Virtual Roundtable: Template Designers’ Edition

Dig into the world of templates and template designing Editor’s Note:  The DST Insider invited Sara Gleason of Zinnias & Swallowtails to explore templates and template designing with a group of talented template creators.  The discussion included Elizabeth Albers (Scrapping With Liz), Anna Aspnes, Amy Martin, Lynnette Penacho (Nettio Designs), Tiffany Tillman and Kayleigh Wiles (Studio Double D). I was thrilled to sit down at the virtual roundtable with an incredible group of my peers to discuss templates and template design in the digital scrapbooking community and industry. Let’s take a look at the conversation: When considering the central question (Why do you think digital scrapbookers enjoy templates so much?”), we all agreed that templates act as a valuable map or foundation of design for those who may not feel as comfortable or confident in creating page designs.  That map encourages scrappers to release all of the little things that may hold them back from telling their stories: perfectionism, apprehensions about digiscrapping or page designing and lack of time. Apart from being a fabulous time-saving tool for scrapbookers, templates, like any sketch, are enormously versatile (they can be modified, used more than once in different ways and tailored to suit any number of scrapping styles and stories) which opens wide the possibilities for storytelling and creative expression. Here’s what the roundtable designers shared specifically: Anna Aspnes: There’s a huge amount of fear in digital scrapbooking and with regard to the creative process in general, and it’s far more intimidating to have that white blank canvas staring at you in the face than it is with the basic design already done for you.  Why re-invent the wheel if you don’t have to?  We all want more time to devote to the things we love but the reality is that most us don’t have it.  Templates create the perfect shortcut for those wanting a no-fuss approach to scrapbooking.  I am also seeing an increasing trend in more embellishments being included with templates which is often a great way to sample a designer’s product before making a larger investment in say, a complete kit. Amy Martin: Often times people need a starting place.  Sometimes, it’s a kit while for others, it’s a picture.  However, these days, templates are the simplest starting place of all - they provide the outline for a finished product, even if that finished product ends up looking nothing like the original. Lynnette Penacho: Templates provide an easy starting point. As women and scrapbookers we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, especially where memory keeping is concerned. Scrapping With Liz: I think they are a great resource for getting your pages started, especially when you are stuck. There is an abundance of templates out there so it’s easy to find what you really want to incorporate into your page: multi-photo, single photo, big photo, journaling, etc. Kayleigh Wiles: I think templates go over well because they are such a great starting point to a layout. Templates open the doors to various ways of putting your own spin to the template and making it your own. One template used by five different scrappers will have totally different looks but they all started with the same base which is something I think is super cool. Tiffany Tillman: I agree with everything mentioned. One other reason why I think templates are so popular is because you can feature techniques on your pages with little time invested. Grab templates with blending, masking, artistic brushwork and the like, and enjoy the reward of amazing techniques fairly quickly. And the conversation continued.  We talked about the ways we have seen our templates used that have surprised or delighted us.  We all agreed that we absolutely love to see our designs in use and in creative ways:

What ways have you seen your templates used that surprised and delighted you?

Anna Aspnes: I am honestly just thrilled whenever I see a layout using one of my templates.  I think the ratio of un-scrapped stories and photos is far higher than the number of completed pages, and every time I see the use of one of my templates, it’s not just a mini- celebration of there being another tick on the board, but the fact they have chosen to pair their personal stories with my art.  I am also continuously in awe by the sheer limitless creativity of people.  Just when I think I’ve seen it all, someone will tweak a template of mine in a fashion that simply blows my mind. Sara Gleason:  I am tickled every time I see a page created with one of my templates for the very reason Anna mentioned: it’s an honor to have been an encouragement (no matter how small) in a scrapper’s personal storytelling process.   And I love to see how something that once began as “my” design (often from my personal pages) evolve into something completely fresh and different and separate and theirs.  And when the transformation results in an entirely different look, something really novel with the design foundation I can’t help but smile and say, YES. Amy Martin:  Whenever someone uses a template of mine, I am delighted when the finished work has only slightly recognizable bits of the template, whether it’s a frame or just the placement of things.  I love to see creativity at work. Scrapping With Liz:  I like when I see that someone has taken my template and does the totally unexpected with it. Maybe it’s something that I would have never done with the template but they made it look awesome. Kayleigh Wiles: I love seeing people combining various templates together to create a new look. I think that layered templates are such a great deal as you can pull details from a template to another layout. Tiffany Tillman: I love to see template users pick parts from one of my templates and combine it with others to create a completely new, customized look. I call it “re-purposing” and it stretches your template stash and creativity. Whenever I see it happen, I think genius! Next, we shared tips for new-to-digi scrappers and new-to-us scrappers.

