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April 06, 2015

Simplifying the Process: Sketches

Everyday Moodlings-Using Scrapbook Sketches

I have a secret weapon in my creative process......SKETCHES. Yes, I know, not all that secret. We have been using them for years. Books have been written and classes have been taught on the subject of sketches.

I am constantly looking for ways to make my creative time more effective. Ways to streamline my creative process and limit my decision making. (Really, I am a bit obsessed with the creative process.) Now this may sound crazy to you, but for me it means I spend more time play and less time deciding what paper to use. This is a subject I talk about often. You can read more here.

And let's be clear.....my time is definitely limited. So I commit to just 15 minutes a day and sometimes that is all I have. Most days the 15 minutes turns into 20 and then 30. It is springboard for my creative process.

However, if I spend those 15 minutes staring at a blank page I will probably never get past 15 minutes. I would probably give up in defeat. Like most people I need something to get those creative juices flowing. I don’t have the luxury of just wanting until they do come. Forcing creativity is rarely effective, or fun, but there are things you can do to start the process.

My Creative Process
So today I wanted to talk about sketches and how I use them in my creative process. Generally speaking I only use them for scrapbooking. For cards, tag art and other projects I turn to idea books and Pinterest. I am sure all of you have probably used a sketch or two along the way.

But even as useful as they are they can create a new problem. There are literally 1000s of sketches to collect and choose from. Remember my comments on decision making. I don't want to spend my 15 minutes picking out the perfect sketch. (One of my favorite ideas books of all time was written by Rebecca Sower.  She mentioned that she only keeps 5 colors of thread on her work table.  In most cases, one of those five will work just fine.  And it is so much faster to choose from 5 instead of 100 colors.  Why paralyze yourself trying to choose....just keep it simple.)

My solution? I keep a small binder with only a handful of sketches....around 15-20 sketches. Turns out I am drawn to the same sketches over and over again. If they don't quite 'fit', I can always adapt them. (More on that in a moment.)

Everyday Moodlings-Using Scrapbook Sketches

That does not mean I don't have a large collection of sketches. I do! I have a Sketch Pinterest Board that I add to on a regular basis. When I get bored with a sketch I can always replace it with another.

Now before you think that all of my pages look the same.....far from it. I tend to use only bits and pieces of each sketch, which means the final page rarely looks like the sketch and no two pages look the same.

Adapting Sketches
You may have tried to use sketches in the past, but just could not make them work. Some of the common complaints with sketches include:
  • I don’t have the same number of photos as the sketch.
  • I don’t scrapbook 12x12 or 8.5x11.
  • There is no spot for journaling.
  • The sketch is too busy or too simple.
Believe it or not, most of these are true for me too.

I don’t have the same number or size of photos as the sketch. 
This is often a simple fix. Too many photos? Combine two photos spots together to make one. Change a photo spot into something else, like an extra journaling spot or decorative element.

 If the sketch calls for a landscape photo when you have a portrait photo, simply turn the sketch to make it work. The best part about sketches is they provide a framework while still allowing for flexibility.

I don’t scrapbook 12x12 or 8.5x11. 
This is true for me as I normally scrapbook 8x8. Generally speaking I have no problem reducing 12x12 to 8x8. I often have to remove a few of the photos or a few elements to make it work. For me a sketch is truly just a springboard. My finished page rarely looks like the sketch. I may take only one or two elements from the sketch, this means the size of the sketch rarely matters to me. I encourage you to look at the bits and pieces of the sketch instead of the whole if you need to reduce it in size.

There is no spot for journaling.
I see this often with newer sketches that may focus more on product use rather than storytelling. Truth be told, some may like this as journaling is not important to them. I am a storyteller when it comes to scrapbooking, so journaling is important to time. (I will admit I am not the best at getting it done, but I do try. I am slowly making process of the stack of layouts that only need journaling to be done. Please tell me I am not alone.)

You can either focus on collecting sketches that include journaling or take one of the other elements (maybe a photo) and change it to a journaling spot.  Of course you can always hide your journaling behind another element.....my favorite approach.

The sketch is too busy or too plain.
Since I only keep a handful of sketches on my craft table I am careful to only include those sketches are work with my style. Don't feel like you need to use every sketch. Since there are 100s if not 1000s of sketches available online, you can easily find one or two or three that will fit your needs and your style. When in doubt.....move on.

If you find a sketch you like but it's too busy, try removing some of the layers, but keep the elements in the same place.  From a design standpoint, most sketches do a good job with balance, so you will want to keep the main elements in their original position to preserve that balance. If is a sketch is too plain, try combining it with another sketch to beef it up a bit.

Final Thoughts
My best tips for using sketches?
  • Limit the number of sketches you are working with.  Usually a handful will do.  You can always switch them out when you get bored.
  • Adapt when you need to.
  • Use bits and pieces instead of the whole.
  • When you can't make it fit....move on.
Your Turn
Do you have tips for using sketches?  Take a few minutes and share.  Your fellow readers will appreciate your effort and so will I.

Thanks for stopping by,


  1. Great ideas, Jeri! I have been collecting sketches (print one out every time I use one) and now I can't even look at them anymore cause there's just too many! I'm going to look back at my own layouts and see which ones I like the best and keep just those sketches - separating the design from all of the other elements that I might like (colors, content, embellishments) might be tricky, but I think I need to do it that way.

    1. Margaret...so happy you found the information useful. That always makes my day. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions. :)

  2. What is the name of the Rebecca Sower Idea Book? Just wondering...love her. I am also very inspired by sketches. I think I need to pull mine out more often. ANd, yes, I have layouts that still need journaling! ;-)

    1. Oh man...now that is a tough question. LOL! I believe it is Scrapbooking Life's Little Moments. You can find both of their scrapbooking idea books used on Amazon. They are some of the few scrapbooking idea books I refuse to let go of.....no matter how old they are. :)

  3. Thanks for the info. I am just now recommitting to do my creating after many years of letting it sit in a corner and you have given me a "leaping off" point. I am eternally grateful as I wander off for one of my sketch pads....

  4. Thanks for the info. I am just now recommitting to do my creating after many years of letting it sit in a corner and you have given me a "leaping off" point. I am eternally grateful as I wander off for one of my sketch pads....

    1. You are most welcome Tracey. I have had dry spells too as life gets in the way. But my supplies are always calling to me. :) I don't think I would want to live a life completely devoid of creativity.