Basic Design Principles With Debbie- Alignment

To date we’ve covered three of six basic design principles: Emphasis, Contrast, and Balance. Today’s lesson is on a fourth: Alignment. In July and August, we will look at Repetition and Flow.


Alignment is a great tool for unifying and organizing the elements on your page so that viewers can take it all in, and, what’s more, so that viewers understand and appreciate the story or primary meaning of your page.


The principle of alignment says to:
1) consciously place each element on the page,
2) in relation to some other element on the page.

The reasons to use alignments are:
1) to create order (including organizing and grouping elements), and
2) to create visual connections between elements.

creating alignments

To create alignments on your scrapbook pages, you need to find a strong line . . .and use it. By this I mean, find ways to emphasize it and make it stronger.

There are many alignments in “Remember These Moments” by erininpink, but the strongest line on the page is the vertical line running along the left side of the photo. With the patterned paper blocks above it aligned on the left side and the tip of the left side of the journaling block below it aligned, the line becomes a strong one.

Another strong line runs along the bottom edge of the title block and lines up with the bottom edge of the patterned paper blocks to its right.

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“Remember These Moments” by ErinInPink.

use alignments to create order

Alignments define the white space on your page.

White space refers to the areas of your page that are not filled with elements. White space not only gives the eye a resting point, it provides contrast and helps elements stand out. What’s more, it’s a great tool for grouping elements, and, thus, can be used to establish a hierarchy among elements and groupings.

Alignments define the white space on your page.

White space exists around your elements (as margins) and between your elements (as gutters).

On “Life is Grand [children]” Sam Ellis lined up six small photos in two columns of three each. She kept the height of the columns equal to (and aligned with) the focal photo on the left.

Another alignment on this page that really makes the design click, is that of the left and right title-block edges with the edges of the photo columns above it.

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“Life is Grand[children]” by Sam Ellis

use alignments to create visual connections

When elements are aligned—even if they are not next to one another—there is an invisible line that connects them in your eye and in your mind. Connecting them strengthens the idea that they belong to the same piece.

On “Bright Spot,” the horizontal alignments as shown in the diagram help connect the two sides of this page despite the strongly division created by unusually-shaped white space. The top of the landscape photo on the left aligns with the top of the journaling block on the right. The bottom of the bottom photo on the left aligns with the bottom of the title word “spot.” The bottom of the bright yellow label plate aligns with the stitching beneath the title on the right.


“Bright Spot” by Debbie Hodge


centered alignment

You may align elements on their center points (either vertically or horizontally).This is an approach that can give your design a more formal look.

All of the elements on “Two Tired Kitties” by jill-beamer are aligned along their horizontal centers: the bracket-shaped photo, the title, and subtitle. Even the motifs on the patterned paper are centered.

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“Two Tired Kitties” by jill-beamer.

Carolee plays with multiple alignments on both vertical and horizontal element centers on “Captured Today.” The result is a page with a look I’d call classic but not traditionally formal. It delights and pulls the viewer in to the design.

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“Captured Today” by carolee

edge alignment

You can line up text or objects along their top, bottom, left, or right edges. Photos, blocks of journaling, and mats (all typically rectangular shapes) lend themselves well to edge alignment.

In “Finger Space,” Gabi has used alignments of text, photos, and mats to strengthen her page design. Notice how the top and bottom edges of the journaling block align with the top and bottom edges of the photo. The right edge of the title aligns with the right edge of the photo. Gabi creates a strong line of white space (a.k.a. gutter) between the journaling and the photo by right-aligning the journaling. Left-aligned journaling would have created a jagged edge that would have weakened this line.

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“Finger Space” by Gabi

In “Teen Boy Mows Lawn,” Britgirl incorporates many organizing alignments. The end of “teen boy mows” aligns with the right edge of green stitching and with the right edge of the photo block above. The top and bottom edges of the word “LAWN” in the title align with the top of the green stitching and the bottom of the title’s first half.

In an interesting break from the expected, Britgirl aligns the left edge of the journaling block with the left edge of some subtle writing above the photo: “document the details.”

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“Teen Boy Mows Lawn” by Britgirl


Once you’ve consciously put your alignments into place, it’s ok to place elements that break out of those lines. This will keep your white space from being so regular that it’s uninteresting. Additionally, those “overlappers” will ground elements to each other and to the page.

Katherine-hansen began “Froggy Boots” with a template by Deena Rutter that did a lot of the aligning work for her. See the points at which embellishments break out of the grid/alignments, including: the cloud at the top, the heart epoxy on the left, the umbrella at bottom right, and the clouds on the right side. These “breaks” from alignment add interest and firmly connect the blocks to the background canvas (a.k.a. grounding).

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“Froggy Boots” by katherine-hansen


Arrange your elements to create alignments that make sense, that organize your page, and that just LOOK GOOD! Look for opportunities to create strong lines. And if you’re going to make a line — make it a strong one. Don’t go half-way with it. Understand, too, that once you’ve created strong alignments, you may then go ahead and break them—purposefully.

There are many big and small ways to incorporate alignments. If you’d like to think some more on this, take a look at these two articles:
*Strengthen your scrapbook page design with alignments
*Justification that strengthens scrapbook page design



Debbie Hodge shares scrapbook pages ideas, resources, and tutorials almost daily at her website Get It Scrapped! Her passion is showing you how to organize your memories and photos to make great-looking scrapbook pages that tell awesome (and often meaningful) stories. She’s got an MBA with a concentration in operations management and has studied and practiced creative writing for two decades—even publishing a few short stories before publishing LOTS of scrapbook pages, articles, and even a book called Get It Scrapped!


P.S. Leigh was the random winner selected from yesterday’s feature Fizzy Pop post. She won $10 to Fizzy Pop’s store! THANKS for taking time to share the love with Lizzy!