Friday, August 22, 2008

Text, Titles, & Journaling - 101

Ever get stuck on where to place your title or journaling? How about what size to make it, what font, what color? And once you have all of that figured out… you still have to figure out what to say! Well guess what…

This week we are going to focus on anything and everything that relates to text (everything that I can think of, anyway). Now, what I have to say about text may be different than that of the rules regarding general and professional graphic design. I have never had “training” on such rules, this is simply what I have found to work for me in digital scrapbooking. In scrapbooking, our needs for text often vary and the same rules just don‘t have to apply. Most of the time, you want your photo to take center stage, but sometimes, you might want to focus on heavy journaling, bold titles, or simply use your text as element to balance your layout. Text can be so versatile and is such a great way to add drama and depth to you pages. And it is VERY rare (if ever) that I do a layout without it.

Now… if you want to know every little thing I have to say about text, you may want to grab a cup of coffee or tea and a blanket… it’s gonna be a long one. Hahaha. Seriously… I’m warning you… this will be a pretty wordy and long-winded tutorial. But to help with that, I have included some sample layouts to give this thing a bit of visual appeal and to break it up a bit. (For layout credits, simply click on layout images.) I have also split it up into sections. Here is an overview of what we will be covering. This will help you skip around to the sections that interest you most.

Section 1 - General Tips and Guidelines
~ Keeping the eye focused.
~ Keeping your text properly sized.
~ Using text to draw the eye to a specific part of your photo.

Section 2 - Choosing a Font
~ Different Font Sytles and Definitions
~ Journaling
~ Titles
~ Dates and Names
~ Using text as Elements

Section 3 - Creating a Cohesive Flow with Your Text
~ Sizing
~ Placement
~ Color

Section 4 - What do I say??
~ Title
~ General Documentation (the who’s, when’s, and where’s)
~ Journaling

SECTION 1: General Tips and Guidelines
Keeping the eye focused.
A great way to keep your layout from being confusing to the eye is to keep a maximum of 3 fonts on any given page. I usually use one font for my title, a different one for journaling, and a different one for my date. (I think the rule of general graphic design is actually 2 fonts per document, but for our purposes in scrapbooking, the use of 3 fonts doesn’t really bother me.) Also, keep in mind that this rule can always be broken if you’re using a great word art or using your text as a way to create huge impact… but I will say that I've only seen a couple of layouts that successfully pull this off... unfortunately, none of them are mine. hahaha.

Keeping your text properly sized.
Another great tip is to try to avoid making your font size larger than the subject in your photo. When you make your font larger than it‘s subject, it will almost always take the attention off of your photo by sort of dwarfing it. Again… this rule can always be broken if you WANT the focus to be on your title to make a bold statement using your photo as the “supporting” lead. If you enjoy expressing yourself through journaling, this can be quite therapeutic, actually.
In this layout… I wanted the title and the journaling to be the focus here… the photo of me is to serve as an afterthought and a visual to where I was in life during this time.

However, in this layout, I wanted the photo to be what the eye is drawn to, therefore making my title much smaller, but still large enough to stand out.

Using text to draw the eye to a specific part of your photo/layout.
Text can be a great way to draw attention to a particular part of your photo or layout. You can use it to literally “tell” someone where in your photo/layout to look. Now this can be tricky… if you make it too large, your eye will go to the text and then get confused, so make sure you don’t over-do it. Here are a couple of examples.

In this layout, I love the curve that the shape of her back took here and really wanted to draw attention to that. Here was my thought process on how I placed my text. I placed my title right above where I wanted my focus to be. I made it a bold font and made it pretty large in a contrasting color. Then, by using a much less bold font and making it journaling size, I repeated the text in the title several times and then dropped one of the text lines to just below where I wanted my focus. This created sort of a little “box” and your eye is drawn right into the center of it. Although at first glance, your eye goes to the title, the line of text below her back immediately draws your eye down instead of up. So after you have read the title/journaling to feel the emotion of the layout, you see the soft curves of her shape and then you continue on to the top to see her hair blowing in the wind. Does that make sense? It sounds kind of corny, but it’s just how my mind works.

