitely see advantages to using the page protectors that come in most scrapbooks today: They look neat, they protect photos from spills and fingerprints, and they come in a variety of styles to suit different scrapbooking/photo album needs. They can also be stored in these nifty three-ring scrapbook binders, which look so much easier to expand than my post-bound albums.

  • Paper Trimmer
  • I own two paper trimmers, both of which I found at garage sales. These things have been a huge time saver in my scrapbooking. My mini-trimmer has been especially indispensable, as I use it for all my photo cropping.

    There are lots of trimmers on the market, but I like the one Creative Memories puts out the best, because it has a little drawer the perfect size for storing a fistfull of markers or a stack of 4″ x 6″ photos, just waiting to be trimmed.

    I also have a full-size trimmer, which I use for cutting larger sheets of paper. It can handle ten pieces at once. There are less bulkier (and less expensive) options available now, but I’ve stuck with the standard model, because I already own it, it (still) works.

    Scrapbooking Shortcuts that will save you time and money, from

  • Glues & Adhesives
  • I have several friends who are Creative Memories consultants, and I know they’d cringe to hear me say it, but I use Elmer’s white school glue almost exclusively in making my scrapbooks. I know that’s a big no-no, because it’s not acid-free, but I’ve been scrapbooking with Elmer’s for over forty years, and old habits die hard.

    Elmer’s is cheap (especially if you stock up now, when you can stock up at back-to-school for 25-cents a bottle or less), it’s easy to use, and I can’t tell that it has hurt any of the pictures I’ve used it on in any way — even photos I glued into scrapbooks as a child. (Unfortunately, the same can NOT be said of the cellophane tape I used back then, so stay away from that stuff!)

    I use just a very thin line of glue (about the width and depth of a piece of dental floss) around all four edges of the photo. If you use big globs of glue or smear it in the center, it can make your photos appear wrinkled.

    A word of warning: This method is permanent. For me, that’s a plus. It means my children can look through their scrapbooks again and again and again without the contents coming undone and falling out (with or without help from tiny fingers).

    If you think you’ll want to remove photos from your album and shuffle them around every few years, you’d better stick with photo-safe adhesives: You’ll be able to rest assured your photos are well-preserved, and you won’t risk provoking the ire of scrapbooking purists for your unconventional practices. 🙂

  • Scissors
  • My go-to pair of scissors for scrapbooking is a plain-jane pair of household shears. I use these for trimming around the edges of irregular shapes and cutting silhouettes.

    Although I also have over a dozen of pair of decorative scissors, the only ones I use with any consistency when scrapbooking are the deckle edge (for an antique look on black and white photos) and a large scallop that Fiskar calls “Clouds” (which is good for making waves and also for rounding photo corners).

    Scrapbooking shortcuts to save you time and money from

  • Markers
  • My favorite markers are double-ended Marvy markers by Uchida. They are acid free and come in a variety of bright, vibrant colors. They provide a quick and easy way to add color to my pages. Whenever I have to glue white on white, I’ll often outline the edges of my keepsake in a color that coordinates with the photos on the page, then will use the same color in hand lettered titles and journaling (more on hand lettering in a later post).

    Scrapbooking Shortcuts that will save you time and money, from

  • Patterned paper
  • I usually buy 12 x 12 scrapbook papers by the pad at Hobby Lobby when they’re on half-price (or at garage sales at an even greater savings). One pad will last me several years, as it doesn’t take much of it to make a big impact. Later this week, I will show you the easiest and most economical way I’ve found to use patterned paper to add color and pizzaz to your scrapbooks.

So those are the tools I consider my bare essentials. All that other stuff you see on scrapbooking aisles or websites — stickers, stamps, die cut machines, buttons, bows, and embellishments – are like candles on a cake. They can sometimes be fun additions, but they cost extra time and money every time you use them, and there is really no call for doing so every day.

The cake tastes just as good without the candles, and the scrapbooks can be just as beautiful and functional (not to mention faster, easier, and less expensive to complete) without all the bells and whistles.

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