Freebie 8 1/2 x 11 Templates - #14 - #16

I think its time for another freebie! I've been scrapping a lot lately--I'm all caught up through April! Yay! Only two months behind for my 2014 book! It makes me happy to be keeping up--every month I get behind, the memories get less and less vivid. Anyway, I chose three of my layouts and made them into templates for you! A couple things to keep in mind about the way I do this:

1. These files are set to 11x17--in other words, one spread of two 8 1/2 x 11 pages. 

2. Often I have the borders for pictures as a different layer--that way you can recolor it and add styles to it easily. Use the paint bucket or double click on the layer and go to layer styles to make it look the way you want.

3. Any flowers or silhouettes you see can be removed to add your own elements and silhouetted photos--they are there only to give you an idea of where to put your elements. 

4. These templates are designed to flow easily across both pages--pay attention to the guides and choose your pictures carefully for the photos that are near the center or edges so that nothing of importance will be cut off. Some photos are purposely in the margins.

5. The easiest way to use a template is to use clipping masks. Pull the picture or paper that you want to use so that is it is on top of the layer you want to clip it into. Then hold down the ALT key and put your cursor between the two layers. A small triple circle icon will appear. Click, and the the picture will be clipped in. 

So, below are three new templates, and following that are some examples of what the templates look like when completed!

Template #14

Template #15

Kit: Blush Beauty by Trixie Scraps

Kit: One Year Older by Lindsay Jane

Pin It Now! - My Review, 8 1/2 x 11 Yearbook

It's here! I can hardly believe I finally finished my 2013 book! There were months there that I worried I'd stop digital scrapping forever. I was so depressed with my regular publisher, Cherishbound, changed their name, got a new site, and dropped their editor. I was just so upset.

Now, I am SO glad they did.

Because I was totally overpaying for my books.

Now I've found a new company, I wanted to write a quick review and show pictures of my book in case there is anyone else out there looking for a place to do an 8 1/2 x 11 size book, or is just looking for a good company.

With my old company, I would pay anywhere from $130 to $150 for a book that was between 100 and 118 pages. The quality was excellent. Glossy pages, beautiful covers, and they didn't cut off huge margins of my work.

I chose Mypictales because another scrapper I know recommended them, and she does the 8 1/2 x 11 size page. A lot of companies don't do that size, including the old standby, Shutterfly, which I have never used but pretty much everyone else in the universe does. I liked Mypictales because their editor allows me to upload a 11x17 page as a double layout. Very easy. I just hoped they didn't take enormous margins.

Price★ What blew me away was the price. Used to paying over $120 for my books, I was stunned when my total for a 112 page hard bound book was only $90. THEN, I did a search to see if there were any coupons out there. Unbelievably, I found one that was only for the size of book I was doing, and it expired that very day! AH! So my book--my 112 page hard bound book--only cost me $60! I could hardly believe it!

Ease of Use★ As I already stated, the editor was very easy to use and navigate. However, I did run into a snag when I went to submit it. It just wouldn't upload my enormous book. I would guess that in a smaller book it might not be a problem. But no matter what I did, I couldn't upload it. I followed all the alternate instructions on the site to no avail. Finally I contacted customer service via email. I got a response very quick, and they were so kind and easy to work with. We were able to work out another solution by uploading my book with a shared link in Dropbox. No problem. So even though I had trouble, I still give them 3 out of 4 stars, because their customer service was so good.

Shipping★ This one bowled me over. With my old company, I would have to wait 2-3 weeks for my book. MyPicTales took FIVE days! Seriously--I ordered it on the 25th of April, and it was on my doorstep on May 1st--which was my birthday so it was the perfect gift!

Cover: ★ The cover of the book is gorgeous. I LOVE the wrap-around option, which I did not have with my old company. Makes it look so nice on the shelf. The only reason I didn't give it four stars is because, when I compare it with my other books, the cover isn't quite as glossy. But--seriously. It cost half as much and it still looks freaking awesome. I am NOT complaining.

Binding★ The binding has it's good and bad points. I like how tightly bound it is, it won't come apart. But there is a bit of glue showing on the top. All in all, I'm good with it. Once again, I got it for a GREAT price.