In the next layout, the bubbles are clearly the focus of the photo. But I actually want to play up the sense of wonder that she is experiencing here. I really wanted to draw attention to her arm and hand that is reaching out to those bubbles. So, I placed my title just below her hand and then chose a really small element with a good pop of color to really zoom the eye in on it.

SECTION 2 - Choosing The Right Font for your Layout
I am a bit flaky when it comes to this, however there are some things I’m freakishly set on and in both regards I take this part pretty seriously… probably more seriously than I should. Again… what I have to offer here is based on personal preference and opinion as opposed to “rules”. So if I’m breaking some widely-known graphic design rules, don’t be too hard on me. :) I'll start with some definitions of fonts, just so it's clear what I'm talking about when I refer to the type by name.

Different Font Styles and Definitions

Glyphs of serif fonts have finishing strokes, flared or tapering ends, or have actual serifed endings (including slab serifs). Serif fonts are typically proportionately-spaced. They often display a greater variation between thick and thin strokes than fonts from the 'sans-serif' generic font family. Examples of fonts that fit this description include:

Glyphs in sans-serif fonts have stroke endings that are plain -- without any flaring, cross stroke, or other ornamentation. Sans-serif fonts are typically proportionately-spaced. They often have little variation between thick and thin strokes, compared to fonts from the 'serif' family. Examples of fonts that fit this description include:

Glyphs in cursive fonts generally have either joining strokes or other cursive characteristics beyond those of italic typefaces. The glyphs are partially or completely connected, and the result looks more like handwritten pen or brush writing than printed letterwork. Fonts for some scripts, such as Arabic, are almost always cursive. Examples of fonts that fit this description include:

Others include Grunge, Whimsy, Typewriter, and Webdings
These fonts are so popular and quite the trend. They don't really even have a definition... they are just simply the work of artists in my mind. Examples of fonts that fit this description include (the last one is Webdings):

**Definitions of Serif, Sans-serif, and Cursive fonts provided by Cascading Style Sheets, level 2CSS2 Specification

Here are a couple of GREAT websites that offer a TON of free fonts in all different styles:

The first thing I want to note about journaling is size… you want to keep your journaling relatively small (like between 10 and 16... I usually use 12 or 14.) You will be surprised at how much larger things are when they are printed as opposed to on your screen and how much better a printed page looks with small journaling. It just has a more polished look.

As far as font type, I almost always choose a serif or sans-serif font for my journaling. Now, I may go against this preference if my journaling is only 1 or 2 sentences and doesn’t require a lot of heavy reading. But if I am really journaling… telling a story, explaining something, or offering insight, I stay with this preference. In my opinion, using a script, whimsical, or grungy font when heavy journaling is involved, the eye (or at least *my* eye) eventually grows tired of working so hard to read the content and may become bored or even a little frustrated. This can result in either having your viewer stop reading it or not fully absorb the message. Where as when you use serif or sans-serif fonts, the eye can effortlessly flow through the easy-to-read journaling. It’s a much more pleasant experience for your reader. (Think about if your favorite Danielle Steele novel or Stephen King thriller were written in a scripty cursive! Eeeek!) Plus… to me… it just looks better. It’s a cleaner look and that fits in well with my simple style. Here‘s a visual…

However… in this layout… my journaling was only a couple of sentences. To me… such a short message can handle a prettier font. I actually tried this in a serif at first, but felt that it was just… well… boring. I almost *liked* the semi-illegible feel this font has here… it just seemed to flow with the “messy” mood of the layout. See the difference?

Titles are much more font-friendly. More often than not, our titles are larger and easy to read regardless of what font they are. I usually determine the font for my title based on 2 factors. The mood of my layout and the size of the subject in my photo.