What tips can you offer to newbies who want to use one of your templates to create a page?

Amy Martin:  Clip, clip, clip.  Add elements then layer some more. And then, after you’ve done that, add some more.  Finally, don’t be afraid to change things up--rotate the entire thing, rotate simply one component or even leave some things out. (Editor’s Note:  For a basic introduction to clipping and clipping masks in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, review this tutorial: ) Scrapping With Liz: Yes! Clip and don’t be afraid to change things up. You can hide layers (the little eye on your layer palette in PS/PSE) and that way you can get a good idea if you don’t want that layer or if you would like to keep it. Sara Gleason:   Yes, I concur.  The single greatest tool for scrapping digital templates is the clipping mask function.  And thankfully, it’s an easy function to master.  And when you are comfortable with clipping, you can really play with template designs and gain confidence as you learn your program and develop your scrapping style.  I suggest choosing a page design that appeals to you, maybe because it echoes elements of design you love, or maybe because it’s a little “out of your box” creatively; then, begin adding bits of you: your photos, your journaling, products you love, and build the page from there.  The greatest thing about digital-scrapbooking and templates is that you can change anything and everything to really own the page and make it suit your story. Anna Aspnes:  For those new to digital scrapbooking, I always recommend starting slow.  The learning curve to learn the tools used in digital scrapbooking is much steeper than in paper scrapbooking.  Cutting with scissors is something we learn at Kindergarten but cutting in Photoshop or Elements is a whole different ball game.  No need to make it more complicated than it needs to be.   Learn the basics, and what you need to know to complete any given task, as opposed to what you want to know. In the case of templates, you will need to learn how to use the clipping mask function in Photoshop and Elements, and then I suggest using the template “as is” to begin with. Once you are comfortable with the process, you can then progress to modifying the template and injecting some of your own creative flair.  This approach builds confidence and prevents the novice digital scrapbooker from becoming overwhelmed.  The slow and steady turtle finishes the race. Kayleigh Wiles: I would say to grab one that speaks to you, one you enjoy the look of, and then just dive in start adding your photos and journaling. The Studio Double-D Layer Works templates come complete with everything from brushwork, lots of elements, frames and a title, so you can easily create a page from the template quickly and easily. Tiffany Tillman: In my template classes, I stress that every student should discover their template style. Everyone is attracted to different design styles, so seek templates with similar design characteristics you’ve come to love. Your pages will look consistent and you’ll have an easier time populating the page when it aligns with choices you’d make even if it wasn’t a template. Own the style! The conversation moved into our reflections of our design beginnings.

How did you get into the template-design business?  Why?

Scrapping With Liz: A friend introduced me to digital scrapbooking a little over three years ago. I had been a traditional scrapbooker for over ten years and one of my favorite things to do was to lay out my page. So naturally, once I got the hang of Photoshop, I started making my own templates...and then it took off from there. Anna Aspnes:  My products have always been customer-driven, and so overwhelming demand to duplicate my scrapbooking-style led me into the business.  It’s so rewarding to be able to share my art and assist others in documenting their memories. Tiffany Tillman: When I worked with Creating Keepsakes, scrapbookers who read the magazine sent me links to their pages, which were recreations of my published designs.  Essentially scraplifting, but it was completely flattering. After some time, I realized I could make the lives of my scrap-peers easier and save others time by sharing the original, digital frameworks of my files. To this day, I’m still overjoyed to see any one of my designs “work” for someone else. It’s the best compliment. Sara Gleason:  I had been digital scrapbooking for two years when friends and fellow scrappers encouraged me to create page-design templates rooted in my own layouts and reflective of my scrapping style.  And I’m so grateful now for that nudge because having the opportunity to encourage others in their storytelling has been such a joy for me.  An honor, really. And we shared advice for others who are hoping to design templates.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start designing their own templates?