Margins: ★ This was one of my biggest concerns I loaded my 8 1/2 x 11 pages into other editors from other sites, and they didn't even fit. I was worried that the book wouldn't be the size they say it is, or they'd take off huge margins from the sides and the insides. Yes, they took some from the inside, but then--you HAVE to, and so I'm happy. Nothing got cut off. But I think next time I'll be a little more careful with my inside border--the binding took a lot. But that' true of all companies, because that's just the way books are bound. There is a flat binding option, but I didn't do it.

Color The picture above also shows the page as a jpg file, and then the same page in my book. The colors are dead on.

Size: ★ Another reason I insisted on sticking with 8 1/2 x 11 pages was because I wanted all my books to be the same size and fit nicely on my shelf. This book is slightly bigger than the others, but not by much. It looks gorgeous on the shelf--much better than my other books. At my old company, I could only pick the color of the spine and a few fonts with the title. With Mypictales, I could design the entire cover, spine and all. I think it looks fantastic on my shelf!

Overall, I'm very happy to add Year Eight: On Our Way to my collection of yearbooks. It looks great on my shelf, and it's so fun to share! A BIG THANK YOU to Mypictales for doing such a fabulous job! I will definitely order from them from now on!

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Binge Scrapping and a New Publisher

Well, I think that last entry was the therapy I needed. Somehow, writing it out made me kick myself in the pants and get started again! I did some more research on publishers, and I think I found one! I will be publishing my 2013 book through MyPicTales. I downloaded their editor, and really liked it. At first, it took huge margins just like I feared. But then, I just uploaded it different. I create all my pages as 11x17 pages, then slice them in half. With this site, I can upload one 11x17 image and a double page layout, and it fits great! Here's a photo of what it looks like with a page uploaded in their editor.
The main complaint I heard about MyPicTales is that its not so suited for people who want to use the editor to do their scrapbooking--it doesn't have a lot of backgrounds and stuff. Not a problem for me! I use Photoshop to do it, so all I need is a place I can upload full bleed pages. Anyway, I hope they turn out as good as they sound!

I have done some research online and found good reviews about their quality, and their prices are great. I think my book will be a lot less expensive with them that it was with Cherishbound. My books are usually about 100 pages long. For an 8 1/2 x 11 hard cover book with a custom photo cover, it's $45.00 for 20 pages and $1 for each additional page. That will cost $125.00. I paid about $140 at Cherishbound, and that was with a discount. MyPicTales also has a discount for your first book. So I'm feeling pretty good! I can actually get this thing published!

So here's what I've been up to--since my last post, I have completed TWELVE 2-page layouts! Wahoo! I am now working on October of 2013, so I'm almost done! Here are a few of the layouts I did--I especially like how the Comic Con ones turned out!

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Where have I been?

So...I haven't updated for a few months. I don't know if anyone has noticed. But the guilt is starting to get to me. Scrapbooking used to be one of those things I could feel good about--like, the thing that others struggle with and feel guilty about, while I am all caught up and so on top of it.

Then, the worst happened. Cherishbound totally failed me. I have published every book through this website, and I have really liked them and their quality. They are one of the only sites I can find that does 8 1/2 x 11 size books, without taking massive margins. In August they took down their site, sending out an email (which I cannot find now) stating that they have changed their company to a new name. I didn't think it was that big of a deal. I didn't realize, then, how much it would derail me.

The new site went up and I remember visiting it long enough to notice that the editor I always used was not there. I figured it would be up eventually. I forgot the name of the new site. I can't find anything about it anywhere. The Cherishbound site just has a link to an email, but no link to their new site (a HUGE oversight, if you ask me!) So...I guess they are just gone. I even sent them an email politely asking them what their plans were for the new site and if the editor would be back, but they didn't bother to respond.

I thought, no problem! I'll find a new company to print my books! But I really want to stick with 8 1/2 x 11--mainly because I have half of 2013 already scrapped to that size, and also because I want all my books to be the same size. But my searches have proved futile. The few I have found that say they do that size take such massive margins that my pages don't fit. I'd have to redo them. And...I just sort of...lost it. I'm so discouraged. I am only caught up through about half of August of last year, and I just keep falling farther and farther behind. I've lost my mojo I guess. If I can't publish it, what's the point? But in the meantime, I'm missing things. Details about my children are not getting recorded. I am forgetting what happened back in October. How can I write about it? I take WAY less pictures now. I am less motivated to take the kids somewhere so I can do a great page on it. (I know it's sad that I won't take the kids somewhere unless I can scrap it, but whatever motivates you works I guess...)