We’ll talk about sizing in next section… right now, let’s look at the mood. It’s determined by how I feel when I look at a photo. If it’s a picture of Alyssa with her hair blowing in the wind or her eyes all deep and dreamy, then my layout is probably going to be all emotional with some inspiration saying or sappy journaling. When pairing that mood with a font, I might be inclined to choose a pretty script font, although sometimes, the clean lines of a serif font do just fine here. But definitely not something like a Comic Sans, because it would fight with the emotion of the photo and/or my journaling. If it’s a photo of Gage shooting me a funny face or doing a cannonball into the pool… I would definitely stay away from scripty, formal, cursive fonts. I might go with a hand-written font or even a bold grungy-type font just to show the “non-seriousness” of it. I will also say here that it is my opinion that serif fonts are universal. They will work with any mood, as you can see below. Here are some examples of how you can choose the right font for any mood.

Serif and Sans-Serif Fonts:
These are pretty universal as you can see… they can work for just about any mood….

They can work for sweet:

They can work for happy and energetic:

They work for formal and elegant:

They can work for funny:

Cursive Fonts:
They work really well for femininity:

They, of course work well for dreamy and more formal:

They can also sometimes work for less formal layouts when you combine them with a serif:

Whimsy, Handwritten, and Grunge




Section 3 - Size, Placement, and Color

As I said above, sizing is very important. It can make or break your layout. If you want your photo to be the center of attention, you don’t want to make your title larger than the proportion of the subject in your photo. As with all rules, there are exceptions here, but 90% of the time, this will be the case. Here's an example of where the exception can apply.

It actually works pretty good here for 2 reasons. (1) Because the photo is a close up, meaning our subject is quite large and can handle the competition, and (2) the title size lines up perfectly with the size of our photo creating one visual line, and with making the photo “heavier” than the title (meaning that the title is light in color while our photo seems heavier. It’s as if the visual weight is shifted, therefore your eye naturally goes to the heavier side. (does that make sense?)

Just be careful when making your titles this big. If you are uncertain… sometimes it helps tremendously to get a second pair of eyes on it. I do this quite often. I will send it to a fellow scrapper and say “What’s off here” or “When you first open this layout, what’s the FIRST thing you see?” If they say “I see the title first”, you may consider making it smaller or your photo larger.

Placement is also extremely important. As with size, you should also consider proportions, only here, you consider your full canvas. You want your title and photo to work together supporting each other, not competing for attention. Way more often than not, you want one supporting the other, you don’t want them both to be the focus. You want your viewer’s eye to have a starting place. If it is your photo, that should stand out while you use your title, journaling, and elements to guide their eye (IN ORDER) to where you want it to go. Here’s a visual…

As you can see (and PLEASE tell me if I’m wrong, hahaha!) the first thing your eye sees here is Alyssa and Uncle Jason’s faces. (Even more specifically, I see their little kiss first)… then your eye goes up and to the background to see the title “UNEXPECTED“ repeated everywhere, then it sort of moves down to his tatoos and sort of rough exterior. The title now makes sense and your eye moves onto read the journaling.

And with this one... the first thing you see is her eyes... then, by making the title bright white and contrasting with the darkness of the photo, your eye goes from there to the title. Then, you see the scroll, the paper strips and the word art along the right edge.

I would definitely say that you want your title to coordinate with the colors in your layout… even better to coordinate with the colors in your photo. Just be careful that you don’t sacrifice balance and setting the tone of your layout for “matching colors“. For example… if you have a photo of one of your children on a bright red fire truck or a primary blue Thomas the Train, don’t feel that you are limited to those colors for your title. While that does work… sometimes, using too much more of that color can be confusing to the eye by losing the focus. In that case, you could try making your title black or white or brown with maybe one letter red or blue… or placing a red or blue element somewhere on your title. Or even better, you could pull a less dominant color from your photo (say the color of your subject's shirt), this will help pull your subject out of the photo a little and actually help the balance.

Section 4: What do I say??

