Getting Started with Photobook Software

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If you love your paper scrapbooking and don’t want to give it up, you can still join the digital revolution. Many paper scrappers don’t want to give up the scissors, cutting, gluing, and feel of traditional scrapping. They can purchase photobook software and print off their digital kits or elements, cut them out, and use them in their paper layouts. The beauty of using software in the paper scrapbooking world is that if you need another element or paper, you just print it out. You might also discover that some of the digital elements might be difficult or impossible to find from paper suppliers. Digital scrapbooking websites can be a useful resource, even for traditional scrapbookers.

If you want to remain digital throughout the layout process, it’s a fun journey and so long as you follow some basic steps.

First, you need to have your photos on your computer. If you have a digital camera, you are ahead of the game because most digital cameras come with a way to get the photos to your computer – some even come with software you can use for digital scrapbooking (more on the software later). If you don’t have a digital camera, or you are wanting to scrap old photos or slides, then you will need a scanner. For average scanning, you can get decent results with the $100 range scanners. But if you want to also scan 35mm slides and color negatives, you’ll need to look at mid-range scanners – most of which are in the $300 range. Scanners in that range also usually come with technology to repair dust and scratches in prints and slides.

Then you will need some software to do your digital scrapbooking. There are more and more options becoming available to the digital scrapper. There are basic cookie-cutter-everything-supplied-but-the-photo packages, to the more advanced software packages that allow you to edit your photos and create layouts in your own style.  My favorite program can be purchased from

Once you have your software decision made, it is time to actually create your layouts! Every program that is digital scrapbooker friendly works on the concept of layers. Imagine the layers in the software program are like layers of paper. If you put a piece of paper with a hole cut out of it on top of a sheet of paper, the bottom paper will show through the hole and be “framed” by the top paper. If you put a transparent sheet on top of a piece of paper, the bottom paper would show through depending on how clear the top sheet of paper was. That’s exactly the way layers in a software program work. If you have a background paper as the first layer, you can place your photo in the next layer, put another layer (another piece of “paper”) that is clear in the middle on top of that as a frame. You can add another layer to put a digital ribbon or other elements. If you change your mind about any part of it, simply delete that layer and start over. No bemoaning the loss of costly paper or elements. It’s all replaceable and changeable in the software program until the layout is printed. In our example, if you decide you’d rather not frame the photo, just delete the layer (our “paper” with the “hole” in the middle) on top of the photo. Some of the elementary software programs won’t let you rearrange layers, but most will let you move layers just as you would move sheets of paper. Most of the standard software used for digital scrapbooking allow some sort of drag and drop to add papers, photos, and elements to your layout. You would open (or create a new) document such as a background paper (which is usually a jpg in most digital scrapbook kits). You will notice there is one layer… just the background you opened. To add your photo, you would open the photo into a new document – again, notice there is only one layer in that document. Next you click on the photo with the move tool in your software (usually it looks like crossed arrows or something similar to this : + ) and “drag” the photo over on top of the background image. Now you will see that there are two layers in your background document! Add other layers to the background in the same way. To move, delete, resize, or otherwise affect one of the layers, highlight the layer in the layer palette. That will activate that layer and let you do the processing.

Here is where we need to put in a little caution about resolution. There is a lot of confusion about just what is meant by the various terms to describe resolution in the digital scrapbooking world. If you are interested in what the terms mean and what you should look for when talking about resolution, here is an article that goes into more depth : DPI vs. PPI. Whatever terms your software uses, whatever resolution you decide to work in, remember that the papers, elements, and photos all need to be the same resolution or you will be doing a lot of resizing. A common question in digital scrapping circles is : ” I have a background and a photo in a document, but when I add my digital ribbon element it is tiny (or huge). What happened?”. What happened is that most likely a 72ppi digital element (the ribbon) has been moved into a 300ppi document. You will have to resize or change the ppi of the digital element to match the background document (or vice versa). A “standard” of 300 ppi has been used by most digital scrapbook designers. Being consistent allows you to mix and match elements and kits from photobook software.