Free Yourself from the Square


scrapsofpaperBe forewarned–some might call this a blog post, some might call it a rant. Well, just a little rant.

About scrapbook paper, of all things.

Hip to Be Square?

What is the origin, do you think, of the 12″ x 12″ standard size for scrapbook paper? It must have been existing albums that dictated that size at the beginning of this scrapbooking craze,’ lo those many years ago now. But who uses an album anymore?

If you didn’t go to art school, (or maybe even if you did) nobody told you that it’s harder to create an effective composition in a square, because it’s so darn STATIC. Which is why all the graphic design professionals (who did go to art school) who create the gorgeous layouts you see in all the scrapbooking magazines basically break that 12″ x 12″ square up into rectangles.

And that’s cool, because it works.

But I say, unshackle yourself from 12″ x 12.” From now on, you call the shots on size.

12″ x 12″ as a starting point is harder to work with, takes longer to finish, and generally requires waaayyy more bits–embellishments, titles, etc. to make it look right. And you probably don’t have the right bits you need anyway, even with that huge stash you’ve accumulated in the closet (sigh, a bit like sewing in that way…). And that either stops you altogether or sends you to the store to buy more bits.

Okay, you’re thinking, Sarah is saying we should just use 8.5″ x 11″ paper that runs through the printer. That’s economical. A lot of digital scrapbooking uses that format. Yeah, yeah, we know that already. But a lot of that paper isn’t as pretty as all the 12″ x 12″ out there.

Nope. Not saying that. (!) I’m not a slave to standard paper sizes. They’re not the boss of me.

But it’s nice to start somewhere. Why not use the size norms of the framing and fine art worlds for some guidance. I say, let’s start with 8″ x 10″.

Way easier and way faster.

And perfect if you have one great photo–and admit it, most of the time, you only have one really nice photo, not three. (And the great photos you see on the scrapbook pages in the magazines are there because that graphic designer also minored in photography!).

And one photo almost always looks a bit lost on 12″ x 12″ paper, which means you either have to enlarge it (and know how to do that), rummage up some awesome embellishments, or start journaling on that page like a madwoman in order to fill up some space.

And does anyone really journal except the super hard core? I mean, you have to feel pretty confident about your writing, (Is it witty enough? Are you capturing the moment? How bad does my handwriting look?) because everyone knows you don’t hide your finished scrapbook pages in albums anymore, you hang them on the wall.

Which gets me to my next point (well, my whole point, really):  8″ x 10″ raised wood panels.

Fleeing the tyranny of 12″ x 12″

When I was first designing scrapbooking projects for novice scrapbookers, I was contemplating how to make the scrapbook thing feel more achievable and fun for folks who wanted to preserve their favorite memories in this fun way, but didn’t feel super artistic or have time to scrap 24/7.

So I decided to design scrapbook projects on 8″ x 10′” stretched canvases, and thought, this is it! The canvases were cheap and the end product looked super cute and finished (ready to hang on the wall as soon as you were done, no framing required). Loved it.

Alas, I found out the hard way that the glue has trouble adhering completely to the canvas for the long haul, and often over time, things would slowly start to peel up. Poo.

What’s the solution?

Well, for a few dollars more, I think you should get a raised wood panel–shaped just like a stretched canvas, but with a clean hard surface. Snazzy. Finished. Professional.

You should do this and pay more because:

  1. Your worth it.
  2. It’s easier.
  3. You can really press down when you glue so your work won’t peel up.
  4. You’ll feel incredible giving them as gifts because they’re substantial and ready to hang on the wall as soon as you’re done.
  5. You’ll end up being more productive and creative because it’s so easy to finish an 8 x 10 project.

Of course you can still buy that gorgeous 12″ x 12″ paper, just cut it down to 8″ x 10″ and start from there. And if your paper is two-sided, now you have bits of the back to work with.


What do you think? Any thoughts/strong opinions, questions about paper sizes, composition or layout issues? Do you like to make scrapbook pages? What do you think of the 8″ x 10″ option?

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  1. Dawn says:

    Hi Sarah! I found you through Havi. :-)

    I love the idea of the canvas for scrapbook pages! I’ve framed a couple for friends, and you’re right, it’s quite tricky to figure out where to put all those embellishments, esp if it’s a smaller frame.

    Thanks for the neat idea!

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