Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

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digital project life – photo book tips

We occasionally get questions about how to create a photo book using our Digital Project Life products. Today I have a digital super star sharing some of her very best tips for those interested in trying this. If you don’t already know Laurie, you should totally know her. First of all, she’s darling. Second of all, we are beyond blessed to have her as a part of our Project Life family (she’s our Director of eCommerce), and … last but not least … she is our hero over at AC Digitals, where all digital Project Life products can be found.

I’m handing the rest of this blog post over to Laurie who will explain a little more about today’s very awesome topic. In her own words:


Having a photo book printed is an awesome way to get your digital layouts off of your computer and into the hands of your family, but there are so many companies and so many rules that it can be overwhelming to try to figure out where to even begin. We are here to give you a few pointers to navigate the world of photo books and get you started. Our pointers will not walk you through the entire process, but will hopefully give you some tips up to the point where you are creating the book on the photo book company’s website. Please note: You will need to check the specifications of the company that you choose to have your photo book printed with before you have it printed. 



Photo books come in all different sizes and styles. Here are just a few of the options you will need to take into account when creating your book:

  • Size – Are you looking for a square version like a 12×12 or an 8×8 book, or do you want a more rectangular album like an 8×10?
  • Hard Cover
  • Soft Cover
  • Personalized Cover – Some companies allow you to personalize your cover with a picture or even a full bleed cover of your own design.
  • Lay Flat Pages – Like the name indicates, when open, the pages inside the album lay completely flat.
  • Traditional Pages – This is the more well-known type of pages where they slightly round at the binding at do not lay completely flat.

Thinking about these options before you start will help you find a company that meets your needs and you will be able to get all of the specifications you need from that company before you even start designing your first page.



Resolution is an important part of getting quality prints in your photo book. As a rule of thumb, when you are creating your layouts, start with a resolution of 300 pixels per inch. If your layouts start with that resolution, then you can rest easy knowing that your layouts are the right resolution for printing. Below is a screen from Photoshop Elements 9 showing the new document dialogue box. The red rectangle is showing you were to find your resolution setting when you are creating a new document.


Be careful when using photos downloaded from Facebook. Pictures uploaded to Facebook have been compressed so they are not at their full resolution. Different companies warn about using these photos and state that it is better for you to use the original photo files.


Color Space

There is a lot we could say about color space. The main thing you need to know is that most companies want a color space of RGB. Again, check with the particular company you use, but the majority of them prefer RGB over CMYK. If you want to get into specifics of sRGB vs Adobe RGB, make sure to contact customer service for that company. If you aren’t sure where to set your color space for your new document, check the screen shot below. You will notice under the resolution box it says “color mode”. You can click on the dropdown box and choose RGB.

Colormode Photo Book


Bleed & Trim

“Bleed and trim” can seem like tricky topics – and reading about them can make it seem like you are learning a foreign language. So what is bleed and trim and why should you care?

Bleed refers to the amount of printing that goes beyond the edge of the printed page. If you have a full bleed page, that means your printing will go from one edge to the other without a border. To illustrate what we mean by a border vs full bleed, compare the two images below. The image with the white border is not a full bleed page. The image that is completely gray with no border is a full bleed page. Look for a printer that has the ability to print full bleed pages.

border photo book

full bleed digital photo book

Trim refers to the amount that a page is cut down. Think about a hardback book. The cover is usually slightly larger than the inside pages. The pages inside have been cut down to fit inside of this cover. This will help you make sense of how photo books work. While you may be ordering a 12×12 book, your pages will, most likely, not be 12×12. They are trimmed down a certain amount to fit inside your cover.

Trim and bleed are important aspects to take into account as you are creating your layouts for your photo book. Essential elements and text should not be placed on the outer edges of your layout or they will get cut off.

So what are you supposed to do? How much space should you allow? This is where you really need to check with your particular company. Some companies have template guidelines that you can download and use as an overlay on your layout as you create it. These guidelines let you know what areas of your page are safe from being cut off and which areas to avoid placing crucial design elements. If your company does not have a template to download, they should give some information on how far from the edge to place design elements.

Below I have used a template for a 12×12 album at Shutterfly over a layout I created. The bright aqua lines around the edges are my critical lines that I do not want anything important crossing. You can see that all that will be cut off is my background.

