Monthly Archives: February 2010

How Do You Make a Photo Mat?

Photo matting on a 12 x 12 layout

Are you new to scrapbooking?  Have a million questions running through your mind?

I was in your shoes several years ago.  I had a ton of questions also.  From the books I read it was clear that photos had to have a background.  What was unclear was “Why?”.  What was the big deal?

Another question was how big the mat should be.  How do you determine the size of the mat behind the photo?

Looking through the books I saw some photos that had more than one colored mat behind them.  So how many background mats do I need?

The whole color selection process will be for a different post.  I don’t want to raise more questions in your mind.  We’ll just work with the photo matting right now.  Let’s just take this one step at a time.

What I am going to tell you applies to one photo or 10.  Makes no difference to the amount of photos on a scrapbook layout.  The principles are the same.

Love Sparkles Designer Series Paper

Why do I need a background mat? It is very likely you have chosen a piece of patterned paper to use for your layout.  And it is also likely that the paper you have chosen has a fairly busy print.   As you look at the papers in the photo here, pay attention to where  your eye goes.  You will find that your eye jumps from one image to another.  Doesn’t settle on any one area.  There is a lot to see and your eye will try to look at all of the images it sees.  All of the images are the same but they are broken up into groups for the pattern.

Take the paper you  have chosen and place it in front of you.  Look at the paper and see what your eye does.  Pay attention to the way your eye shifts from one pattern to the next.

I am sure there is a clinical explanation for what is going on with your eyes.  Chances are good the clinical words will be long and unpronounceable.  So I’m not even going to attempt going there.

In my opinion, it is because your brain doesn’t have a place to “rest” while looking at the patterned papers.  Your brain tells you the print is the same all over the paper but for some reason your eyes bounce from one part of the print to another.

Now put a photo or two on the printed paper.  Just lay them on the paper.  Don’t get fussy and make sure the photos are straight or equal distance from each other or in the exact center if you are using only one photo.  Just put the photo(s) on the printed paper.

What are your eyes doing now?  They are moving around more.  Going to the prints on the paper then to the photo(s) then back again.  After a while you will lose interest in the photos that have brought you such joy and you will just give up on this whole process in frustration.  There is no place for your eye to focus and linger.  No place for it to rest and take in the precious photo.

So the answer to the question “Why do I need a background mat” is to give your eye a place to stop.

Love Sparkles Solid Papers

To give your eye a place to stop you need to have a solid piece of paper surrounding your photo.  This is the photo mat.

Take one of your photos and put it  in the top corner of a solid piece of paper.  Adjust the photo so there is a bit of paper exposed around the top and left edge of your photo.  Now place this entire sheet of paper in the middle of your printed paper.

What happens now?  What is going on with your eyes now?

The hopping from one print to another has stopped and you are drawn to the photo and the solid paper behind it.  You see the patterned paper on the periphery but you are no longer focused there.  You are drawn to the solid paper and the photo.  This is what you want to happen.

As you look at the solid paper and your photo, you might feel the color is not right for what ever reason.  Don’t despair or quit just yet.  Select another piece of paper and lay your photo on it in the same manner as you have just done and “audition” it.  That is what this process is called.  “Auditioning” your paper.  This is the “try out” stage of  your process.  You will find a paper that does not jar your senses as you do this.  When you find that paper then you are ready to move on to the next question.

How do you determine the mat size behind the photo? Generally speaking you will need 1/4 inch all around your photo.  I’m no math whiz so I’m going to keep this simple.  If your photo is 4 x 6 you will cut a piece of the solid paper 4-1/2 x 6-1/2.  Centering the photo after you have cut your piece will give the 1/4 inch border around all sides of your photo.  No matter what size your photo is extend the measurement 1/2 inch on the left to right and top to bottom measurements of your photo.

