What is Scrapbooking? Capturing Memories Creatively

It’s the art of capturing memories, weaving photos and memorabilia into unique stories. But what is scrapbooking in practice? Stick around to find out.

13 May 2024

The history of scrapbooking is often traced back to the ‘commonplace books’ of the 15th century. From proverbs and prayers or herbal remedies, these were a way for individuals to collate facts and ideas related to a particular topic. By the 18th century, the practice expanded to include personal mementos, such as poems or paintings. But it was advances in the 19th century that caused a leap towards the scrapbooks of modern times. Specifically, this was the century of both daily newspapers and photography, both leading to an overwhelming influx of information. For many, cutting and pasting snippets into albums or books was a way to digest it. Even the author Mark Twain was a fan, inventing a self-pasting scrapbook.

Nowadays, the rise of digital media hasn’t dampened the appeal of paper memories. In fact, it’s just as popular as ever. But, precisely what is scrapbooking today? What is a scrap book and what do you need for scrapbooking success? We’re here to cut through the noise, with a guide to it all.

What is Scrapbooking?

A scrapbook of cherished memories (Credit: Uwe Krejci via Getty Images)

In its simplest form, scrapbooking is the craft of compiling memories and mementos into a physical book. What fills the empty pages and how is a matter of personal choice, but it’s often described as an art of storytelling through documentation. It’s seen as a personalised storybook, a visual diary that reflects the creator’s journey and memories.

What is a Scrap Book?

Storing memories (Credit: Weekend Images Inc. via Getty Images)

A scrapbook or scrap book is a decorative album designed to store and preserve memories, combining photographs, memorabilia, and artistic embellishments. It serves as a personalised and creative way to document life’s moments, with each page showcasing a unique blend of visuals, storytelling, and design.

What to Put in a Scrap Book

Planning a scrapbook (Credit: twohumans via Getty Images)

A scrap book can hold anything meaningful. Photographs, letters, cards, ticket stubs, and even fabric swatches can all find a place, with choosing what to put in a scrap book depending on the story one wants to tell. For example, a travel scrapbook might include photos from trips, boarding passes, and maps. A family scrapbook might incorporate photos from events, handwritten notes, and children’s drawings. The possibilities are endless, allowing each scrap book to be unique.

What Do You Need For Scrapbooking?

Assortment of scrapbooking tools (Credit: Carol Yepes via Getty Images)

For anyone wondering “what do I need for scrapbooking,” we’ve got it covered:

  • A Scrapbook Album: The foundation of any scrapbook is the album. In theory, any collection of bound pages will do, but there are many designed specifically for this purpose, some with self-adhesive pages and page protectors.
  • Adhesives: If using non-adhesive paper, glue sticks, double-sided tape, and photo corners help secure photos and mementos.
  • Decorative Elements: Stickers, washi tape, ribbons, and stamps add visual interest. Scrapbooking paper, in various colours and patterns, provides backgrounds for different themes.
  • Cutting Tools: Scissors, paper trimmers, and craft knives can be used to shape photos, paper, and embellishments.
  • Writing Implements: Pens, markers, and even calligraphy tools can help annotate pages, adding personal notes and captions.

Scrapbooking Steps

Scrapbook layout idea (Credit: seamartini via Getty Images)

While there’s no singular way to make a scrapbook, we do have some tips on where to start.

Choosing a Theme

The theme sets the tone for the book and is the foundation on which to choose what to put in a scrap book. Popular themes include weddings, family vacations, and years-in-review.

Gathering Materials

With the theme chosen, it’s a matter of gathering the photos, memorabilia, and any other materials that align with it.


One of the most significant aspects of scrapbooking is the story that goes with the visuals. Journaling involves adding a narrative. This might include descriptions, dates, and personal thoughts about the events or people in the photos. Handwritten notes can add a personal touch.

Layout & Design Techniques

To ensure a cohesive design and avoid mistakes, it’s a good idea to plan the layout of photos, paper, and embellishments before adhering them to the page. Layouts can vary widely, but there are various techniques commonly used. For example:

  • Layering: This involves stacking various elements, such as papers, photos, and embellishments, on top of each other, creating depth and visual interest on the scrapbook page.
  • Clustering: This technique groups related items, like photos, stickers, or other embellishments, in a close-knit arrangement to create a focal point or emphasise a theme on the page.
  • Framing: This refers to surrounding key elements, like photos or text, with borders or decorative elements, helping to highlight them and provide structure to the overall design.

Adhesion & Decoration

Each element should be secured, perhaps behind a clear page protector or within a pocket.

Scrapbooking Summarised

Vintage scrapbooking (Credit: LiliGraphie via Getty Images)

So, what is scrapbooking? It’s a creative, hands-on way to preserve memories, blending art and documentation into a personalised narrative. And we’ve also covered everything from what do I need for scrapbooking to what to put in a scrap book. A scrap book serves as a testament to life’s milestones, weaving together photos, mementos, and notes to capture moments in time.


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