How’d They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers

Have you ever wondered how to get your white space page to pop or how to achieve that gorgeously blended, layered art journaling look? Let's find out! I’ve asked some experienced scrappers with several different layout styles how they build their pages, from start to finish. Each scrapper also shares her favorite tip for achieving beautiful pages in her particular style. Whether you’re hoping to improve in your current style or branch out and try a new one, these ladies will teach you the design secrets of their beautiful pages!
Jana (janamm) is a creative team member at Catscrap. Her pages feature the most beautiful clusters while leaving plenty of white space. Check out her gallery here for more inspiration.
jmlove 1 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers you & me by Janamm

boykl 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top ScrappersJust My Boy by Janamm

How do you start a page? 
The first thing I do is look through the files from a kit, then an idea comes into my head.
What types of backgrounds and elements do you use?
I love bold, patterned papers, but sometimes I’m more into solids. It depends on the colors of the kit, I think.
Tell us about your process for building a page.
I start BIG:  [I] open all the elements I want to have on my page, bring them on the paper and arrange them like I want. Then, I play with the shadows, add some brushes (if needed) and after all that, I look for the perfect photo! [Then] I select all my elements on the page and bring them on one layer--and minimize them so I have the perfect white space page with a great element cluster.
What’s your top tip for someone who wants to create a page in this style?
Be brave; don’t be afraid of bold patterned papers; play with a LOT of elements and then make them SMALL!
In your opinion, what is a defining feature of your style?
A small, beautiful cluster against a lot of white space on a bright paper.
Paula Kesselring is a designer at Catscrap with a unique vintage/realistic/collage style for both her products and her personal layouts. View her gallery here for more inspiration in this fun style.
paulakesselring digidare238 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers Just 1 Thing by Paula Kesselringpaulakesselring digidare242 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top ScrappersPaper Dolls by Paula Kesselring
How do you start a page?
I usually start with a theme in mind, for example, in the page "toys of childhood," I wanted to create a page that was centered around one of my favorite childhood toys. Then my head starts to work looking for what elements in my digi kits collection would fit this theme.
What types of background and elements do you use?
Most of my backgrounds are neutral and allow me to write journaling and put however many elements to help tell my story [on the page].
Tell us about your process for building a page. 
From the moment I choose the second element, all the other choices flow automatically. I play a lot with different backgrounds, alphas and elements until I’m happy with the result.
What's your top tip for someone who wants to create a page in your style?
I love more realistic-looking pages. For me the most important technique you can use to make your pages look real is the right use of shadowing. So, I pay much attention to this part. Because objects reflect their color onto a surface, shadows are rarely black. They should be a a little darker and grayed version of the color of the surface the shadow falls on. You can see that by taking a look around at real objects and their shadows on different surfaces.
Vintage/Realistic Kits by Paula Kesselring
paulakesselring tictac preview2 t 600 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers Tic Tac by Paula Kesselring paulakesselring  FlairBox3 preview2 t 600 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top ScrappersFlair Box #3 by Paula Kesselring
Paula generously provided a coupon to DST Insider readers who want to experiment with her style so go check out her store. Thanks, Paula!
paulakesselring DSTcoupon600 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers
Lex (mrshobbes) calls her style art-journal inspired. She loves to play around and experiment with art journal-style kits and has some awesome tips for those of us who want to join her and learn more about art journaling.
he saw me 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers he saw me by Lex (mrshobbes)
How do you start a page? 
I look at the papers. I'll usually find the One paper that I automatically zero in on. More often than not, I'll find two or three I want to use, so I think about how I can use them all or I choose just one and tweak it. I really like blending papers together, especially if one has a print I like and another a texture I like. Sometimes I will just keep adding papers, playing with blending modes, taking out papers, adding more, playing with more blending modes, then POW! I find the paper has taken a color or mix I really like. I'll also play with fill and opacity on the paper layers until I get a look I like.
