Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Project Life: My Step by Step Process

Step One: Memorabilia (5 minutes)

I keep all of my memorabilia in a letter tray that I purchased at Target. Every week I pull out my letter tray from it's place on my bookcase, bring it to my desk, and decide what memorabilia I am going to use.

I can then discard any unused items. For this week, I am not using the receipt for the Post Office, but the other three items are being saved. The certificate will go in my daughter's scrapbook and the movie ticket stubs and Paper Camellia label is going in this Project Life spread.

Step Two: Import Photos to Project Life Folder: (5 minutes)

I import all of the possible photos for my Project Life spread into the folder for that Project Life week. There is generally 2-3 times more photos than I need, but that's okay. Once I look at them together in Photoshop Elements I can generally pick out my favorites relatively quickly.

*I have a Mac desktop computer and my SLR photos are regularly uploaded to I-photo. My i-phone photos are uploaded automatically using i-cloud.

Step Three: Select Photos, Resize, and Edit (20-30 minutes)

Editing is my least favorite part of Project Life. I love editing photos, but sometimes doing 10-15 in a row is a daunting task. I just try to stick to a few edits per photo. I have Photoshop Elements and find it a very helpful software program for a non-professional photographer. It is a great value and I do not plan on upgrading to the full version of Photoshop anytime soon.

A great time saving tip is to stick to only a few different sizes when printing photos for Project Life. I generally stick with 4 x 6 inch, 2.9 x 3.9 inch, and 4 x 4. Once in a while I will use a 2.5 x 2.5, but not very often. Less sizes = less time figuring out what size to print.

Step Four: Open Up a Blank File (1 minute)

Place all photos onto a blank file in Photoshop Elements. *I am sure other editing software have similar features, but unfortunately I am only familiar with Photoshop Elements. I size the blank file 24 inches wide by 12 inches tall, just like a typical two-page Project Life spread. I almost exclusively use Design A Becky Higgins Project Life protectors sold through Amazon. I love that the 4 x 6 pockets are a true 4 x 6 and that the small pockets are almost 3 x 4 inches.

*I started doing this so that I could "see" what my layout would look like BEFORE printing. It works so well for me. I use to constantly have to reprint and resize photos and I would print a lot for photos I never used. What a waste of time and money. I hardly ever have to reprint now, just for the occasional coffee or Diet Coke spill or ink mishap.

Step Five: Place Photos Onto Blank File (5-10 minutes)

I move the photos around until I like the arrangement. I know that sounds awfully vague, but it is difficult to guess what others look for when arranging photos. However, I can tell you what I do, and what works for me. I hope this will be useful for you as well.

  • Balance: I want both sides to seem to weigh the same when you look at them…for example. I want the blank spaces for journaling and non-photo elements to be spaced throughout the spread, and not in just one area.

       In this Project Life spread the blank spaces are spaced throughout the spread
  • Color: I generally pick 2-3 colors from the pictures that week and use them to find journaling cards, embellishments, and to help guide the layout. 
In this Project Life spread you see red elements, blue, and darker/ wood tones on both sides 
of the page and in different areas; top of page, middle of page, and bottom of page.
  • Visual Triangles: Love these. A visual triangle is useful to help guide whomever looks at your scrapbook around the page, or Project Life spread in this case. I have highlighted a variety of visual triangles for you in this Project Life spread below…be warned my drawing with the pencil tool in Photoshop is kind of hilarious.
 Visual Triangle of dark elements

 Visual Triangle of natural elements

 Visual Triangle of light blue

 Visual Triangle of people, yes including Katniss

Visual Triangle of red

Step Six: Print Photos and Gather Supplies (10 minutes)

I print at home as well as at my local Archivers. I think it is cheaper to print at Archivers, but it just depends if I am going there already. I probably print at home for Project Life about 60% of the time. Supplies are gathered based on the color scheme, memorabilia, and any other elements I want to use.

Step Seven: Assembly (30-60 minutes)

This is my favorite part. If I can do all of my journaling and embellishing in one sitting it goes much faster, if I break it up over different points in time it usually takes twice as long. Either way, I love this part.

