Improving Digital Scrapbooking Skills

Getting Started Digital Scrapbooking

Yesterday I was browsing through folders of my old work when I realized that I have a whole year's worth of work that I've been ignoring and that needs to be updated and uploaded to the site (a lot of it is here, but you can't easily tell that it's related). So you can except a lot of mini kits and their assets to be appearing here.

This discovery made me reevaluate my old work (not as terrible as I thought) and also made me ponder my own growth as a digital scrapbooker and designer. Which led me to this one tip for improving that I'm going to share. You might think there would be several tips for improving, as digital scrapbooking is seemingly unlimited in the things you need to know to do well. It is this overwhelming fact that makes this one tip so useful. There are so many tips and tricks and methods to learn, that it's more or less impossible to create a systematic approach to learning. Focusing in on what you're missing is impossible when in reality everyone is missing a lot.

The main key to my success and improvement was simply scraplifting. In the beginning I only scraplifted. I would find a layout I liked and copy it exactly. And then find other, and then other...This may seem boring, and like a squashing of your creative juices, but the simple fact is that in the beginning your creative juices don't know much. They know they want to make something, but they don't have the technical skill to do it. By copying the layouts of people more skilled than you, you are freeing up your brain to focus on the technical aspects, not just where to place things on the layout, but also how to use your software. By removing the creative element, you are giving your brain a break and allowing it to focus in on the technical and internalize it. So eventually, those basic ideas of using the software and placing items on the layout will be second nature. You'll be able to do them without thinking, freeing up space to actually use that creative juice.

I did the exact same thing with designing. I started designing more or less at the same time I discovered digital scrapbooking. I would take a layout I liked and reproduce everything in the layout as close as I could (elements, papers, etc). In this way you are focused on what skills to Google (how do I make something look metal, how do I make a polka dot pattern, how do I add texture), limiting the enormous pool of designer skills to just the ones necessary to duplicate a particular layout. Eventually, through trial and error and Google, you will have a whole host of skills that you can use to once again follow that creative juice.

You should never feel guilty or lazy when you are copying something. Throughout history painters have increased their skills by copying famous works of art. A scraplift is just like using training wheels, you need them until you don't. And even then, remember we are all inspired by each other, there are no new ideas, but only a continuous flow of creativity from one person to the next.

Recent Comments

Rhonda Rother
Rhonda Rother Thu, 03/31/2016 - 23:43

Marisa, I love these words of wisdom: "there are no new ideas, but only a continuous flow of creativity from one person to the next." I once agonized verbally to one of my college writing instructors that I was afraid I would not be able to write something that had not already been written. To this she replied, "Everything has already been written. It's just that you have to find a new way to say it." So true. We must not let ourselves be hampered by what has already been done, and yet we must not be afraid to take that flying leap into the possible.

Cici Cristofaro
Cici Cristofaro Wed, 01/27/2016 - 16:17

Like the old Masters: they have copied artwork, too, to improve their skills :)

Susannah Pani
Susannah Pani Fri, 12/11/2015 - 18:41

Wise words, thanks.

Rachel Lotherington
Rachel Lotherington Fri, 11/06/2015 - 23:29

Well said Marisa. I think most people in creative industries know this to be true. I'm a graphic designer and when I started digital scrapbooking I did exactly the same thing - scraplifted heaps of layouts in order to learn. As long as I give credit to the original design when I share online, I never feel the slightest bit of guilt. As you said, artists learn by copying. I also love templates, because it's a starting point. I have found that having a design brief always results in good work, but having a completely blank slate is stifling. Even creative people need a prompt to get started.

I also love layout challenges - and there are heaps online. It could be a theme challenge, colour challenge, template challenge, technique challenge, or a challenge to use a particular set of elements. It is a starting point for creativity and usually also gives a deadline, which also really helps!. Combining challenges is also an option!

Doris Tillery
Doris Tillery Mon, 05/18/2015 - 11:23

I guess I am a renegade scrapbooker. I always just place things where and how I feel at the time. Sometimes it is just awful I know...

Veronica Brenes
Veronica Brenes Mon, 05/11/2015 - 14:45

Sounds only reasonable! I guess it is similar to paper scrapbooking first you buy all papers and use the techniques you see from others and then you become creative with the papers, tecniques and embellisments!

Rose Snelling
Rose Snelling Sun, 05/10/2015 - 10:01

Thank you!

Leisel Lisbet
Leisel Lisbet Mon, 05/04/2015 - 10:30

My gut told me to begin learning this way but I was worried that it wasn't a valid approach. I'm glad to read that experienced designers think it's fine. Each new technical skill I learn seems to trigger a creative idea and I'm having a lot of fun!

Debbie Case
Debbie Case Wed, 04/08/2015 - 13:59

Great advice! Thanks!