So, if anyone knows of a company that does 8 1/2 x 11, let me know. I've tried Mixbook, and I really like them--I've used them to make calendars. But they are one of the ones that takes huge margins. I guess if I can't find anyone else I go with them. In the meantime, this site is really suffering. I am still using Photoshop every day, though, don't get me wrong. In fact, I DID update the new school play program I did for Aida on this page. I have made more boxes, more tags, more paper dolls--I use it all the time. I just haven't felt inspired to write. I will try to do better!Pin It Now!

Introducing My New Paper Doll Website!

Hello everyone! I was thinking about what to post next, as I've actually done very little digital scrapbooking lately. But I HAVE been using Photoshop like crazy! I have been making more paper dolls! So, I thought I would create a post about what I've been doing, and also introduce my website:

Here is a couple of shots to give you an idea of what I have created! It's a set with 20 dolls and 200 outfits!

Two years ago I did a post about a set of paper dolls I was creating for a birthday party. I've been making paper dolls every since I was a little girl. As an adult I rarely do it, but every now and then I get bit by the bug, and this last couple months I've been drawing like crazy! But the fun part is, I draw it, then pull it into Photoshop where I perfect it. And now that I have a Silhouette, it does all the cutting for me. Makes it a LOT easier to cut out the dolls, let me tell you!

So now I've created a set of TWENTY different dolls. There are actually only five different skin tones--when I want to do a new doll I just draw a new head using one of the different skin tones I've already used--then I don't have to draw a new body. But I do use Photoshop to make their underclothes.  Here is an image of the faces of all twenty dolls.

I like to do lots of different skin colors, hair and eye colors. Then some dresses look better on some dolls than others. All the dolls are the same size and body, though, so they can all wear the same clothes. I think my personal favorite is Daisy. I just love her freckles.

In the past, I have use Photoshop on the faces of the dolls, but not on the dresses. Since I discovered how to use a surface blur in Photoshop and with the liberal use of the smudge tool, it's really helped me improve the dresses as well and make them look a lot smoother.

Here are some before and after photos that are kinda fun to look at. The more I worked with Photoshop to improve my artwork, the better at it I got. And the more addicted I got!

A lot of the time it was just a matter of perfecting the lines, and sometimes I just recolored the whole thing in Photoshop. Time consuming? Yes. And I loved it. I'm weird that way. I know there are artists out there that use Photoshop far more in-depth than I do. Me, I'm just discovering it. And I'm kind of addicted. It combines two of my favorite things--art and computers!

After I have drawn it, scanned it, and perfected it in Photoshop, I then need to convert it to a Silhouette file so I can cut it out easily.

With the dolls, I use several layers. The first layer is the doll artwork, printed on photopaper. Then another layer of just cardstock, and then a layer of chipboard with each side covered in cardstock. So ultimately, each doll has five layers. They are pretty sturdy--but they are still paper. I don't recommend letting any child under the age of 5 play with these dolls--maybe older depending on their maturity. So yeah, I've got these awesome dolls and none of my daughters are old enough to play with them. But in a few years, they are going to have one heck of a set!

I am planning on doing a free giveaway of a paper doll set to my awesome realscrappy readers--look for a post about it coming soon!

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Fashion Flipbook Freebie--for your Busy Bags!

Hey all! I've created a new freebie for you today. Sunday while sitting in church the idea took hold of me and wouldn't let go. I came home and started working on it, and now it's ready for you all today! Its a Fashion Flipbook! Great for your little girls to keep them busy in church, the car, the store, or anywhere else where you need them occupied!

The artwork comes from my paper doll set that I have been working on for a couple years now. I plan to do a big post about that in the near future, but I'm not quite ready for that yet! Anyway, the flipbook comes with eight different heads, and eight different outfits. Kids can flip the pages to create brand new dresses!