So In Review, my process:
  1. Memorabilia (5 minutes)
  2. Import Photos to Project Life Folder (5 minutes)
  3. Select Photos, Resize, and Edit (20 minutes)
  4. Open Up a Blank File (1 minute)
  5. Place Photos Onto Blank File (5-10 minutes)
  6. Print Photos and Gather Supplies (10 minutes)
  7. Assembly (30-60 minutes)
     *Total Time Spent: Anywhere from approx. 1hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes. This is the average time it has took me to complete each of the above steps in my Project Life spreads the past six weeks.

Thank you so much for stopping by today, I appreciate you being here and I hope this step-by-step Project Life tutorial was helpful to you and that you learned something new along the way. If you have any questions about my Project Life process please do not hesitate to ask. I would be happy to help anyway I can. I am really hoping to hear about your Project Life process or see your pages. If you link me to a recent Project Life spread or other crafty endeavor, I would love to leave you a comment.

I will be back tomorrow to share this completed Project Life spread and later this week I will be sharing a Christmas mini album using Basic Grey's 25th and Pine Collection. I hope to see you back soon.

Happy Scrappin'




  1. Thanks for sharing your system! I love seeing how people have streamlined the process. I always take away something new that I can incorporate to make my own process better. I love how you pre-plan the whole layout in photoshop.

    1. Thanks so much Alicia. I started pre-planning in photoshop because I often found that I printed too many pictures, and not the right ones. This has saved me a lot of time (re-printing, resizing later) and money.

  2. Replies
    1. You are most welcome Amalia. I hope this tutorial will be of some help to you.

  3. So interesting to see your system! thanks for sharing!

  4. you are so organized in your system, thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for the lovely compliment Katalina-Marie.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, I haven't started PL just because I really didn't think I had the time but seeing this I think I could maybe squeeze it in there :)

    1. That is the best comment you could have written. I am a HUGE PL fan and I think it is such a worthwhile use of time and energy and something that will be treasured for years to come. Please let me know if I can be of any help in the future. I am so excited for you!

  6. I haven't tried pre-planning my pages before printing my pics, but thanks for the tip! I basically follow the same process as you, but I print the pics and make them work. I also strive for a "balanced" look amongst the pictures and non-picture cards.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. You are most welcome for the tip, hopefully it will make things even easier for you , even though it sounds like you have PL under control. :-)

  7. Such an awesome post! Thanks for sharing your process!

  8. Thanks for sharing your process. I like the preplanning idea - I might need to try that. I do a Handbook 6x8" PL and all my pockets have photos in them most weeks. I think preplanning with help.
    Can I ask for just a couple of clarifications (sorry, maybe obvious stuff). When you go to print at home, you are printing from PSE aren't you? So you have to create new photo sized documents for that? Or is there some shortcut to go from the planned layout to printing? does that question make sense? Also, can I ask - do you have iPhoto on an external drive? Or are you not even using iPhoto? My Macbook Air is really full right now and I'm trying to figure out how to free up space. I don't think iPhoto works very well (especially not with big photo libraries), but I don't have space for all my pictures on my Air anyway. Thanks :)

    1. Sorry it took me a few days to get back to you. Yes, I do print directly from PSE at home. Your question makes complete sense, I hope my explanation is just as clear. I do create new documents for some of the pictures. I print most things onto 4 x 6 photo paper. The 4x6 photos are just printed directly as they are to my home computer. I usually have about 4- 3x4 photos so I create two 4x6 documents, drag 2 photos onto each document and print.
      I put all of my photos on my computer, and they are also backed up to Time Machine (it is a router and external drive all in one by Apple.) My hubby and I love it. I do use I-photo for the initial import and then I edit in PSE. I am also working on organizing photos in I-photo, I don't know if I have the best system, but it works for me. I try to really edit photos once I upload them, and by that I mean, I get rid of lots to save room. I make a folder for every month and then they go in every year…so 2013 has January, February, February, etc…. I think getting rid of extra photos is the biggest help.

      I hope these clarifications help. If you have any more questions or if my response is confusing in any way, just let me know. I wish you a Merry Christmas and good luck in all of your Project Life pages in 2014. Make sure to link me to what you create, I would love to see it. :-)

  9. Toni,
    If I don't have a Mac what kind of software (preferable free) can I use with my PC to set up a digital layout before making it a reality on paper? Meaning I do all my Scraping by hand, but having a system to help layout the pictures before would help when I actually go to do it. I think this will help with balance, using different sized photos and seeing a visual representation before spending money on wasted, wrong sized pics. Thanks. Melinda