- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Scrapbooking has gone digital, and so have all those decorative little bits and pieces. Although paper scrapbooking is still thriving, the digital option has attracted a new range of crafters, from men - many of whom think paper scrapbooking is too precious for them - to women who can’t commit to the paper process.

Erin Clayton of Alton, N.H., falls into the latter group. She bought paper scrapbooking supplies for years, but says “I just couldn’t do the paper thing. I collected the stuff and never ever did a page.”

Then this mother of a 15-month-old found digital scrapbooking.

“I honestly love it,” she says. “It’s such a creative release.”

Mrs. Clayton has been scrapbooking digitally since April and already has printed a 22-page scrapbook, “Something About Maisie,” which is posted in the “community gallery” at Shutterfly.com. She recently completed her 100th digital page.

Each page takes a few hours to complete, starting as she does from a blank screen, but Mrs. Clayton is in no hurry to print them all. Instead, she saves them on the Web site to share with family and friends.

She is focused on documenting her daughter Mairead’s growing-up years, addressing her digital pages directly to the little girl she has nicknamed Maisie.

“I write to her, which makes me feel good,” Mrs. Clayton says. “This is for her.”

Jeffrey Housenbold, chief executive of Shutterfly, a leading online source for printing and sharing digital photos, says he has ventured into the digital scrapbooking realm himself using his company’s photo books. The pre-made formats allow customers to drag and drop their pictures, then print them in a scrapbook format. It’s fast and simple. Other companies, such as Snapfish and Creative Memories, offer similar services.

An avid photographer who documents his family’s outings, Mr. Housenbold says the photo books are a creative outlet.

“It’s part of my hobby of self-expressing through images,” Mr. Housenbold says. “As a dad now, there’s a lot of satisfaction in passing along memories to the kids.”

For the novice, these formatted photo books are the way to begin.

The 12-by-12-inch books are the costliest (beginning at $59.99 at Shutterfly, $49.99 at Snapfish and $79.95 at Creative Memories) and are best reserved for special events such as weddings and “new baby” books. All three of these companies offer a less expensive 8-by-8-inch format, and Snapfish offers a 5-by-7-inch “paperback” (starting at $11.99) for documenting family vacations and other events that don’t quite merit a large cash outlay.

A smaller Web company, Smilebox, offers scrapbooking and e-cards with a multimedia twist: Customers can animate their Web-based scrapbook pages with music and video clips.

Smilebox customers can e-mail their scrapbook pages or post them to any blog site, says Yannis Dosios, Smilebox’s marketing director. They also can download or print them. Smilebox is free, too, although more features are available at its premium and club rates.

“It’s really easy,” Mr. Dosios says. “Everything is supposed to happen in a couple of clicks.”

That’s the key to digital scrapbooking for those who have fallen for it: It’s flexible, portable, potentially inexpensive - and clutter-free.

Savannah Brentnall is a Los Angeles “digi-scrapper” who began as a paper-scrapper. Today, she may hybridize her digital work with ribbon or some other simple embellishment after a page is printed, but she works primarily in the digital format.

“It’s good to get rid of the clutter,” says Miss Brentnall, who scrapbooks professionally on her Web site, Savannahscrap books.com.

She clicks off another reason why digital scrapbooking beats paper: Users can scrapbook anytime, anywhere a computer can go.

“I can scrap while I’m on the road if I want to,” she says.

Digital scrapbooking enables enthusiasts to save their work on a Web site, which provides a little insurance: Another book can be printed if the original is lost or damaged. Also, extra copies can be printed for family and friends.

“These are not irreplaceable things any more,” Miss Brentnall says.

Digital scrapbooking can be as addictive and time-consuming as paper scrapping. Kits full of formats, typefaces and embellishments can be bought and downloaded.

“You can get carried away in either method,” says Ali Edwards, a graphic designer who creates scrapbooking artwork for DesignerDigitals.com. “That whole hoarding mentality, which happens in paper, is going to happen in digital scrapbooking as well.”

Miss Brentnall says she has computer folders bulging with free downloads. Digital scrappers simply need to search for the freebies and sales online.

Will digital scrapping one day sideline the paper scrapbooking so many women enjoy? Not according to Miss Brentnall.

“There’s still definitely something about the tactile nature of having 3-D embellishments and touching ribbon and touching buttons,” she says. “I think we’ll see more of a move to [hybridizing] before we see paper die out completely.”

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