To create this you will need:

Access to a color printer
At least one sheet of cardstock, (for the cover) but preferably five sheets, one for each page
Scissors and if possible, a paper slicer
Stapler or a book binder


1. Download the PDF file - Fashion Flipbook by Realscrappy
2. Open the file and print all five sheets
3. Slice each sheet down the center. Make sure you cut it PRECICELY at the 5 1/2 mark.
You may also want to trim your edges if you don't want a white border around it.
4. Bind the left side. You can either staple it several times down the side, or take it in to a copier place and get it bound like a book.
5. If your book is stapled, you may want to go through it and bend each paper tightly so it's easier to flip the pages
6. Use scissors to cut on the  horizontal lines on each page. If you are binding it by stapling, only cut to the bent edge. If you are spiral binding it, cut all the way through.

Done! Yay! If you like the artwork, keep a lookout for a future post about my paper dolls! You can also download a free set here.

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Lesson 31: Creating Simple Actions/Batching

I know, I know, it's been awhile since I posted. I actually have a few ideas cooking in my head for future posts, but they aren' So more on that later.

Today I wanted to share my experience with creating actions.

Please note that I have created a free action that you can download at the end of this post! YEAH!!

 Now--first of all, remember that this blog is not for professionals, neither am I anywhere close to a professional in Photoshop. I'm an every day digital scrapbooker, and I'm here to tell you--YOU can make an action! It's not difficult! It's actually really cool!

What is an action? I have a whole blog post about it that I actually updated just recently; Lesson 10: Using Actions. In that post, I explain what an action is, how to install one, how to run one, and just a little about creating your own actions. Today I wanted to go into more detail.

Why would I use an action? An action is really just recording a set of instructions so you don't have to keep doing them over and over again. You can just press "play" and all those instructions just happen on their own. Here are some step by step instructions for an easy action. This is using CS5, but I'm sure it's similar if not exactly the same in other versions. However, I don't think actions are used the same in Photoshop Elements. If you have that version, you may want to search online for instructions on how to use actions for that program.

EXAMPLE - Practice with this simple scenario!

Ok, let's say you have 30 picture files and you need to change them all from the size they are after being uploaded (in my case, 3872 pixels x 2592) to 1200 x 800. I also want them all black and white. All the files are the same size, and need to be changed to the same size. So, I want to create an action that will allow me to do this.

1. In Photoshop, make sure your Actions menu is up. If its not already there, go to Window and select Actions.
3. On the upper right corner click on the options button, shown in the image here.
4. If you have any current actions loaded, select Clear All Actions. Then choose "New Action."
5. It will prompt you to name it--just give it a name. In this case, "Resize B&W" might work.
6. Now, the action will not actually record anything until you press the record button. You can even top recording, and then start again.
EVERYTHING you do once you press record will be repeated in your action, so think carefully what you can do automatically. I do not want opening the file to be part of the action--I want to be able to select the file beforehand. So, choose a photo and pull it into Photoshop to get started. It should be your only layer.
7. Press Record. Then immediately do CTRL+Shift+U to desaturate your picture. You will see that command appear in your actions palette, as shown in the picture.
8. Now go to Image>Size and type 1200 in the width box. Press enter.
9. Stop the action by pressing stop.

Now, you may be done. But, if you want to resave the file and close it as part of the action, you could do that in the action as well. Press record again, and save the document to a new location but with the same name, OR, check the "save as copy" box in the saving menu. Then close the file. Now press stop again. Otherwise, just stop at the end of step 9.

10. Test it. Open a new photo. Go back to the first pull down arrow where your title is (in my example, I just called it Action 1). Press the play button. If it worked, you should see your photo immediately go black and white and resize. If you did the next step, then the photo closes as well and you are ready to bring in another one!

11. Save it. If you don't save this action, you will eventually lose it. If you like it and want to save it, click on "Set 1" part of the action--you can only save a set, not just an individual action. Then pull down your option menu in the Action palette again, and choose "Save Action..." (If its greyed out, that is because you have the action selected and not the set!) Name it and find a good location for it. I put it with all my other actions, in a new folder entitled "My Actions."

Batching Actions

Can I do a mass action? YES YOU CAN!
Like I said at the beginning of the scenario--there are 30 photos. Do I have to pull in each photo one by one and do this action?  No. You can run the action as a batch one time and do ALL the photos!