When I first began scrapbooking I thought this to be a waste of paper.  The majority of the paper will be hidden behind the photo.  This is a good thing, I’ve found.  Your photo is supported and it is not going to bend or become malformed when you adhere it down.  Adhesives will be another topic all together.

Cropping your photos is another topic also that I will cover later.  Right now just measure the photos you want for your layout.  I measure from the top left to the top right of the photo to get the left to right measurements.  Then I measure from the top left to the bottom left to get the top to bottom measurements.  I’m right handed so I do it this way.  Write down each of your measurements and add 1/2 inch.  As I indicated above a 4×6 photo will have a mat of 4-1/2 by 6-1/2.  A 2×3 photo will be 2-1/2 x 3-1/2.  A 5×7 photo will be 5-1/2 x 7-1/2 and so on.

Now that you have this down well, I’m going to toss a wrench in the works.

If you have multiple photos and you find that having a 1/4 inch border around all the photos is too much to fit on the page properly, don’t give up and stuff this project in a box somewhere.

You can decide to make a two page layout, if you have enough paper to do this.  Or you can adjust the mat size behind your photos to have a 1/8 inch border.  Again, keep this simple.  For a 4×6 photo your measurement for the mat will be 4-1/4 x 6-1/4.  This will give you the 1/8 inch border around your photo when it is centered on your mat piece.  As in the example above, a 2×3 photo will have a mat of 2-1/4 x 3-1/4, a 5×7 will be 5-1/4 x 7-1/4.

Now on to the next question.

How many background mats do I need? This question hung me up more than once.  I saw layouts in books where all of the photos had two to three mats behind them.  Not one photo stood out from all the rest because they all were treated the same.

It is my opinion, if you have several photos and one in particular is your absolute favorite then that is the one that will have the added treatment.  That favorite one will be the focal point.

My Grandson's First Birthday

Look, again, at the layout of my grandchildren.  I wanted to make the centerpiece of this layout to be my grandson’s first birthday celebration.  His chocolate smeared face was just way to precious to go unnoticed.  It is the only one that has a different piece of paper behind the photo.  All the rest have the yellow mats, this one had to be just a bit different.

It is my focal point.  The one I want everyone to see first before they move on to the rest of the photos.  It is not singled out so much that you don’t see the rest of my grandchildren who are just as precious to me.  It is just that I want you to see that one first before you go on to the other photos.

The photo you have determined to be your focal point is the one you will do the most to.  It is simple and it is not going to cause you to run screaming from where you sit.

Depending on how many mats you want behind that photo, two or more, the measuring and cutting will be incremental.

For this example lets say you want to have three mats behind a 4×6 photo.  It is best to keep several of the mats at 1/8 inch around.  So the first two mats will be measured and cut in this manner.

  • Mat one – directly behind the photo.  4-1/4 x 6-1/4.  This gives the 1/8 inch surround to the photo.
  • Mat two – will be measured and cut at 4-1/2 x 6-1/2.  This gives the 1/8 inch surround to the layer that will go on top of this (the photo and the first mat).
  • Mat three – will be measured and cut at 5×7.  This gives a 1/4 inch surround to the two mats and the photo.  This final mat will be the “grounding” area of the photo.  It will be the foundation of your focal point.  The other two mats will help to distinguish this photo as being separate from the rest.

There are few hard and fast rules to scrapbooks.  This is an “art form” and as such it is your interpretation of your style and your art sense.  If you like the collage effect then pile your photos on.  Make sure to have a focal point even in a collage.  Give a place for the eyes to rest for a moment before going on to the rest of your piece.

If you are drawn to shabby chic and like the look of papers with inked and torn edges then go for that.  Make sure your focal point is your photo and not a flower or other embellishment.  You don’t want the attention to be taken away from that cherished photo.

If you are drawn to clean lines and straight edges design your page so the focal point  is supported by the rest of your photos and is pleasing to your sense and style.

