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This chapter is from the book

Design Elements

You might find that, despite your best efforts to follow the rules, your pages still don't quite "work" the way you want them to. Perhaps they are too formal, or too plain. That's when it's time to think about adding more elements to the total design. You can use lines or blocks of color or texture to help with eye leading. A line next to or under a picture really helps to draw your attention to it. In Figure 5.10, I've experimented with a couple of ways to make the square page from Figure 5.8 more interesting.

Figure 5.10Figure 5.10 Adding another element makes the page layout more effective.

If there's only one photo on the page, you can put it in the center and maybe add a frame around it, or a block of color behind it, so it's obviously the center of attention. Better yet, try it off-center with a color block, or put some embellishments behind it. Figures 5.11 and 5.12 show a couple of examples.

Figure 5.11Figure 5.11 The schoolmarm gets a background of old report cards.

Figure 5.12Figure 5.12 The dog looks better a bit off-center. Notice how the color block helps balance the page.

Adding Textures in the Computer

If you look closely at the color version of Figure 5.12, you can see that I added some texture to the colored block. It's very easy to do this in any reasonably versatile graphics application such as Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop Elements, or even ACD FotoCanvas, which is shown in Figure 5.13. There's a filter called Noise in the filter list. You can remove noise or add it.

Noise, by the way, is not a soundtrack for your pictures, or even a comment on them. Noise is a random pattern of single dots or pixels kind of like we used to see on TV back in the days before cable and satellite when trying to tune in a distant station. Really bad noise looked like dirty snow. You will probably need to remove noise from scans of old or dusty pictures. In this case, to make a textured background, you want to add some noise. You can choose colored or monochromatic (black) dots, and decide just how random the placement is. Photoshop Elements offers you a choice of uniform or Gaussian noise. Gaussian noise is supposedly more random.

Figure 5.13Figure 5.13 The ACD FotoCanvas has its own palette, so you can select the color of the noise as well as the amount.

There are lots of other ways to add texture to a block of color. Assuming that you are doing the whole page on the computer, you can scan pieces of cloth or lace, or even things as common as a paper towel or a piece of interesting textured paper, and apply those, just as you might paste the real item on a page. Photoshop Elements has a filter called Texturizer, which adds texture to a selected object or a page. It's shown in use in Figure 5.14. I've created one texture from its basic Sandstone preset, and another from a texture I loaded from the textures folder called Feathers. You can vary the size and depth of the textures you create, as well as experiment with which way the light strikes them.

Figure 5.14Figure 5.14 In Photoshop Elements, the path to the Texturizer is Filter->Texture->Texturizer.

I strongly urge you to experiment with your filters and plug-ins in whatever graphics program(s) you have. You can learn a lot just by poking around with them and trying different combinations of filters. Remember, you really can't break the computer by trying new things. If there's not enough memory to do what you want to do, the application might crash. There are at least a dozen other reasons why the computer might crash, and it's almost inevitable that one day, it will. The worst that will happen is that you'll need to restart the computer and start over. For that reason alone, it's important to save your work frequently as you go along. If a program crashes with unsaved work, you cannot recover it. Save every time you add something. If you can save in a format that allows you to keep layers active, such as TIFF (.tif), Photoshop (.psd), or Paint Shop Pro (.psp), do so. It makes recovering from a crash that much easier. That way, you can resume at least close to where you were, as opposed to having to start from scratch again.

Textural Objects: Ribbons, Fiber, and Fabrics

Don't forget that it's okay to mix "real" stuff with computer-generated pages. A piece of glued-on ribbon or fabric or lace might be just what your page needs to bring it up from good to great. I sometimes outline nature photos in twisted grasses or sisal twine. They work fine, as long as they are stuck down well and the page goes into a page protector sleeve when it's done.

Clip Art for Scrapbookers

Clip art is another element that you can, and should, consider when you are designing pages. The term clip art comes from the precomputer, even pre-office copier days. Artists, mainly those who worked for newspapers and advertising agencies, subscribed to clip art services, which supplied a book of art every month. The individual pictures included anything from a platter of roast chicken for a grocery ad to a young man on one knee gazing fondly at his girlfriend as he slipped a diamond ring on her finger. These were cut out with scissors and pasted right into the ads, or enlarged or shrunk with a Photostat camera, which made a copy on photo paper.

There are lots of sources for clip art. You can find it for sale in the back pages of computer magazines such as MacAddict or PCWorld, or on many CDs, including those that accompany certain scrapbooking software. Figure 5.15 shows a single page from the Print Explosion Deluxe catalog.

Figure 5.15Figure 5.15 The Print Explosion Deluxe clip art catalog shows everything in very small black-and-white illustrations, but the actual art is in color and can easily be resized as necessary.

In this Macintosh-only program from Nova Development, there are 90,000 pieces of clip art, which you can use for any non-commercial purpose. (You're not allowed to resell them or to use them on commercial Web sites.) There are also a bunch of fonts that work with any Mac graphics or word processing program. There's a very similar collection for Windows users called Art Explosion Scrapbook Factory Deluxe. It has the same font collection and a lot of clip art from the same sources, but selected to be more useful specifically for scrapbooking.

Online Sources

Just for fun, I did a Google search on clip art for scrapbooks. The Google search engine (http://www.google.com) returned 16,500 sources. I didn't investigate more than a few, but here are some to get you started. These also have links to even more art sources. There's tons of stuff out there, if you know where to look.

These places have free downloadable clip art and some that you have to pay for. If you really like the art and the style of the artist(s), it's worth buying a CD. The typical price is around $10–20 for a full collection, and having a bunch of clips in the same style helps you keep the theme and flow from page to page in your books.

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