Digital Scrapbooking: 10 Steps to Create a Photobook Page

I’m not a crafty type of person. If you put glitter glue and acid-free paper in my hands, I will invariably produce something of third grade quality. In general, I’m not too broken up about this since most hobby arts hold no appeal to me, but it is extremely discouraging when it comes to scrapbooking.

Family memories are a big deal to me. Photography is also one of my favorite things. And just to make my life more difficult, I have a very hard time settling for products that are less than premium quality—even if I, an amateur, am the one making it. So when I discovered digital scrapbooking, it changed my life.

PSE 12 Photobook Page

  • No need to buy oodles of odd shaped scissors, or stickers, or adhesives
  • No need to print all of the photos you might possibly want to scrapbook with
  • No need to permanently reserve the guest room for your scrapbooking storage/ mess area
  • No need to set up before, or clean up after, a few hours of scrapbooking
  • No need to secure the mess area with childproof locks to prevent tampering
  • Most importantly: No need to bang your head on the table when you realize you don’t like the way you cropped a certain photo, or glued a button.

I was just starting out in Photoshop Elements and I had no clue how to use it, but I did know that I wanted to create family photo books. There are different ways to go about creating your own scrapbook pages in Photoshop Elements 12.

PSE 12 Create 1

PSE 12 Create 2

Option 1: Use the pre-made creation options in PSE. Click on Create (above the right side panel). A drop down menu to show you all the different types of creations you can do. Choose from photobooks, calendars, greeting cards, collages…etc. These have ready-made templates and all you have to do is drag and drop the photos you want into the spaces you choose.

But…if you are like me, and the limits of pre-designed templates chafe you, it’s best to make your own. There are a few basics you need to know to get started.

So, Option 2: We start in Photoshop Elements Editor in Expert mode. I’ve broken it down into 10 basic steps. If you don’t know how to do any of those steps there are directions in the form of a bulleted list below. If you already know how to do what I’m saying, feel free to skip the bulleted parts.

Grid 1

Step 1: Open a new blank document. Do this by pressing Ctrl + N or clicking File>New>Blank File

PSE 12 New Blank File

Step 2: Customize your new file size and resolution. I use the following settings:

  • Preset-Custom
  • Width-11.25 inches
  • Height-8.75 inches
  • Resolution-300 pixels/inch
  • Color Mode-RGB Color
  • Background-Black.

*Keep in mind that the width and height will depend on the size of paper you will be printing on. My photobooks are printed on 11×8.5 inch paper. Regular Scrapbook pages are commonly 12×12 inches. And if you are doing high quality print its safest to use 300 ppi resolution.

PSE 12 Shape 1Step 3: Make shapes layers to put your photos in. These will serve as windows to contain your photos or designs or text. I usually use squares and rectangles, because I’m wild like that.

  • Press U, or click on the shape tool on the left side menu.
  • Move the mouse to where you would like the corner or your shape to begin.
  • Click and drag the shape to your preferred size.

PSE 12 Shape 2

Step 4: Give your shape the effects you would like, like drop shadow, bevel, or effects

  • With the shape tool still selected, go to tool options at the bottom.
  • From tool options select the box with the red line through it
  • Select the drop down menu at the top of the box that appears
  • Choose the type of effect you would like to add. I usually just do a drop shadow, and rarely I add a bevel.
  • Select the specific drop shadow or bevel you would like to apply.

PSE 12 Shape Copy

Step 5: Copy your shape if you want more than one of the same size.

  • Select the shape layer you would like to copy and press Ctrl + J or right click on the layer in the right side panel, and then select Duplicate Layer in the menu.

PSE 12 Move and Select Tool

Step 6: Move your copied shape to wherever you want it.

  • Select the move tool on the left side tool menu, or press V, and then drag the layer to wherever you want it.
  • Helpful side note: I like to use the Grid to help me place things as evenly (read: symmetrically) as possible. Turn it on by pressing Ctrl + ‘ or by going to the menu at the top View> Grid.
  • Another note: If you are trying to keep everything symmetrical, after creating the shapes in the first row and they don’t take up all the space that you wanted them to (row is too long, or too short), yet you wanted all of the shapes to be the exact same size… hold shift and select each of the shapes in the row and then stretch them all into the width and height that you wanted at the same time.

PSE 12 Shape Alignment

  • A third note on symmetry: With your row of shapes still highlighted go to the tool options below and use the alignment tools to make sure all the edges are exactly aligned. The alignment tools only appear when you have more than one layer selected at the same time.

PSE 12 Shape Copy 2

Step 7 (optional): Copy your row of shapes if you want more than one row. That way you won’t have to do all that work again. This is especially useful when making a collage.

  • Select the move tool (V)
  • Hold shift while selecting all the shapes in the row
  • Right click on the highlighted layers on the right side panel
  • Select Duplicate Layers
  • Drag the new row of shapes to wherever you want them

PSE 12 Photobook Page

*Once I have all the shapes I want for this page, I save the new template to a special folder I made for photobook page templates. I can always tweak and customize the template for future use.

Step 8: Drag your photos onto the shapes from the Photo Bin at the bottom.

  • Open all the photos you want to use on this page in PSE
  • Select the photo bin in the bottom left corner
  • Select the layer or shape, to which you would like to add the photo (this is important)
  • Drag the photo onto the photo page. This new photo will appear as a layer just above the one you had previously selected on the layers panel

PSE 12 Sub Layer 1

Step 9: Make the photo a sub-layer of the shape

  • Hold Alt and move the mouse to the line just between the photo and the layer below (On the layers panel on the right).
  • Click when the two interlinking circles appear

PSE 12 Sub Layer 2

  • The photo is now a sub-layer of the original shape. None of the photo will appear outside the confines of that shape

PSE 12 Collage

Step 10: Readjust the photo to best fit the shape, or to show the elements that you want visible

  • Click on the photo and adjust the photo size so that the right elements show in the shape “window”
  • Repeat the above steps for each shape you want a photo inside. You also have the option of adding text on top of a shape or decorations. You can do anything you want. Anything.

Now that you have the basics down, try mixing things up a bit. You can vary the opacity on the different shapes to emphasize some photos over others. Or try tilting the shapes (select the shape and its sub layer at the same time to tilt both together), or…anything else you can think of. You are now free to make your own photo page templates.


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About the author

Cecilia Harvey

I'm a technological enthusiast with a completely unrelated degree in English Literature. I've also been known to dabble in photography and DIY furniture refinishing, with occasional stints of fitness sprinkled among all of the above.

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