  • Go to File>Automate>Batch.
  • Choose the action you want to batch--mine came up automatically because its the only action open in my palette.
  • Next, choose a source folder--it will do ALL the photos in that folder.
  • Check the "Suppress file open options dialogs" box and the "Suppress color profile warnings" so that your action runs without unnecessary interruptions.
  • Then just click OK. Watch as the magic happens!
Now that you have tried a basic action, let look at one that I created today!
I found this AWESOME tutorial by Steve Patterson:
I wanted to write the word "October." It took me several tries going through the tutorial to get it right, and I kept making a mistake halfway through. Finally, I made an action of the first half so I didn't have to keep doing that half over and over before I could do the second half. Once I had it down, I just turned the whole thing into an action! Now, I write the word, press play, and wala!! There it is!
  • One tip I have for this--if you are pulling in a new layer or picture that has a name, change the name to "original" or something like that as part of the action in the very beginning. Then when you run the same action with a different image or word, it will not get confused by different layer names!
And here is the action I created! You are welcome to download it, but know that the actual hard work came from Steve Patterson who created the tutorial--all I did was turn it into an action!
Instructions: Start with a white page and type your text in black. Make sure that the text box is not too big--it should be tight around the wording. (That's what I kept messing up on!) Also make sure there is plenty of white space around your word. It works with pretty much any font.

When you finish the action, do CTRL+D to turn off the selection. If you want different colors, double click on the gradient layer and change the gradient. Then do CTRL+E to group it into one layer for use.

So now my new goal is to find more of these awesome tutorials and turn them into actions! Then I might actually use them--because going through that tutorial every time is exhausting! I hope this lesson on Actions has been useful to you!

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Free 8 1/2 x 11 Templates - LOTS of PHOTOS!

So I've been doing a lot of spreads lately that have a lot of photos. Like--A LOT. When I search for pages with lots of photos, I can never find anything that looks like what I do. So...either I'm totally out of fashion or I'm just freaking awesome. I choose to believe the latter.

At any rate, I've decided to share a few more of my templates with you. A few things to keep in mind about the way I do this:

1. These files are set to 11x17. This means that when you finish creating your page, you have to divide it into two 8 1/2 x 11 pages. I do this by going to Image>Canvas Size and changing the settings to 8 1/2 x 11. To see how this is done, watch the video I created here, which shows how to turn a template into your own page.

2. Often I have the borders for pictures as a different layer--that way you can recolor it and add styles to it easily. Use the paint bucket or double click on the layer and go to layer styles to make it look the way you want.

3. Any flowers or silhouettes you see can be removed to add your own elements and silhouetted photos--they are there only to give you an idea of where to put your elements.

4. These templates are designed to flow easily across both pages--pay attention to the guides and choose your pictures carefully for the photos that are near the center or edges so that nothing of importance will be cut off. Some photos are purposely in the margins.

So, below are four new templates, and following that are some examples of what the templates look like when completed! Just click on the photos to download.

Template #10

Template #11

Template #12
I love this one--it has 27 photos in it! Perfect for when you have a lot of cute photos that don't need to be very big. I used this to show a ton of pictures of my kids playing in the water all summer.

 Kit: Turn up the Heat by Lindsay Jane at Gotta Pixel

Template #13

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Organizing Digital Books - Yearbooks and Baby Books

Today I'd like to share some examples of how I have organized my books in the past. I wanted to highlight Yearbooks and Baby books. I think once you have a basic outline like this, it can be a little easier to fill in the blanks and perhaps a little less overwhelming to get started!

I make a "yearbook" each year that is basically the family book. I use the same kit for the cover, inside cover, Year in Review page and the Conclusion page. For my 2012 book, here are all those pages:

For that year, my subtitle was "Along for the Ride" and I talk about why I chose that phrase in depth on my conclusion page. I really like this layout--I've used it for almost all my yearbooks.

Next, I have a title page for each month where I place all the pictures I want to use for that month but don't want to have a full layout about, and I have a short summary of the month. Here is a year's worth of my monthly pages--although, because of the great hard drive crash of 2012, I only have the last half of last year and the first half of this year!


Baby Books

For my baby books, I still followed a similar format. I chose one kit for entire book. For my oldest child, I created the kit mostly myself by scanning in her blankets, burp cloths, etc. I made a few basic ribbons and other things, and this made a fairly decent sized kit. I also created a really cool inside cover page where I took a picture of her each month so you could see, at a glance, how quickly she grew in one year!

