Scrapbooking supplies

What material you'll need to get started

Are you ready to take your photographs out of retirement and start scrapbooking? Good! Let’s look at the supplies you’ll need.

Some scrapbooking supplies are essential—like the scrapbook album to put the photos in—and some are nice to have to aid your creativity or make the pages more decorative. Eventually, you may come to think that these "nice -to- have" items are essential.

You don’t need much to get started. Besides your photographs, here’s a rundown of the essential and almost-essential supplies and tools you’ll need.

Basic stuff, counterclockwise from lower left: assorted patterned papers, paper trimmer, microtip scissors, scissors, tape runner, liquid paper glue, glue stick, photo splits, red-liner tape.


First things first: the scrapbook album, called a "memory" album by many manufacturers. The sizes range from mini– around 5 x 7 inches– to a huge 12 x15 or even larger. The most popular size is the square 12 x 12 album, but albums around 8 ½ x 11 fit more easily on a bookshelf. The albums you choose should have one essential feature: The included pages should be acid- and lignin free. Otherwise, they will discolor and become brittle over time, and the photos in contact with them can fade or become discolored.

You’ll find a wide variety of covers– leather and faux leather, padded fabric, cut-outs to showcase a photo. Your delightful task is to choose a cover whose color and design will be appropriate for the subject and theme of the album.

You have another choice to make– that of the binding style. Three-ring-binder albums are similar to those three-ring binders sold in office supply stores. Actually, you could use those binders, but they are not very attractive unless you decorate the covers. Those made for scrapbookers are more elegant. The advantage of this type of album is that it is very easy to add, delete, or rearrange pages.

Your other choices are post-bound albums, strap-style albums, and spiral-bound albums. Spiral-bound albums contain a fixed number of pages with a spiral coil that binds pages to the spine; although you can rip out extra pages, you can’t add more.

Post-bound albums have two or three metal posts that do allow you to add and rearrange pages. The albums come with a starter set of pages, but you can buy refills. And if you want to add lots and lots more pages, you can buy extension posts to accommodate them.

Post-bound albums seem to be the most popular, but you might prefer strap style ones because the facing pages lie close together, which hides the binding . In the other albums, there is a gap between the pages; this is a slight disadvantage when making two-page layouts or pop-up photos. This style also allows you to add or rearrange pages.

Page protectors

These clear plastic sleeves fit over the pages and protect them from sticky fingerprints, spilled coffee, and other hazards. Make sure the protectors do not contain PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which can cause your photographs to deteriorate– and you don’t want that to happen. Many albums come with some page protectors, and you can buy more.

Paper and cardstock

The albums you buy most likely are filled with pages of white paper. Boring! Go to a scrapbook store and take a look at the incredible world of marvelous papers— solid color, patterns, textures; bold and subtle, glittery and glossy, iridescent and pearlescent; even corrugated, embroidered, and flocked. You’ll find them principally in 12" x12" and 8 ½" x11" sizes, but also in several specialty sizes. You can buy them by the sheet, in pads, or in booklets.

Cardstock is heavier than scrapbook paper. You can get it in a solid color, but there are glossy, glittery, and other exotic variations.

Make sure whatever paper you buy is acid-free. You will be creating memories that you want to last, and acid can fight your efforts. Don’t be tempted by gift-wrapping papers, as these are probably acidic and thus potentially harmful to your photographs.


Nice-to-have supplies, counterclockwise from lower left: craft knife on self-healing cutting mat, decorative scissors, embossing powder, rubber stamp, heat gun, border punch, punch.

You have your album and background paper, now what do you use to adhere your photographs? Photo corners, which were the way photos we mounted years ago, are still an option, but now they are self-adhesive.

You want to use an adhesive that is safe for your pictures. Look for labels that say acid-free or archival. Fortunately, you have lots of choices from different manufacturers, and you’ll find them in several categories. Because each has its own special qualities, you will want to try out several and stick with them (pun intended!). Many adhesives provide either a permanent or temporary bond; make sure you buy the type you want. Alphabetically, here are your choices:

Dimensional adhesive is clear liquid that can be used to attach beads, charms, and other small objects. It can also add a dimensional appearance to a surface.

Double-sided adhesive film is pressure-sensitive adhesive sandwiched between release liners. You’ll find it in sheets, tape rolls, and as strips in dispensers known as tape runners. Some with red liners are industrial strength and can adhere small objects.

Double-sided tape is cellophane or plastic, coated on both sides with adhesive. Just be sure not to use ordinary cellophane tape as it will turn yellow and brittle in a few years. Look for tape that is designed for scrapbooks.

Foam tape is double-sided adhesive foam, which can lift up items from the page for a dimensional effect. You’ll find it as dots, squares, and in tape rolls.

Glue dots are thin, pressure sensitive dots of dry glue. They are easy to use and not messy. Some versions of glue dots are thicker than others and are meant to attach small objects

Glue sticks are what the name implies: hard sticks of solid glue in a swiveling, lipstick-like holder. To make sure the bond is secure, it’s wise to put the glue on both the picture and the background, then press firmly for a few seconds.

Liquid adhesives come in bottles and may be applied through the bottle tip or brushed on. There are also pens filled with liquid adhesive.

Photo splits, also known as photo squares or tape runners, are small squares of double-sided tape sandwiched between release papers. They are found in rolls and in hand-held dispensers.

PVA (polyvinyl acetate) is a familiar white glue that dries clear. Some brands dry quickly; others take hours.

Specialty adhesives are designed to use with specific products, such as metal, vellum, foil, glitter, rhinestones, and more.

Spray adhesive is an aerosol that is fast to apply. As with all aerosol sprays, it’s best to use it outdoors or with some way of protecting the room and you from the spray.


You need at least two pair: one for general cutting and one with microtips for intricate detail. A paper trimmer or cutter is almost as indispensable. Some even have interchangeable blades to make fancy edges, but these are far from necessary.


A ruler is not just for measuring. It can be used as a guide for drawing lines, tearing. and for cutting with a craft knife. The best is a metal ruler with a cork back. Make sure measurements start at the exact edge of the ruler– some don’t.


Bits of paper, fibers, and other leftovers multiply by the second. Need I say more?

Almost Essential

Colorants and embellishments include zillions of products that I’ll talk about in another article

Craft knife and self-healing cutting mat

These are invaluable for cutting intricate areas.

You’ll find them in many sizes. They can punch out geometric and fancy shapes. Some can punch elaborate corners and fancy borders from medium-weight paper..

Rubber stamps
You won’t believe the variety of images that are available, from simple to elaborate. Some even look like photographs.

Rubber-stamping ink. There are several types. Dye ink dries fast; pigment inks dry slower and let you create raised designs when you apply embossing powder and heat it with a craft heat tool.

Nice to have

Xyron is a hand-operated device that applies double-sided adhesive to your photographs. It’s most valuable when you have large photographs to adhere.

Crop-A-Dile is not only a hole puncher that punches through almost anything, but it is also an effortless eyelet setter.

Decorative scissors can cut scallops, zig-zags, and a host of other fancy edges and borders.

Die-cut machine enables you to cut shapes out of paper and cardstock. Most models use metal dies; some connect to your computer and cut instead of print.

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