Thursday, January 3, 2013

my process for documenting life through weekly layouts

I have been meaning to share my process for how my weekly layouts come together in more detail. I had plans of sharing this last year, but 2012 just flew by!! So here I am in a new year, thinking of what I did in 2012 that worked well and how it might help you! 

In a previous blog post, my process for documenting life through photos I shared what I use to take pictures, where and when I take my pictures and who takes the pictures. I also describe a little bit about my process for downloading and editing my photos.

I use to edit all my favourite photos and then put together a blog post for our family blog and include details about what we did, etc. It was my way of documenting life through words, which you can read more about here, my process for documenting life through words.  I say use to, because as of October I haven't done that! I just couldn't find the time! That being said, I will still continue to capture those everyday stories, but maybe not quite the same way I once did. I think 2013 for me will be about discovering new ways of doing things! 

selecting photos 

In 2009 and 2011, I did what most would consider photo-a-day. I took more than one photo most days, but in my weekly layouts I only included one per day. I loved this approach and it worked for me when I did it.

In 2012, I started out with basically just including one photo per day for my weekly layouts. As time passed and I started seeing what others were doing by including multiple photos from a day or event, I too started doing it! And what a change that was for me!!  Why wasn't I doing this all along? This is coming from a person who loves to take LOTS of photos and would painstakingly try to pick just ONE photo to represent one day!! Some days were easy because I just had one photo, but other days when it was a holiday or a trip or something like that, to pick just one photo was very hard!! Now, I don't do that! I pick my favourites and include as many as I can!! 

Here's an example of how I included multiple photos from various days...

Selecting the photos you want to include is totally a personal decision. It depends on the story you want to share and how many photos you have, etc.  There is no right or wrong answer here. If you want to include every picture you took that week, go for it! If you want to include only one photo per that too!!

Once I have a handful of photos open in Photoshop Elements, I start to figure out what template would work best. All the photos I select in the beginning stage of creating my weekly layout don't always make it to the end! I weed them out as I start putting everything together! Sometimes I have too many and I find the layout it looking too crowded or sometimes I find I want to add more! I never know until I start putting them into a template. 

selecting a template

I typically use Project Life Template A, but it's often a modified version of it! This is why I LOVE digital so much!! I don't have to have 4 - 4x6 boxes and 4 - 3x4 boxes. I can have pretty much whatever I want! If you've seen my layouts, you know that I move boxes around, make them bigger, etc. Or I just leave it as is and don't change a thing! I also use Project Life Template B and Project Life Template C quite a bit.

With my photos and template open I start to envision where I want everything and what photos I want to make into a photo collage. For detailed steps on how to add photos to a template, see Jesscia Sprague's free tutorial. In this video she covers a lot of the basics of downloading the templates and how to clip to a mask, etc. You can also check out Cathy Zielske's Vimeo channel for even more digi scrapbooking resources! 

what is the same from page to page 

There are certain things I do for every weekly layout. I like certain things to be consistent from week-to-week. It makes my life easier!

  • I always create a two-page spread for each week and everything starts on the left, which I call page one.  For example, for the first week of January, I would have two PSD files with these names: jan_weekone_pg1 and jan_weekone_pg2.

  • To date the page, I include the week and dates covered. For example, Week One: January 1 - 6. This doesn't have to be on a title card though, because I don't always include a title card. Sometimes I like to use that extra 4x6 space for a photo or two! I place it where I can, which is usually on that first page, but sometimes it ends up on the second page! It may not always be in the same spot, but it's always in the same font, which was Century Gothic, either 12 or 14 pt.

  • For my journaling, I use the same font and colour. The only time I use a different font or colour is when I am adding titles to my journaling cards. The font I used for 2012 was Century Gothic. Most of the journaling is done in 10 pt, but sometimes I've gone a bit bigger or smaller, depending on how much or how little I wanted to say. The colour I used pretty much all the time for my journaling was 50% grey.

  • For 2012, I used the same background paper throughout a month. So January would have the same paper and then February would have a different one, etc.

  • There is also one more thing I do for EVERY layout and it's VERY IMPORTANT when it comes time to print !! If you have been doing digital long enough, you already know about cropping and bleed marks when it comes to printing and the importance of keeping important content away from the edges! To do this, I rescale everything, except the background by 95%. This brings everything in from the edge about 1/2 an inch. This gives me a nice border around all my content and allows you to see the background paper a lot easier too! But that's not why I do it. I do it so that when I upload my pages to to print, I won't have content cut off! I will explain this in more detail in a future post when I talk about printing my book. I wanted to mention it here, because it's something I do for every layout! 

overall design 

I like to use a variety of journaling cards, papers and elements from different designers each week. I tend to view all my monthly layouts as one, so that is why I use the same background paper and a lot of times the same journaling cards.