In this page, I blended (I think) two papers together because I loved the floral brushes running down the side of one and the newsprint touches on another. I think I settled on either the Lighten or Overlay blend mode here.
goals week 2 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers Hopes Dreams Goals Schemes by Lex (mrshobbes) What types of backgrounds and elements do you use? I like backgrounds that either have a striking color, a nice neutral color, subtle textures or print, or a blend of any of those! For these types of pages I like elements that are either paper pieces or chunkier, 3D pieces that when shadowed pop off the page. When I do these pages I've realized I don't stray too much from having my photo in a cluster on one area of the page. Tell us about your process for building a page. It really depends on what story I want to tell, the photo or a technique I want to play with.This one was part of a goal-themed challenge, so I knew I wanted to focus more on my journaling. The freebie had this gorgeous collage-y paper that I knew I wanted to play with and attempt to fill with journaling. I started stacking some paper pieces together, seeing how they looked, adding more, etc. Many times I'll fall in love with an element (like the GOALS wordart) and by hook or by crook, I will fit it in my layout. Some pieces I chose just because I liked how they looked with drop shadows and they seemed to go with my layout's flow. Honestly, art journaling has no rules. Anything goes. I've found that when I don't have a fully-formed plan of how the page is going to look, I can relax and play more and enjoy the process more. So yes, I've literally thrown every element in a kit on a canvas and then worked my way from there. I've picked and chosen elements, stacked them together and then taken away a few. I've added more. I've deleted some. My primary purpose here now is to play with whatever is available.
shoujo love 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers shoujo love by Lex (mrshobbes) With this one I had wanted to experiment more with my paper/photo blending. I learned a new technique for blending text and brushes into a paper (from The Daily Digi) so I wanted to see how far I could take it. I think I blended three background papers together and four images (photo stills from anime I like) and then played around with blending modes, opacity, and fill again. I even fiddled with blending modes for my title (simply typed with a font). Then I clustered paper pieces around my photo, figured out where to put journaling and finished the page.
What are your top tips for someone who wants to create a page in your style?
Stalk the galleries of those whose styles you love! I have my favorites bookmarked on my RSS reader and when I feel like playing with the [art-journaling] look, I visit their galleries. There are also some excellent art-journaling classes and workshops for those just dipping their toes into the style. I just wanted to see if I could do this style and am happy with the results so far. I think I've actually incorporated artjournaling elements and design inspiration into my own style and tweaked it all to make it work for my layouts. So, the result is they kinda look artjournal-y, but they also undoubtedly look like my layouts--not layouts that mimic someone else's.
PLAY, PLAY, PLAY. Seriously! By this I mean experiment with everything you can experiment with! This style let me get to know my program (PS CS3) better. Ask any of my scrap friends and they will tell you that brushes used to give me the heebie-jeebies. But I've played around with brushes and stamps and masks and blended them together and apart and just had a blast with them. Play with a layered, clustered look or a totally blended look. Play with 3D elements or stamped, brushy elements.
overthinking me 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers overthinking me by Lex (mrshobbes) Here are two different layouts of mine where I played with several things like: cutting my photo collage-style, text effects, blending papers and brushes and even a photo overlay. Many times I have no idea what I'm doing, I just fiddle with drop-down menus, percentages, etc.Ask for help if you have questions. One of the best things about this digi-community is you can throw a question into a forum and everyone is willing to offer suggestions.I pestered a few friends about trying out this style--I'm a controller by nature, meaning I like to have a plan of execution and stuff, so I remember first getting thrown for a loop when I'd often read, "art journaling has no rules. Anything goes! Do what you want!" What?! No! I need direction! What I've discovered with my playing is that sometimes it's good to play with no direction involved. Oftentimes the direction resolves itself and then you find yourself with an awesome layout!
