Is That Real?


I love (LOVE!) paper scrapbooks. I love the way they look, they way they feel, and all of the little handmade imperfect touches. If it weren’t for the mess, cost, trouble, bulkiness, space issue, decisiveness needed, inability to “change your mind”, lack of Ctrl Z, need for a gazllion tools and supplies, etc. etc….I might actually paper scrap. Once I knew digital and I were a good fit, I knew that although it wouldn’t be “real” paper scrapbooking, I wanted it to have the same style. I am in awe of the talent of some of the “fantasy” scrappers out there, but for me, I am a paper gal (at heart at least.)

The challenge, then, when creating digital pages is to get them to look more like their paper counterpart. There are lots of little things that you can do to your pages to help give them that handmade touch. I am by no means an expert (especially when it comes to shadowing) but there are a number of things I do in my “perfectly imperfect” style.

Here are some of my favorite little tricks, with one layout as an example.

fly-high_webCredits: Scrapping & Snapping for THE DAILY DIGI. Staples by Shabby Princess. Hand stamped alpha by Michelle Coleman. Font is Typewriter Scribbled.


I use staples on almost all my pages. I don’t know why — I just love the look of them. If I were stapling on a paper layout, the staples wouldn’t line up perfectly. Photo editing programs give us the freedom to create perfect pages (using rulers, grids, snap to grid, etc) but it takes away the handmade touch. So, I also skew my staples a bit.


I love that in digital we have the ability to use elements as many times as we want — on one page or on lots of pages. However, by reusing the exact same element over and over again on page, it can look “too perfect.” For example, on this page I repeated a group of buttons. In order to make it look a little more handmade, I slightly tilted the buttons so that the threads were not all facing the same way. It adds visual interest to the layout as well as giving it a more personal touch. Eleven buttons all lined up EXACTLY the same way would look fake. Keep in mind, though, that designers create their elements with a directionality of light/shadows. Tilting too much can throw the light/shadow perspective off.


As I have mentioned, I consider my style to be “perfectly imperfect.” I love order and consistency but I also love a little bit of imperfection! For a few years now my templates have had a ton of imperfect touch and between those and Emily Merritt’s Paper Block Templates (which are on sale — hurry, before the store closes!) most of my pages have some kind of imperfect (ie not perfectly straight) lines.


I ADORE alphas and elements that look a little sloppy and handmade. I just love the look they give to pages. There are a ton of choices out there — just browse any digi store and you will see lots of fun element and alpha sets.


I’ve showed this page before, but I wanted to show it again to reiterate the points I made above. Birgit is an amazing artist and I just want to run my hands over her page. Look closely at the layout and see all the little touches (including her amazing shadows) that make her page look “real.”



Here are some tips from THE DAILY DIGI artist team:

DĂșnia:I like to try make my pages more real, so I work with kits that looks more like paper kits without fantasy elements and “real” flowers and leaves for example.
Also I work with shadows do give dimension to my page and I try to use handwritting fonts.

tdd-kate_capturethemoment-duniaCredits: Capture the Moment by Kate Hadfield and Designs by Lili, Font: 2Peas Melissa, 2Peas Barefoot Professor and Adler

Kelly: “I keep it “real” by making real pages! Smiley
I love my digital elements and I love to create the vast majority of a layout in a digital format and then add the “real” elements to it after printing. I love the combo of the quick and techie digi with the tactile of paper-y. Smiley

Ana:With digital scrapbooking, it’s very easy to use other techniques that you can only use when creating an image digitally. That’s not for me, though. I like to create layouts that look like traditional scrapbooking. I try to think of the proportions of photos and elements, I use lots of fasteners to my photos (stitching, staples), I pay attention to my shadows (specially when layering elements I try to make sure I have no surrealistic shadows – like not shadowing a stamped alpha for example).”


Credits: Capture the moment, Designs by Lili and Kate Hadfield, Staple Believe, Designs by Lili, Fonts: Travelers Typewriter, CK Ali’s Hand and Courier New

Katie: I think about this a lot. One of the cool things about digi scrapping is that you can use just about anything on a page, but I also want my layout to really look like the kind of page you would see in a traditional album. I try to combine the best of both worlds. I have fun with adding some elements that I wouldn’t be able to use in a paper format (who could put an pencil or a cluster of glitter butterflies on a paper layout that would be shut into an album?) but I don’t get carried away. It’s tempting to add a ton of funky embellishments just because you can. I try to be sure that what I’m placing on the page somehow draws the viewer into the photo and journaling that I’m sharing.

In my opinion, the most important technique you can use to make your pages look real is the subtle use of shadowing. This took me a few years to realize and now I look at my older layouts and wish I had known more about shadows. I feel like I still have a lot to learn so I’ve appreciated the tutorials Steph linked to relating to shadows.

Here are a few of my layouts I feel like are some of my more realistic looking pages.




So what do YOU do to make your pages look real?