How Do I... Scrapbooking Basics

How Do I… The Three 3’s of Scrapbooking

Written by Tamara

The Basics of Scrapbooking

While I try to stay away from the concept of scrapbooking “rules”, there are some basic tips you can use when designing pages that will help add designer oomph without keeping your scrapbook layouts in the box, so to speak.  I mean, we want to feel creative, we want the process to be relaxing.  But sometimes looking at an empty sheet of paper can be a little intimidating, am I right?  So if you remember these designing tips it can help get you started and remain pleasing to the eye.

Rule of Three #1 – Three colors

I love color as much as anyone else, but sometimes we can get a little carried away with color, or we don’t know how to use it to the best advantage.  So, when designing pages you want to remember that colors are generally most pleasing in threes; the main color, a good secondary color, and an accent color.  Of course, this doesn’t mean if a pattern paper comes with a bunch of little flowers in fourteen different colors that you can’t use it.  The pattern paper will generally have an overall color that sticks out (usually the background color), so you would use that as one color.  A brightly colored patterned paper may have a few main colors that you can pull from to pick the secondary and accent colors for the layout.  Also, neutrals generally don’t count in the rule of threes.  Neutrals tend to blend in rather than standing out as an additional color, so don’t count neutrals in your three main colors unless you want to (for instance, your layout might be black, white and red – in that case, even though black and white are neutral colors, in that instance they are acting as your main color and secondary color, with red as the accent).  In the layout example below, my main color is blue, the secondary color is red, and the accents are yellow.  The layout includes white and black, but they don’t compete with my color scheme.

Rule of Three # 2 – Page thirds

After you have picked your layout colors, you may still be staring at your paper wondering, “Now, where do I put everything?”   Sometimes you have a beautiful photo and you want to put it right in the middle, which isn’t a bad strategy.  However, the viewer’s eye is going to land right in the middle of the page on that photo and it’s going to sit there, so whatever is happening on the rest of the page is going to be out of focus and extraneous, in a sense.  Designers overcome this with the rule of thirds; essentially, you want to imagine two vertical lines dividing your background into thirds, and two horizontal lines dividing the page into thirds, leaving you with four intersections.   Like this:


Imagine this grid on your background...

Imagine this grid on your background…

It is pleasing to the eye if you place your main page element on one of those four intersections.  (This is the same trick photographers use sometimes to add visual interest to a photo… this is why you often see photo subjects slightly off center).   You can then build the remaining elements of the layout around it; placing the remaining elements on the remaining intersections creates a “z” formation that keeps the eye moving and adds visual interest to the layout.

Rule of Three #3 –   Three Embellishments

OK, so don’t get too literal with this rule.  I do NOT mean you can only use three embellishments on a page, or that you must use three.  Essentially, this rule again is about eye movement.  What you want to do is create three points of interest on your layout to keep the viewers eye moving; this if often done in a triangle, but doesn’t necessarily have to be.  Also, in this case embellishment “clusters” that are popular now a days count as “1”.  Typically designers will use this rule with color.   Let’s go back to the idea of a black, white, and red layout we discussed above.  Let’s say you have a beautiful picture of a girl in a black and white dress with a red flower in her hair.  You find scrapbook papers in black and white, but you want to pop that red.  So, you might add red lettering in your title, and then some red embellishment flowers somewhere else on the flower.  As the viewer looks at the page, their eyes will naturally be drawn to the title, the red flower in the girl’s hair, and the red flower you embellished with, thus creating “movement”.

This is an old layout I did which illustrates the three rules of three pretty well:

thirds - Copy

Rule #1 – Colors.  The main colors are blue, red, and yellow.  Again, you can see that white and black are in the layout, but they don’t distract from the other colors.

Rule #2 – Layout thirds.  See how my main photo rests right over the imaginary grid point in the upper left quadrant of the layout?  The title rests close to the grid point in the upper right, and had I actually written out my journaling (grins sheepishly) it would have been in that yellow block that rests just over the grid point in the lower left corner.  I could have just put my big picture right in the middle, but this way they eye moves over the layout.

Rule #3 – Embellishments.  This particular layout uses this rule very literally, with the three stars that make a triangle.  The stars have a little glitter on them, so they are another element that draw attention and keep your eye moving around the layout.

Take a look at some of your layouts and see how many of the three rules of three you’ve already been using… then try designing a new layout and see what you think!

1 Comment

  • Great information here, thank you so much. Have never done scrapbooking before but now feel I have a basic understanding of how to start, and hopefully finish!

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