Brian Driscoll hadn't made a single arts and crafts project since he was in elementary school. And the suburban Minneapolis father sure wasn't about to start making paper scrapbooks at the age of 36. That is, until he discovered he could create fancy journals of his three kids' activities paper free, courtesy of his digital camera and PC.
Scrapbooking--once the domain of teenage girls who pasted photos, postcards, ticket stubs, and other mementos into big, blank books--is a fast-growing hobby among adults. Part of the reason is the arrival of digital tools that let scrapbookers trade a few mouse clicks on "cut" and "paste" for actual scissors and glue. By using software and downloads from websites, hobbyists can arrange their favorite digital pictures into attractive layouts that can be shared through E-mail and CD-ROM s or as magazine-quality printouts.
Most of the people who try digital scrapbooking started out as paper scrappers. Step by step, they've discovered ways technology can help. Printers in photo developing stores allow them to crop pictures, get rid of red eyes, and rev up the color. That eventually leads to photo scanners for at-home use. Soon these scrappers are turning to their PC s to add fancy fonts and clip art and testing out image-editing software like Adobe Photoshop Elements ($30 after rebate) and Jasc Paint Shop Pro ($99), which enable them to alter photos and pages with almost total control. One particular lifesaver in the technology is the undo button: Unlike film photos, digital pictures can be seamlessly put back together again.
Still, creating a digital scrapbook page from scratch can be daunting. Many of the hobbyists look to CD s that contain a variety of themed templates for use as a starting point. The Simply Digital line from CottageArts.net offers users page designs that look layered (box). Photos appear to be held on the page by metal rivets, backgrounds simulate the look of textured papers, and phrases jump off the page.
There is a learning curve with these tools, but most say it's not too steep. Tanya Todd-Krasen, 24, of Bremerton, Wash., made her first digital scrapbook page in April. Now she posts tips at scrapbookbytes.com on such subjects as how to use Photoshop to create embroidery-style letters and stitching details that look as though they're sewn into the paper. In addition to these free tutorials, the site sells downloadable images used to enhance pages. One $7 kit from the Very Victorian Elements design team, for example, features ornate picture frames, fancy letter fonts, and decorative elements like pearl necklaces, skeleton keys, and feather-plume pens.
Convenience hooked Todd-Krasen on digital scrapping. "There's no way I could spread out all the [traditional scrapbooking] supplies without my 3-year-old getting into everything," she explains. And when she needs to make that extra copy for the in-laws, all she has to do is point and click.
Saving a page from summer past
Now that you've put away that barbecue grill, it's time to figure out what to do with those digital pictures you took over the Labor Day weekend. You might want to make your own digital scrapbook page, using a template designed exclusively for U.S. News by Michelle Shefveland, founder of CottageArts.net. The template, which has a "Lazy days of summer" label that looks sewn onto a background of ticking clocks, can be accessed free at www.cottagearts.net/usnews.html, which contains a version of the page shown here, sans the personal text and photos. Check out the special effects available in the digital domain: layers, transparency, white text, illusions of textured papers, and dimensional doodads. Those who have image-editing software can digitally "paste" photos, move things around on the page, or change colors directly on the template. But anyone can print this page out in 8 1/2-by-11 or 12-by-12 format and glue his snapshots on the old-fashioned way. -Eleanor Levie
This story appears in the September 13, 2004 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.