Learning the process of scrapbooks is a work in progress.  Be kind to yourself as you explore this side of your creativity.  Get a bit out of your comfort zone and try something new.  Have a bit of fun in expressing yourself.


Mini Album In The Works

Paper Bag Mini Album

Nouveau Chic Designer Series Paper - by Stampin' Up!

I am using the Nouveau Chic paper from Stampin’ Up! #115670.  The coordinating solid papers that go with these Designer papers are Basic Black #106532, Basic Gray #108691, Apricot Appeal #107081, and Sage Shadow #107079.

I’ve cut the papers to 6×6 for this mini album.  To fit the pages I’ve had to trim them down to 6 x 5-3/4.  The flaps are 3-3/4 x 5-3/4.  I’ve chosen to cut the solids 3 x 5-3/4 and attach one of the 3/4 strips I cut from the designer papers to extend the flaps to fit.  This adds just a bit of visual fluidity in the pages.

Soft Subtles Classic Stampin' Spots - by Stampin' Up! I’ll be using the Soft Subtles Stampin’ Spots #105553 to ink the pages as I go and for any stamping I decide to do.

First Page of Mini Album

Page 2 of Mini Album

Page 3 of the Mini Album

Page 4 of the Mini Album

Page 5 of the Mini Album

Page 6 of the Mini Album

I’ll be making tags to insert in the bag for photos and journaling.

This Mini Album will be made using 95% Stampin’ Up! products.  Ribbons, papers for more pockets and tags, die cuts, embossed pages, and brads.  The only items that will not be Stampin’ Up! will be flowers I plan on adding.

On YouTube there are hundreds of videos on making paper bag albums with supplies from local craft/hobby stores.  I am making this Mini Album to show these can be made with mostly all Stampin’ Up! products.  Papers, stamps, die cuts, and embellishments.  Once it is completed I’ll be posting a video on YouTube with the finished results.

If you want to follow along with me in the process keep checking this blog for the Stampin’ Up! products I’ll be using.  If you need supplies pop on over to my Stampin’ Up! website to place your order.  Some of the items I’ll be using will be things I got FREE from the Sale-A-Bration catalog.  I’ll post those freebies as I use them.


Petal Card Die

Petal Card Die Cut

Have you purchased the Petal Card die?  Are you wondering what you can do with it now that it is in your home?

When I first purchased this die, it was mainly because I was struck by the way it folds and tucks in on itself to form a self closing envelope.

Once I had it in my home and in my “studio” it sat on a shelf for a long time because I was not sure what to do with it.  I’m not alone in this I’m sure.  Purchasing something then wonder why I did that.

Love Notes to my children and grandchildren

This die got a lot of use last week while I was snowed in.  I took advantage of the storm and the threatened power outages to get my Valentine gifts made and sent to my family.

Each child and grandchild got a special note from me delivered in a mail box stuffed with assorted candies.

I had so much fun creating these gift boxes and notes.  Since I could not get out and around I was forced to concentrate on getting this task completed and in the mail.

It is my main focus to let my children and grandchildren know that I love them.  It is selfish of me, I know, but in the event of my demise I do not want to be on my deathbed and regretting that I did not tell my family I love them and how special they are to me.  My daily life is so full of coming and going and busy doing that I get lost in my world and don’t see past that.

Mailbox, candy, and love note.

I took the time to think about each person and the things that make me laugh or warm my heart because they are in my life.  The cute mail boxes  I made will be stuffed away in a closet somewhere or put in a box out of sight.  The candy will be consumed.  The love note will be lost somewhere in a drawer or box.  The message will remain with them for a long time.  That was the most important part of my Valentine’s gift this year.

The Petal Card die I purchased long ago has finally been put to use.  It took more time to get the paper laid over the die and ready to be cut out than it did to actually cut the shape.  I was so thankful for that die by the time I was finished with the first mail box.  Had I needed to cut out 24 of those note holders by hand I would have given up by the second one and none of this would have been accomplished.