Michelley Delly
Michelley Delly Mon, 03/30/2015 - 11:10

That makes SO much sense! Thank you for pointing out, what I think is the reason I pop in and out of scrapping over the years. (the years!!!) lol. You nailed it right on the head.

Sandra Jensen
Sandra Jensen Fri, 02/20/2015 - 23:38

Thank you so much for sharing this. I am very new and still a little intimidated. I am loving all your advice and ideas! This site is AWESOME!

Holly Kress
Holly Kress Thu, 02/19/2015 - 09:13

Marisa, I LOVE this tip! It's like you are speaking directly to me! I am new to digital scrapbooking and very interested in design and I'm kind of overwhelmed by all there is to learn! This helps me see that it is ok to take it step by step and do some scraplifting and copying for a while until I get the hang of it. Totally inspiring! Thank you! I actually decided to just jump in and try to design something last night just to see if I could do it. I used your youtube tutorial on creating plaid paper. I was so excited to say that I designed something! So fun!

Mari Brodersen
Mari Brodersen Sat, 01/31/2015 - 10:28

Thank you for the tip! I love the beauty and creativity of digital scrapbooking, but get overwhelmed with all the choices and techniques. I'm going to scraplift as you've suggested.

maia rey
maia rey Tue, 11/25/2014 - 01:16

I so agree with this. When I scraplift, I am forced to discover new techniques and ideas.

Rosemary Kanspedos
Rosemary Kanspedos Fri, 09/05/2014 - 19:57

Thanks for the tip!

tammy herzog
tammy herzog Mon, 09/01/2014 - 13:26

I scraplift to start, then change it up a bit. but i always have felt guilty for doing it. But it really is a complement to the person who you are lifting from.

Kees Lok
Kees Lok Mon, 08/11/2014 - 03:42

It's a great help to me while making a book for my newborn nephew!

Ghislaine de Lessines
Ghislaine de Lessines Sat, 07/19/2014 - 20:11

Funny, I've never scraplifted before but now I want to give it a try!

Judy Daino
Judy Daino Thu, 06/05/2014 - 16:21

I, too, look back at my old stuff from 2009 and think I've come a long way with my skills. My creative juices sometimes flow freely but they get all jumbled up in my head and then I'm all over the place. The last 3 layouts I did, I used templates and kind of added touches to them to make them my own because I feel all guilty that it's not mine. Thanks Marisa for making me feel better about scraplifting and templates. Awesome blog!!!

Bobbie Corlis
Bobbie Corlis Mon, 05/05/2014 - 05:25

Warning! This is going to be a long comment. I am very new to scrapping and I go through the galleries and fall in love with all the beautiful pages. Mine seem so boring in comparison. I have used a couple of templates and quick pages and I feel like some how I am cheating. But after reading this blog, I really don't feel like that so much anymore. Trying to learn software and design at the same time is a bit overwhelming, and it is all about learning. My friends and family that I hijacked pictures from won't care if I copied someone else's design, they just love that a took the time to make them a special page for their memories. Thank you for such a great blog!

Annemiek AndréeWiltens
Annemiek AndréeWiltens Thu, 05/01/2014 - 13:39

Thank you for this "lesson". I didn't realize yet, that you also started once.
I am a beginner and I learn from looking to layout from others and lots of trying.

Raye Mann
Raye Mann Fri, 03/07/2014 - 07:22

I honestly should have read this post a few days ago...before I had the brilliant idea to jump in with both feet and design a kit pretty much right off the starting block. Though I think it came out pretty well, I found my main difficulty to be editing myself down to a manageable inventory. I have some skills from years of working on web designs, tubing my own elements and creating hand made greeting cards, so the process of making everything isn't the least bit intimidating for me.

For my second kit, I'm using your March Design Challenge, but I still find myself making 10 papers for each day so far, rather than just knowing which ONE of each will work. From purchasing dozens (probably closer to hundreds, but I'm in denial about that) of scrap kits and bundles over the last few years, I have a pretty solid list in my head of what pieces it takes to make a respectable kit, but haven't figured out how to NOT make every single piece in every single color and combination. I think I'll take your advice, especially with this new phase of designing and use the kits of others to help me winnow down and containerize these creative juices. Thanks so much for your insight and for reminding me that I'm not to big for training wheels. :)

elle jewell
elle jewell Wed, 03/05/2014 - 09:53

Thanks for the info. I am pretty tech savvy but when it comes to photoshop I have no clue. I use gimp personally and I still don't know everything. It is so overwhelming, but at least now I don't have to feel guilty about using other's hard work in my projects. Hopefully soon I will be able to design my own embellishments and then layouts!

Nikki Hannan
Nikki Hannan Tue, 02/11/2014 - 10:01

Thanks for this! I still have so much to learn! I am a scrapping newbie xxx

Ariana Lipman
Ariana Lipman Tue, 01/28/2014 - 12:38

Very wise advice to remember in these hectic days. Our lives are so full that aiming to do it all at once often paralyzes us and keeps us from doing anything at all!

