How and Where to Place Scrapbooking Embellishments – Paperclipping 168

Tap Dance for Money - both pages

Two of the more common questions scrapbookers want to know are:

  • How do you know where to put your embellishments?
  • How do you know when to stop?

Someone asked me one of these during my True Scrap class at the end of my presentation and I felt like I let her down because I really don’t believe you can give an adequate answer in just a few sentences.

The most common answer I hear to the question, “How do you know when to stop?” is “When you feel like you’re done, take one thing off the page.”

This answer may be adequate for certain scrapbookers, but it’s definitely not a principle that applies in general.

How does that help someone like me, who had to force herself to learn to add the first embellishment? (I have many old scrapbooking pages that have a background, photos, and photo mattes. And that is it!).

Or anyone who tends to use too few items, rather than too many?

Which of the item do you take off?

What if the page looks off-balance when you remove an item?

The Root of the Problem

As scrapbookers, we’re fortunate to have lots of beautiful and amazing embellishment options at our fingertips. You can’t say the same thing for paint or charcoal pencil artists.

On the one hand, we’re very lucky. On the other hand, our embellishment obsession distracts us from learning overall design composition. This is the problem: We’re so engrossed in the wonderful details of the embellishments that they’re the first and main thing we want to learn and focus our time on.

Three Concepts To Master for Powerful Embellishment Placement

If you master three concepts, which I cover heavily in my video tutorials for Paperclipping Members, you will never have to worry about where to put the embellishments, or when to stop because you’ll just know. Here are the three concepts:

  • Building a foundation of focal point photos, supporting photos, and anchoring lines.
  • General overall principles of composition, like balance and space.
  • The design purposes of embellishments

N 38 (closeup)

Embellishments Have Design Purposes

Beauty is just a by-product. If you’re overly focused on how beautiful the embellishments are, you’re in danger of…

  • using too many of them
  • being too intimidated to use them

If instead, you focus on using them only to meet the design needs of your layouts, you will know exactly…

  • How to make stunning embellishment gatherings.
  • What’s missing on your page.
  • Which embellishments to use.
  • Where to put your embellishments.
  • When your page is complete and it’s time to stop.

Gathering Embellishments

Gathering embellishments — in other words, layering them or clustering them — is a particularly good way to draw people into your page and make them want to stay and look a lot longer. Some of the ways to do that are to…

Gather embellishments into a frame around a photo.

Tap Dance for Money - right side

Make a cluster of contrasting embellishments on a line or in a space that needs more visual weight or color.

Soften lines and form an implied directional curving line with your embellishments.
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Today we’ve released a video tutorial to the Paperclipping Members that demonstrates all of these things and more. You will get to see me gather and place the embellishments for three of these four scrapbook layouts. You may watch the trailer by clicking the video below:

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Are you ready to watch the entire tutorial? If you are Paperclipping Member, please login to the Membership Area to watch it there, or find it in your iTunes library.

If you are not a Paperclipping Member, you can find out about membership by clicking here!

  • I LOVE this episode, so inspiring and full of information.


  • Great blog post. It’s always helpful when someone explains ‘why’ they do what they do. Thanks!

    One question… what product line are the blue birds from in your Tap Dance layout??

  • That’s from the Twig line by Little Yellow Bicycle. It’s awesome!

  • AllisonLP

    Oh boy, I can’t wait to get home to watch the new tutorial (at work right now). It’s good timing on this one, because for my last few layouts, I thought I was done, and I was happy with the layout, but then realized I hadn’t embellished! Loved the layouts even more after I embellished…

  • Amy_G

    LOVED this episode – I didn’t want it to end :) I’m really liking the look of clusters of embellishments and struggling to pull it off on my layouts. I really enjoyed your tips! When shopping for supplies are there things you look for specifically in regards to your embellishments?

  • It was much longer than our usual videos, so I’m glad to hear you didn’t
    want it to end!!

    I’ll have to think about that question — I know I’ve shared in the past
    certain characteristics that I use over and over again in the types of
    layers I do. Once I have some time to think about it I’ll write up a blog
    post! :)