Amy Martin: Find something new and unique in your designing. Scrappying With Liz: I agree. You must be unique. Anna Aspnes:  Agreed.  There are so many template designers now that you have to find a niche that makes you different and stand out.  You should also be able to answer the question, “Why should they buy my templates over those from any of the other thousands of designers?” Kayleigh Wiles: I very much agree with the above! Tiffany Tillman: Definitely, find your niche and offer something new. Set your self apart. All hard to do. Sara Gleason:  I concur.  Find your “home” in design.  Keep it fresh.  Be authentic. Next, we discussed what designs are the most attractive to our customers.

Which types of templates seem to be the most popular (style, number of photos, etc.)?

Scrapping With Liz: It seems like templates with multi-photo spots, double page layouts and lots of paper layering are what is most popular with my customers. Anna Aspnes:  Generally people gravitate toward templates that they feel they can’t make themselves or have no desire to invest their time in doing so.  I think they’re also looking for value for money in terms of what they get and how that will help them get their pages done.  MultiFoto templates, especially delivered in a cohesive album format, are always popular. Kayleigh Wiles: I have a hard time pinpointing a certain trend in the Layer Works Templates that makes certain ones most popular. But as a template user and a fan of Anna’s MultiFoto series, I love how she creates so many openings for an ‘oh gosh that’s lots of photos to use’ layout! Tiffany Tillman: Digiscrappers do love their multi-photos and event-friendly layouts, absolutely. Investment of time also seems to be a key. Templates with a twist in the design or a hard to achieve technique sell well in my store. Sara Gleason:  Templates that feature plays with paper, shapes and layers have always been the most popular in my store.  Recently I have seen a pull toward my storytelling-centric products, which I’m really thrilled about because that’s where my heart is. And we chatted about recent trends in design.

Have you seen template design change in the past few years?

Scrapping With Liz: I think templates have become more acceptable [to use]. I think for awhile there people thought it was cheating if they used a template....not so at all. I think we’ve learned that templates can be a great boost to your creativity. Anna Aspnes:  Totally agree.  I think there used to be a stigma attached to templates.  It was perceived that templates were considered cheating, much like scraplifting.  Thankfully sense has prevailed and they’re considered a smart and time-efficient means of scrapbooking.  As time goes by, I’m also seeing the standard sketch template become more sophisticated with more layers, increased depth to those layers to include blending modes and layer styles, offering increased options for customization and value for money. Kayleigh Wiles: I agree that templates have been become more popular recently because people are really seeing the value of the starting point to a layout. It is a great way to try something new with the style of the template designer. Sara Gleason:   Yes.  Thankfully sense has prevailed and there has been a huge surge of interest in templates as people continue to see them as an asset in their storytelling process.  There is a now a wider range of design styles as well.

What trends in template design do you see increasing in the near future?

Anna Aspnes:  I expect that templates will continue to become more complex as designers push the boundaries of what is currently accepted.  Competition breeds innovation. Tiffany Tillman: I believe our options will increase as technology continues to improve. Our photo-editing software, printing technology, peripherals and more are evolving. With each new change comes the opportunity for new template solutions. Sara Gleason:  Even in the three and a half years I’ve been digiscrapping, I’ve seen ebbs and flows in design trends.  Right now there seems to be a lot of interest in fuller designs that are rich in layers.  And I think that templates will continue to evolve as the industry grows and changes right along with techonology.  But I also sense a resurgence of interest in the “simple” and in the story-centric. It was a joy to chat with these inspirational and talented women and offering insights into template design as we know it.
saratps Virtual Roundtable:  Template Designers Edition

Sara Gleason

Author Bio: Sara Gleason is a storyteller at heart and loves to document her family's memories with the camera and on the page. She hopes to help you plant your own story with inspiration and scrapping tools. Zinnias & Swallowtails by Sara Gleason offers varied template designs and prompt and story driven inspiration for scrapbookers and storytellers.  You can connect with Sara at    Send article as PDF