Donna McVittie
Donna McVittie Fri, 01/17/2014 - 06:38

awesome tip and yes, so very true - in any aspect of design imho. Thanks for this great tip!

Lorey Lyons
Lorey Lyons Thu, 01/16/2014 - 21:29

This is just what I needed to read! I've been trying to force myself to create these things I see in my head but am completely blank on how to create!
The old adage once again rings true: Practice makes perfect ;)

Serena Perrx
Serena Perrx Wed, 01/08/2014 - 17:43

This is literally what I have found myself doing. I try to make it somewhat my own. And when I feel truly inspired by a layout or two I let the creative juices flow :)

Anita Phillips
Anita Phillips Thu, 01/02/2014 - 15:10

Fantastic idea! Training wheels firmly applied!

Cathy Norton
Cathy Norton Wed, 01/01/2014 - 07:03

Best tip I've had. It's true in the beginning you have so much work getting to now the tricks and tools.

Karina Debard
Karina Debard Tue, 12/31/2013 - 15:17

So true! It could be really overwhelming if you don't focus on something... there are so many skills and tricks to learn and practise, even if you aren't a complete beginner!

Robyn Denton
Robyn Denton Thu, 12/26/2013 - 04:05

What a good idea! I'm such a beginner with all this and have been feeling just a tad intimidated, but now I feel much more confident.

Enid Diaz
Enid Diaz Sun, 12/15/2013 - 10:10

thanks for this, sometimes I need these advise to keep up my work... ;)

Paula Kolarik
Paula Kolarik Thu, 12/05/2013 - 07:12

This is great advice and I feel much better now since I've scraplifted many times! Now, I don't feel like what I did was so bad! I use a screenshot of their layout using a free program called Springpad or sometimes Evernote and use these sometimes as inspirational ideas & motivators then refer back as I'm working on my layout! I also google constantly to find out how to get something to look a certain way! Thanks for all the great tips... xx

Jeri Dacus
Jeri Dacus Wed, 09/18/2013 - 19:01

Great tip. I've been afraid to start because I don't have the basics down yet. Hearing this takes some of the pressure off to be perfect when I'm trying to learn.

Val Spiers
Val Spiers Sun, 09/08/2013 - 17:06

I totally agree. Just the other day I wrote in my journal that i take other people's ideas and make them into something that is me, if not mine. Suits me fine.
[email protected]

Kendra Gittens
Kendra Gittens Sun, 08/18/2013 - 11:12

This shows me that I don't have to use a whole page for my photos, simple and clean is the best thing sometimes.

J.ajabad Abad
J.ajabad Abad Wed, 06/26/2013 - 08:22

Thanks for the tip. I have a storehouse of layouts i'd like to try
now i need my schedule to clear a bit. Lol

Brandi Van Leeuwen
Brandi Van Leeuwen Mon, 05/27/2013 - 18:02

That is a great tip.

Maureen Scott
Maureen Scott Fri, 05/24/2013 - 11:40

Thank you!!! I felt really guilty trying to copy other folk's work but you're so right - i need the digi techniques first - the creativity and uniqueness will come later! xx

Els Andree Wiltens
Els Andree Wiltens Sun, 05/19/2013 - 03:20

Sure is a good tip!
Thanks for sharing.

Melissa Bechtloff
Melissa Bechtloff Tue, 03/19/2013 - 08:15

Thanks for the great tip.

Carrie Barron
Carrie Barron Wed, 03/13/2013 - 08:19

Thanks for these ideas. I've been digi scrapping for a while now, but I still feel like a beginner.

Jennifer Friesen
Jennifer Friesen Thu, 02/21/2013 - 07:08

I think this tip is so helpful. Those that have ventured ahead have so much to teach the new ones. The inspiration from others is like a boost..."like standing on the shoulders of giants."

Violet Irisovna
Violet Irisovna Wed, 02/13/2013 - 01:24

What a great tip, and I appreciate the encouragement to see scraplifting as an honorable learning technique. I just did it for the first time and it was extremely helpful! Much like you described, it really helped me focus and narrow down what I was learning and trying out.

Betsy Niederer
Betsy Niederer Tue, 02/12/2013 - 03:35

Thank you so much for the tips ;)

Candi Stears
Candi Stears Mon, 02/11/2013 - 09:40

Thank you for this awesome tip! You wouldn't believe the amount of time I have sat and stared at a blank page just to end up closing Photoshop Elements out of frustration. I think your tip is great! Thank you for reminding me that I shouldn't feel bad to scraplift!! :)

ShirleyAnn Schult
ShirleyAnn Schult Thu, 02/07/2013 - 12:06

Very good inspirational advice!