this is real 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappersthis is real by Lex (mrshobbes) In your opinion, what is a defining feature of this style? Hmm ... from what I've noticed, art-journaling pages typically have interesting patterns and textures, paper pieces, journaling cut in strips, collage-like cut outs, sometimes blended images or patterns and so forth. For further information on this fun style, see Nancie Rowe Janitz' Art Journaling Tutorial and The Daily Digi's Font Blending Tutorial.   
Romy, a creative team member at Mscraps, creates layouts that often feature gorgeous blending work and a stunning single photo. You can view her gallery here.
flower power 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers Flower Power by Romy
How do you start a page?
It's always different. It can be the photo(s) first, or it can be the other way around - I play with elements and then look for a picture that would convey the message [I want].
What types of backgrounds and elements do you use?
I would say mostly solids. I might be afraid a bit of patterned or bold papers. Elements shouldn't overpower the photo. I like to have just enough colors and textures. Less is often more.
here comes sun 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top ScrappersHere Comes the Sun by Romy
Tell me about your process for building a page.
If I am inspired by a kit, I throw a bunch of elements and some papers on the page and shuffle them around. I let them give me an idea. That is usually the case with my CT pages. Other times, I start with the photo I want to showcase and then I search for elements which would nicely harmonize with it.
What's your top tip for someone who wants to create a page in your style?
Almost everything is about the photo. It tells the story. Other embellishments are there to support the picture. Although, in non-photo layouts, elements and words take its place.
Tezra (Bask8kace), creative team member at Catscrap, often scraps in a traditional, paper-scrap-inspired style, but she also enjoys branching out into other styles. Check out her gallery here for more inspiration.
xo1 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers xo1 by Tezra (Bask8kace) How do you start a page? I always start with a kit. I open up one that inspires me or that I can't wait to dig into.  Sometimes the color scheme will inspire me, sometimes it's the papers and sometimes there's that perfect element I have to use. I sit and look at every paper, every element and slowly, one by one, drag everything that inspires me over to Photoshop. Then I alternate between adding elements and blocking out the page (adding in masks for photos and papers).  I always add in drop shadows as I go. My favorite part of digi scrapping is the undobutton. I add, take away and undo so often and it works perfectly for my brain. That's one reason why I can't do paper scrapping any more, even though I tried. Adhering things down is too permanent.I also like to re-size a lot. I don't ever know what a page will look like until it's done. Sometimes I have an idea in my head when I start, but it never ends up looking like my original idea. After everything is blocked out, I look for the perfect photo to compliment the page and add that into my mask. Lastly, I sit back and look at the layout.  I let it "speak" to me and am usually moved by a feeling to the page. Then I just start writing from the heart based on that feeling. My biggest strength is in my journaling and I love to fill up a big portion of my page with my thoughts and feelings.
friends27 300x300 Howd They Do That? Layout Design Tips from Top Scrappers Friends by Tezra (Bask8kace) What types of backgrounds and elements do you use?  Because I love to journal, my background is almost always a solid. I love patterned paper as well, it's probably my favorite element and I really like to accent with it. My favorite elements are stitches, flowers and buttons. I think you can probably find those on almost all of my pages. I like a really crisp clean look and traditional elements, so there is lots of blocking on my pages, and simple elements.What’s your top tip for someone who wants to create a page in your style? Try not to clutter up your page. Leave the focus on the photo and the journaling. Elements should be accents. You don't necessarily need a lot of white space, but focus in on the main elements of the page. You don't need a lot of fluff. In your opinion, what is a defining feature of your style? Using a lot of "traditional" elements that you could find in the "real" world, a large portion of the layout accented by patterned paper, typically a solid background, a focus on the photo or photos and possibly a title and/or journaling.
 
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  • http://gravatar.com/paulakesselring paula kesselring

    I hope you like my pages and like the $1.00 coupon too girls!!!!
    xoxo
    Paula

  • Erika(DoodleBop)

    I love all of the pages here, but my fave is the one by Paula called “Paper Dolls.” Thank you for the coupon, too!

    • http://gravatar.com/paulakesselring paula kesselring

      Thanks Erika!!!!!!I have not forgotten what you promised about this kit!!
      xoxo

  • http://www.dreamynest.com Shelle

    Awesome article! I loved this and pinned it, too. Thank you girls for sharing this. I loved the workflow insight.