When it comes to the Project Life kits that are available at AC Digitals, I use almost all of them! What can I say, they all work so well together! In 2012, I used Clementine (coming in digital format to AC Digitals on Mon, Jan 7, 2013) the most and then at the end of the year, I used the Mayfield Childhood edition a lot. There are certain journaling and title cards that I used over and over from the various kits! This is yet another reason to love digital...never a shortage of cards!

I have a few favourite designers whose products I used a lot throughout 2012. If I found myself using a particular photo template, word art, journaling card, filler card, etc over and over, than it would go into my Project Life folder. By having this folder, I could easily access the items I used most often and I didn't have to go searching for them! An example of this, is I used Cathy Zielske's Tiny Templates A LOT! They are perfect for including a photo and journaling together in a 4x6 box or for making a photo college! I even altered some of them to suit my needs. When I do this, I save it with a new name so that I can reuse it again in the future!

The design of your layouts is another personal decision. You can get inspiration from others, but in the end you will have your own style, even if you don't think you have a style, you do! 

putting everything together

So now I have my photos, a template and some digi supplies all opened in Photoshop Elements. Now the fun begins!

If I am working on more than one week at a time, I tend to do things in batches. So if I have 3 weeks worth of layouts to do, then I will place all my photos first, then I'll add all the dates, then I add my journaling cards and "extra" elements and at the end I will include my journaling. 

Because the design of your layouts is very personal, I won't go into detail about why I select what I do or why I place items where I do. For one, I don't always know, I just do what comes to me at the time! 


I am often asked how I include memorabilia, like my kids artwork in my pages. The easy answer is, I take pictures of it or I scan it! 

I do keep physical albums for each of my girls. I use the We R Memory Keeper 3-ring binders. I am actually in the process of including their school artwork in their albums now. I am mostly using Project Life Template E for this. 

Here's an example of how I included a picture that my oldest daughter drew for me. 

Or sometimes, I have them hold the piece of artwork and take a picture of them holding it. I am not one to include receipts or stubs from movies, etc in my album. I will often include the prices of things, like food or gas, etc or I will take a picture of an item. I guess it all depends on what you want to include.

saving my weekly layouts

I create a folder for the year and then under that are monthly folders and then within each monthly folder are my weekly layouts.

Like I said earlier, I have a page 1 and page 2 for each week. I save them as a psd file (photoshop files that I can go back and edit if needed) and a jpg file for printing. But once I print my book, I delete all the jpg files, but keep the psd files. It just saves room on my hard drive, plus I can always create another jpg file from the psd. 

That was a lot of information to take in! Maybe I helped answer some of your questions or maybe you have more! If you do, then please post it as a comment and I will do my best to answer.

Now that I am getting closer to printing my 2012 book, I will be able to share more about my process for printing. Look for that post very soon!


  1. awesome as always

    1. As always, thanks for following along, Amanda :)

  2. Awesome info - thank you! Maybe I missed it, but what font did you use for the week on your title pages?

    1. Sorry, I missed adding that the first time. I have since added it. I used Century Gothic for all my journaling, including the week and date.

  3. Thank you so much for posting the details of your process. Over the last few months I began following your blog and you have COMPLETELY changed my approach to Project Life. I'm going all digital, and I LOVE it. All through 2011 and 2012 I struggled to keep up - but now I can't wait to sit down and work on 2013. THANK YOU! Please keep those great informative posts, and layouts, coming!!!

    1. Thank you for following along, I am glad I could help :)

  4. I assume you are using Photoshop/Elements? I have Creative Memories Storybook Creator and am trying to avoid buying more software. Do you have any knowledge of creating PL templates to use in Storybook Creator? I've created all the templates, but I don't know how to round the corners in the template. The only way I know to round them is to flatten each image and then round them. Blech. I really want the rounded corners in my templates.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this! I looked everywhere for this type of information. I hope you don't mind if I ask you a question. I followed your instructions for rescaling to 95%. The left had side works perfectly with nothing overlapping in the gutter or close to the cut lines, but on the right hand side, the layout overlaps in the purple gutter area. Is that what it does to you? Thanks so much for any help you can give me!

    1. Hi Terri. If you're referring to how the page looks in BookSmart (software for with the trim guidelines turned on, then yes, that purple gutter area does overlap the photos that are closest to the seam of the book. That is completely normal and does not affect the printing, nor does it cut anything off. It's the dotted trim line you need to concerned about the most, as anything outside of that line will be cut off. So if you're rescaling by 95% you'll be just fine! :)

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  8. I just found your blog and loved reading your PL process! I'm new to PL and have played around with both traditional and digi but haven't done the weekly layouts yet… just bouncing around. Maybe next year I'll try and do it weekly. Maybe…. But I'll be coming back for more inspiration! :)


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