Scrapbook Shortcuts: Quick & Easy Page Layouts

This post on quick and easy page layouts is the fifth in a series devoted to Scrapbooking Shortcuts. To read the first four, follow these links:

Then check back next Saturday, as we continue this series weekly.

Scrapbooking Shortcuts that will save you time and money, from

Several years ago, my kids and I participated in a homeschool co-op that met every Monday morning from 8:00 until noon. In order to participate, I was required to volunteer three of the four class periods (I taught science, logic, and charcoal drawing), but the fourth I got to spend visiting with the other moms who were free that same period.

More often than not, we’d work on scrapbooks while we talked.

Some of these friends were professionals. They made money to support their scrapbooking habit by selling supplies to other scrapbooking friends.

And I will be the first to admit, they came up with some very cute and creative layouts.

But while they would often spend the full fifty minutes working on a single page — embellishing, journaling, using stickers to spell out names and titles — I would routinely knock out twelve to fifteen pages in the same amount of time, week after week after week.

Not only did I spend a fraction of the time on my pages, but I also spent a fraction of the money — yet the pages still look great and are packed with details, in my own handwriting, even.

Want to know my secret?

I think the best way to explain is to provide a few real-life examples. These pages are from my youngest daughter’s album, but they illustrate many of my favorite time and money saving techniques:

Focus on the Photos:

I’ve noticed when my children are looking through their scrapbooks, they spend a lot more time studying the photographs than admiring embellishments. In fact, they’ll barely even pause on a page that has only one or two photographs, no matter how cute the layout looks or how much time I invested putting it all together.

That’s why I try to pack as many pictures per page as I possibly can without making them look crowded or cluttered. In my opinion, the pictures are the main attraction in memory books and should therefore take center stage. The stamps and stickers and stuff are just filler and should be used sparingly.

Simple scrapbooking shortcuts that will save you time and money |

Coordinate Colors:

One very simple way I make pages pop is by keeping the colors consistent across a two-page spread. If I have a lot of photos and/or memorabilia from one month (as when a new baby has been born or our family has gone on vacation), I sort them according to color, then coordinate scrapbooking papers and hand lettering ink to match.

Simple scrapbooking shortcuts that will save you time and money |

Add Memorabilia with Meaning:

This particular scrapbook contains more stickers and diecuts than I’d normally use. That’s because the book and matching embellishments were packaged as a kit, which I bought secondhand (but new and unopened) at a consignment sale for just a couple of bucks shortly before my daughter was born.

Even so, you can tell in these pictures that most of the things I’ve included along with the photos hold special meaning for our family, much more so than would some cutesy sticker I purchased at a craft store: the baby’s hospital wristband, a copy of her birth certificate, greeting cards friends sent to congratulate us, a printout of the huge breakfast I ate after the delivery, a ribbon from a baby gift, a lid from one of the dozens of cups of juice they served me while I was in the hospital.

I prefer to use those kinds of meaningful “embellishments” in all my memory books — ticket stubs, brochures from places we visit, my children’s artwork, ribbons they win, etc.

Simple scrapbooking shortcuts that will save you time and money |

Crop Creatively and Consistently:

Part of what keeps my quick and easy page layouts looking neat is that I am careful to line up the edges of photos so that the margins between them and around the edge of the page are consistently spaced. If I want to include more photos on a page than will fit full size, I trim the edges to shrink them down a bit (being careful not to crop out any important background stuff).

I try to keep roughly 1/8″- 1/4″ buffer space between all my photos and other keepsakes. If two photos will be stacked one above the other, I make sure their widths either match exactly or are obviously different (by a third or more) — not nearly-the-same-size-but-just-a-little-off.

A small, handheld trimmer makes it fast and easy to measure and cut straight, perfect edges accordingly.

Simple scrapbooking shortcuts that will save you time and money |

Use Scrapbook Papers Sparingly

It’s quick and easy to add pizzazz to your page layouts with patterned paper, but it has never made much sense (or cents) to me to spend a lot of money on something that will be mostly covered up by photos. So to make my papers last longer, I use try to make more efficient use of them.

By cutting one 12″ x 12″ sheet of scrapbook paper into 1″ strips and using them only on the outside edges of the page, I can make a dozen pages for the price of one. That’s six, two-page spreads out of a single sheet of paper!

Simple scrapbooking shortcuts that will save you time and money |

If you alternate borders on consecutive pages with complementary colors and designs, you can finish a 36-48 page book with less than $1 worth of patterned paper, and still enjoy variety while maintaining a consistent theme throughout.

Simple scrapbooking shortcuts that will save you time and money |

Copy your Calendars

My favorite quick and easy layout? I like to include some journaling in each of my children’s books, but if I had to write detailed descriptions on every page of a dozen different scrapbooks, I’d never be done. So to save time, I record important daily details on a master family calendar — complete with cute little illustrations of the big stuff — then make enough copies for each child to have the whole set incorporated into their memory books.

This habit also makes it easy to put photos in chronological order, whenever I get behind in my scrapbooking.

If you’d like to give this journaling tip a try, but are not artistically inclined, you can print copies of my hand-drawn calendars to use in your books, too. You’ll find them near the top of our free printables page, under “Scrapbooking Calendars.”

Simple scrapbooking shortcuts that will save you time and money |

Simple scrapbooking shortcuts that will save you time and money |

Learn to Letter by Hand

Rather than spending money on alphabet stamps, stickers, or diecuts, and using those to painstakingly spell out each and every heading, I suggest you invest in a good set of double-tipped, archival-quality scrapbook markers.

Using the broad tip, practice lettering in a couple different styles until you can do it quickly and consistently, then do your own headings by hand. This saves SO MUCH TIME in the long run. Plus, you can adjust the height and width of anything you are writing to fit into whatever white space you have available on a particular page.

Simple scrapbooking shortcuts that will save you time and money |

And that’s the nitty-gritty of how I save time and money in making my memory books. Do you have any tips to add to this list? Share your quick and easy ideas for page layouts below.

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  1. Thank you for taking the time to do your fantastic scrapbook series! I’m finding them so helpful! Has anything in your process changed In the past 5 years that you’d now add to your list of tips?
    Thanks for all you do on this blog,

    1. Not really. Several of my friends have shifted to digital scrapbooking, which is a great option that I might consider if I were just starting out. But I like for my scrapbooks to all match in size and format, so I plan to stick with what I’ve been doing. Also, whether you make digital or physical scrapbooks, back up your photos!! Sadly, I recently spilled 32-oz of water on my computer, completely fried my hard drive, and lost all but the past twelve months of photos. ??? I’d fallen a little behind on printing them out to put in the kids’ scrapbooks, so now I’m scrambling to see what kind of copies I can get from adult children and social media to sub in for what I’m missing.

      1. Oh dear I’m really sorry to hear that!! Hope you manage to get enough to fill in the blanks. Your children will be so glad you made physical scrapbooks over the past decades. Thank you for the tip.

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