Yesterday I met with a group of Stampin’ Up! demonstrators.  Much to my surprise the discussion was about the Petal Card Die and the many ways to use it.  I have no idea who made what but an assortment of items were displayed on a table.  You can well imagine my delight when I saw the creativity these women have when I saw what they had come up with.

A Treat Holder

A Hanging Basket

A Bookmark

A Basket

A Sucker Holder

Hidden Message On A Card Front

After seeing these creative ideas how can you not be inspired by this single die?

What are your needs?  Do you belong to a book club?  Do you have an avid reader in your family?  This Petal Card die makes the creation of a bookmark easy and personalizing it is just as easy.

Do you have an event coming up that requires a little something for table seating?  The basket made from this Petal Card die can hold candy hearts, jelly beans, or some nuts.  Designer papers used for the theme or color scheme will make these baskets the talk of the neighborhood.

Co-workers or your children’s class mates will be delighted to receive a sucker wrapped in a package you made all the more special.

Have you made cards the same way for so long that you have run out of ideas for card fronts?  Create a hidden message on your next card with the Petal Card die cut just to stir things up.

Has this inspired your creativity?  Pop on over to my Stampin’ Up! website and place your order for the Petal Card die #113467 today.  While you are there add some paper to your order and a rubber stamp.

Sale-A-Bration is still going on.  You  have until March 31, 2010 to take advantage of free stamps, punch, and 6×6 paper with your order of $50.  For every $50 you get to choose one item from the Sale-A-Bration catalog.


Hearts, Candy, and Flowers

Valentine Mailbox Gift

I’ve used Love Sparkles Simply Scrappin kit #113918 for all of the mailboxes I’m sending this year.  The Petal Card die #113467 holds an individual message for each of my children.  Vintage Labels stamp set #119122 from the Sale-A-Bration catalog has been used as a nameplate for each of my children for the message within.  All of the girls I’ve used the circle stamp and all of the boys get the flourished oval.  I’ve punched each of the nameplates out with the Scallop Circle Punch #109043 for the girls and the Large Oval Punch #107305 for the boys.

Taking advantage of this most recent winter storm while being iced in and the internet coming and going I decided to get these mailboxes done while I could do them.

Mailboxes 1 & 2

Getting into my stash of ribbons,  heart dies, and buttons I’ve tried to make each mailbox different while keeping the theme the same.

Some boxes I used my stash of crystal hearts and ovals.  The heart die on these two mailboxes is from Quickcuts.  I love this heart with the open end and the curly que tail.

Mailboxes 3 & 4

Stickers, flowers, and another heart die I have in my stash adorned these two mailboxes.

Trying to make a masculine box from these papers was a bit tricky.  Still don’t think I succeeded in making the left one masculine but it will have to do.

Mailboxes 5 & 6

The paper on the left box, the yellow paper, is the back side of the pink striped paper of all the other mailboxes.

Every mailbox is full of mini candy bars that I purchased from a mega warehouse store.

Each note inside is specific for the child or grandchild and the specific trait they have that is special to me.  I don’t get to tell them as often as I would like to that I love them and why I do so this was my ideal opportunity to do it.  15 individual notes of love from me.

Mailbox Fronts

Looks like most all the mailbox fronts have a lean or tilt to the left.

I still have a couple more to do then they go in the mail in time for Valentine’s Day.

I could have taken the easy road and just made or bought Valentine cards then sent them off.  I had an idea floating around in my head to acknowledge each of my children and grandchildren special traits and quirks that make me adore them.  What better time than Valentine’s Day to do just that.

It is my hope that long after the candy is gone and the mailbox is all but forgotten the note of love I send will remain with my child for a long time to come.  Something tangible for them to know they are special to me and why I love them.  I can give them things that will soon be forgotten and stuffed away in a drawer or a closet.  I wanted to give them the thing I cherish most, a loving message just for them individually.