Jasmine Spain
Jasmine Spain Thu, 02/07/2013 - 04:57

Thank your for saving me of having an "I don't know anyting and will not be abe to create anything like this ever" crisis... For a newbie like me this makes things much more approachable. I didn't know where to start as there is so much information and so many beautiful creations! Once I have grabbed a cup of coffee - Keep calm and drink coffee - I will give it a go and start my digital adventure.

Candy Lee
Candy Lee Wed, 02/06/2013 - 14:39

Thanks for the tip! I seem scraplift challenges but I never considered doing them because I thought I would be just copying. Now I know why I should scraplift.

Caryn Love
Caryn Love Wed, 02/06/2013 - 10:36

great advice :)

Elizabeth Minkus
Elizabeth Minkus Wed, 02/06/2013 - 08:43

great tip and wonderful boost! thank you!!

Lou Anne Hazel
Lou Anne Hazel Tue, 02/05/2013 - 23:01

Great advice! There's a lot to be learned from trying to reproduce work you like. I like the term "scraplift."

Beth Bayer
Beth Bayer Tue, 02/05/2013 - 18:08

I just recently started going to school for graphic design, but only, pretty much, because it was a paid scholarship. I have learned everything I know so far from the school of hard knocks. I don't really think there is a better way. We can all say, "Iv'e come a long way baby." xoxox Beth

Diana Lee
Diana Lee Tue, 02/05/2013 - 17:27

Thanx for the article, Marisa! i actually have a folder of other people's layouts that i like. i don't usually 'scraplift' them, but i do like looking through them for inspiration and ideas. Maybe i need to scraplift more, i could be faster. Right now i'm snail-slow!

Kelly Hogan
Kelly Hogan Tue, 02/05/2013 - 17:19

I have just done my first digital scrap page, l'm not convinced l like it, but here goes.

Lisa Lavery
Lisa Lavery Tue, 02/05/2013 - 15:11

Great article Marisa! I love to scraplift because I admire the creativity and ideas of other people and want to incorporate them into my layouts. I do learn new techniques in the process and discover new features in my software. Most of the time I am so busy and when I finally sit down to scrap, by brain doesn't always have the focus I need to generate my own ideas. So using a template or copying a layout helps me streamline my work. Otherwise I would be really, really behind!

Heidi Shafer
Heidi Shafer Tue, 02/05/2013 - 13:58

Thanks for the encouraging advice. :)

Sunny Faith Rush
Sunny Faith Rush Tue, 02/05/2013 - 13:30

Wonderful advice, and right on target!

Su! Hall
Su! Hall Tue, 02/05/2013 - 13:21

This is great advice! When I was in college, I had a professor who taught us the 'psychology' of learning. One, don't cram right up to exam time. The last thing you 'remember' is the first thing you forget. If you study high, you should take the test high. Like 'mind states' is the key. And, any physical action helps the brain remember it better. Copying notes or from the textbook will help you recall the material because there is an action you perform in it. Neat!
Thank you!

Nadia Slegers
Nadia Slegers Tue, 02/05/2013 - 09:42

Good post!! With everything in life: you are never to old to learn! With many things it's observing how others do it like watching a video about a skill for the program you use for scrapping on Youtube or something else you want to learn and the second thing is doing it over and over again. Sounds boring, but at some point you get over the hard stuff and it becomes easy and you find out if it fits you. And....Marisa is right...we are all human beings and are inspired by the things around us. That's what I like about this site, sharing!

Jennifer Wagner
Jennifer Wagner Tue, 02/05/2013 - 08:33

I totally agree. When I scraplift my pages look great...when I try to freestyle on my own...not so great! It's good to know if I keep scraplifting, I will eventually be able to take off the training wheels!

Diane Minton
Diane Minton Tue, 02/05/2013 - 08:32

I still feel like a newbie but constantly try to learn new skills and techniques from experts like yourself. I love feedback, even if it is negative because it helps me learn how others view my work. Thank you for all your support!

Emily Silverman
Emily Silverman Tue, 02/05/2013 - 05:55

Thanks for the tips. I always wonder where to start and it all seems so overwhelming, but to break it out into chunks and take one thing at a time will help focus on learning specific tasks. Thanks!

Brooke Gazarek
Brooke Gazarek Tue, 02/05/2013 - 04:50

Great post! I totally agree! In college, we were encouraged to go to museums with our sketchbooks and draw the paintings that were hanging on the walls. We even went as a class once and all sat around sketching.

There are plenty of times I've scraplifted too. :)

Lana Fischer
Lana Fischer Tue, 02/05/2013 - 02:28

Great sites like this (with their tutorials) and Google have taught me so much over the last year. I feel like I am growing faster and faster and it is all kind of sinking in. I have "scraplifted" a couple of times and have felt guilty about it..thanks for making it okay!!