Then, throughout her first year, I made sure to have a little photo shoot on or near her one month birthday. I had a fancy picture of her for each month! I would use this picture as a full-bleed photo and then create a one month cover page on the other side, with more pictures from the photo shoot. After they are a year old it's too hard to do this--they are too mobile!

I hope this is helpful to you as you start or continue your journey into digital scrapbooking! There is of course, no wrong way to do it. I find that my way is a little less...traditional...than the trendy way of scrapping, but it is also a lot more practical to busy moms who don't have the time or money to do millions of pages with few pictures and lots of blank space and elements. I love looking through my children's books and seeing how they've grown. If I was truly ambitious I would do a book for them each year or at least every few years but I just don't have the time for it. I will one day get the family book printed in several copies so that they each have one. In the meantime, this works for me! I hope it can be helpful for you!Pin It Now!

My New ABC Book! Free template included!

So this summer I've been working on an ABC book project. I did the same project a few years ago--you can read about it here. But that was in 2010 before I was even pregnant with the twins, and our family has changed a lot since then! Time for an update! This one was also done on Blurb, and came to $30 when all finished--that was for 56 pages and shipping, soft cover. Of course, I did two pages for each letter--it would be much cheaper to just do one page per letter, but I wanted to make this something that the girls look at in church and I wanted to put all the family members in it so they can point at each person and say who they are.

To see my book, you can view it on Blurb here:

And here is a thumbnail of each page!
In this book, I used kits from LOTS of different places! Shops used include: Gotta Pixel, Pickleberry Pop,  Scrap Matters, Cherry on Top, and Designs by Krista. My cover page is using a very old kit by Peppermint Creative.

I wanted to do more than just share the work I've done with you all--I wanted to make it something you can do too! So I have included the template that I used when I made my book. I didn't use a template at first, and ended up wasting a lot of time re-doing it later. For a project like this where every page needs to have the same spacing, fonts, etc, a template is ESSENTIAL. I have also included a second template in case you would rather just do one page per letter. It's important you use it because the margins for left and right pages are different. These templates are in .psd format. To download, click on the image below.

**Once you have finished the layout, go to Image>Canvas Size and change it from 14x7 to 7x7. Then choose the left arrow. Save as a jpg. Undo that last action and do the same process again, only click on the right arrow and save.

**This is set for a 7x7 page, since that's the option on Blurb. If you want an 8x8 instead, just go to Image>Canvas Size and change the canvas to 16x8. Then highlight all layers and re-size to fit.

**Both above instructions are included in the step by step video at the end of this post.

For mine,  I used immediate family member as the letters, and then filled in with other words I had pictures for. Some of those letters were a real challenge, and I admit I had to set up a couple of shots to pull it off! Here is a large version of what each page basically looked like.

I picked a different kit for each page. The first page was always a very large picture, and then I added smaller ones on the second page. You could easily use the same kit and the same alpha for every page as well if that's more your style.

For the letters, in most cases I made the letters myself using Atomic Cupcake actions. You can download most of them for free on that link. You can read about using them here. Occasionally I used letters that came with the kits I used, but many kits don't come with them, or the alpha that comes with it just isn't the look I wanted.

I have created a 9-minute video that takes you through the entire process of using this template. I hope it helps! Click on the link below to view. Thank you!

 And finally, here is the list of the words I used for each letter in my ABC book, excluding family names:
A - All family names! We had a lot!
B - Books, bubbles
C - Cuddle, Church, Cry, Cousins
D - Daddy, Draw
E - Eternity, Eating, Easter Eggs
F - Family, Friends, Fishing, Fireworks
G - Grin, Grandmas & Grandpas
H - Happy, Hat, Horse
I - Ice Cream, iPod, Icky
J - Jesus, Jump
K - Kisses
L - Laugh, Library, Learn
M - Mommy
N - Naked, Nurse
O - Outside, Oatmeal, Oreos
P - Peek-a-boo, Parents
Q - Quilt, Quirky
R - Ride
S - Slide, Sisters
T - Teeth, Twins, Tricycle
U - Underwear, Umbrella
V - Video, Van, Visit
W - Water, Wings, Walk, Wagon
X - Xylophone, eXciting
Y - Yucky, Yawn, Yummy
Z - Z-z-z-z, Zoo, Zebra 

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