Digital template trim


Auto Correct

Your layouts are all done and they are ready to upload to your printing company. You want to disable any auto correct features if your company uses them. Since we can’t walk you through every printer’s settings, we are going to use Shutterfly’s settings as an example.

1. Upload your picture to your album on Shutterfly.

2. View the pictures in your Shutterfly album. Select all of the pictures in the album.

3. Go to Edit > Apply Effect

Removing autocorrect digital photo book

4. On the right hand side of the page, click on the check box next to “Don’t apply automatic to picture”.

autocorrect digital photo book


Now Create Your Book!

Your layouts are ready to add to your book. Most companies have some sort of online software or software you download to create your book. Look for tutorials on how to get started. You will want to look for a template theme that is called something like “Digi Scrapping” (Shutterfly) or blank (Persnickety Prints and various others). Their software should walk you through the rest of the creating process.



Awhile back, our friends at The Daily Digi did a massive review on companies who print photo books. We think it is a great resource for you and will give you information about the quality of the product and the ease of creating the book on the company’s site. If you are interested, you can find that amazing article here:

Photobook Reviews – 12 Companies Compared

The Daily Digi also linked to another review that tested a few companies that the Daily Digi did not. You can find that article here:

Digital Home Thoughts The Great Photo book Round-up Review

Hope that helps get you started in the world of photo books. It can seem overwhelming the first time you create one. Don’t hesitate to contact the customer service team of your particular printing company and ask them questions. Take the time to learn their specifications so that you can have a beautiful photo book arrive on your doorstep.


To learn more about Digital Project Life and the options for going this route, visit our Digital Project Life page.


17 Responses

  1. Jan says:

    Thanks for the great information! I use the digital PL templates and print 12×12 pages at Persnickity Prints. I slide the pages into PL binders. I use a few assorted page protectors/envelopes for miscellaneous paper momentos and add them to the binder too. Everything is in one place. This approach has worked well for my daughter’s 1st grade album and our yearly family album. PL and Persnikity are a match made in heaven.

  2. Sue Alger says:

    What invaluable information. I’m gathering pic, info etc to print Ancestry books and this is so helpful. Thanks for much.

  3. Sarah B R says:

    I love Blurb.com
    Great quality. Easy to use.

  4. Lesley B says:

    another great website for photo book reviews is photobookgirl.com

  5. Sharon says:

    Love digital PL templates. That’s my next goal!
    I do the physical PL. Check out – http://www.smpljournal.com to print your journal cards or for catching up on printing journals. EASY PEASY!!!! No glue or tape required. Just print the templates, place your journal card in the slot, and type your stories, then print. So simple!! You can use digital brushes too.

    NEW on their website – The templates are available in different file formats:
    Microsoft Word, OpenOffice/LibreOffice Writer, each set of templates provides a different journaling experience.


  6. The photo size tips and others in these scrapbook examples tips are golden.

  7. Cherice says:

    So glad you did this post! Thanks!!

  8. J3SS1C4 says:

    Thank you for this post… It was perfect timing for me, since I’m in the process of making a photobook for my trip to Thailand earlier this year. I’m going 8×10 through Blurb, since I’ve heard so many good things, and I purchased a set of templates to assemble it, so it’s nice and easy!

  9. Willow Burse says:

    Was wondering how you make a kid art book? Do you take pictures of the art or do you scan the art pieces. I know Becky talked about one when she was on that show last month. I was wondering if she go into depth more what she did and maybe show a few pages from the book as examples. I would really appreciate it. I would like to start tackling my kiddos art work from school this summer. Thanking you Kindly, Willow

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  15. Ken Friedman says:

    I am looking for polypropolene pages that are 13.5 inches wide ( including the half inch tab that contains the 3 ring binder holes) by 13 inches high. These pages would hold 2 vertical 4×6 prints and 3 horizontal prints. I would prefer the vertical pockets to be along the side with the 3 binder ring holes. Do you carry anything like this? If not might you give me a referral. Thank you. Ken

    • Brandi Nielsen says:

      We do not carry this photo pocket design at this time. Sorry about that. I am not aware of a company that does. Google search may help?

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