Now, although most of my pages have a title, that (again) is personal preference. Your layouts do not *need* one to serve its purpose. Sometimes, your photo or your journaling says it all. But on those that I choose to include a title, my inspiration ALWAYS (virtually no exceptions) comes from my photo. Whether directly or indirectly, my title is always what comes to my mind (or my heart) when looking at a photo. For some reason, I love the idea of bringing clich├ęs to life. I love the idea of seeing a title that I’ve heard before and then pairing it with a great photo and personal journaling. It is very rare that I use someone’s name or where they are as my title. But I am not an “event” scrapper… I am much more of a “thought” scrapper. Meaning, I don’t usually do “Christmas” layouts, rather I tend to use photos taken on Christmas day and scrap them with my thoughts surrounding either the time of year or even thoughts completely unrelated to the event. I’m more interested in “where we are in life” in any given page as opposed to “documenting” a specific event. But this CERTAINLY does not mean that using “Christmas 2008” as your title is unacceptable. In fact, it’s a great way to immediately get your viewer in the “mood” for the event while looking over the details… a GREAT way to offer a sense of emotion and to bring back specific memories for those you are scrapping for. I try to get these in at least sometimes. This is totally up to you. If you are stuck on a title, word art is your answer!!! And with all of the word art out there, you are SURE to find a title to go with just about any photo!

General Documentation (the who’s, when’s, and where’s)
You can do this several ways. Here are the 2 most popular I've seen.

The Lengthy Details
If you really want to tell the story of your event, you could make the actual documentation the subject of your journaling. You could tell it like a story… not only including what event it is, but who came, the significance of the surroundings, as well as the feelings and emotions involved. This just helps it from being like a checklist.

The Plain and Simple
Most of the time, since I more often scrap my thoughts, I simply include the names and dates in a very small, but legible “date stamp”. Although my layout is not focusing on the event, I still want to be able to look back on them and know how old my children were and let them know who they're in the photo with. Something as simple as “You + Daddy - August 2008” is about all I do. I usually use my title and journaling to tell my feelings or the story, but I have a hard time working in the who’s and when’s in this fashion. So this is my alternative.

Sigh. Journaling. I’m a little obsessive about it. On any page that I feel lead to journal, it is more often than not that I am passing on some type of message or advice… or even more often… sappy emotion. It’s so very important to me that my children KNOW how much I love them, how much I love their dad, and our life. It’s important to me that they know my thoughts about being a mom, a wife, and to watch how I progress in my faith and outlook on life. To me… the good and bad is important so that maybe when they get to this stage in life, they may get *something* from knowing how I coped with things. So I usually try to really pay attention to the everyday moments and feelings. I include things like random thoughts, things I am learning along the way in life, harder times and how I feel about them. I also try to incorporate changes about each of us as individuals and as a family to sort of help “watch“ us all grow. They may read the novels I have written one day and think “Oh… ok… so the way I’m feeling right now is normal and I’m so glad to have this to relate to.” Or, they may think “Oh my GOSH would this woman CAN it already!!??!!” ha! But either way… my life, my love, my feelings… it’s all there written out for them. I love that I KNOW that if something were to happen to me tomorrow, my children will know exactly who I was and how much I loved them. I REALLY encourage you to put how you feel out there for those you scrap for… you just never know what it might do for them.

WHEW!! Ok… I think that covers it. Who knew there was so much to say about text?!? Even *I* didn’t realize it until I started typing it all out!! I hope you are not bored to tears at this point!!! Hahaha!

I hope this is helpful for you. Although these are some things keep in mind when journaling on your layouts, remember that it is what your journaling SAYS that counts the most. Even if it breaks EVERY SINGLE rule out there… if it tells someone how you feel, if it reminds them of a happy time in their life, or encourages them in any way, then you have fulfilled your purpose in scrapping... period.

I would love to know what you think of this tutorial. Feel free to leave comments! If you have any questions regarding this tutorial, you can certainly email me at

You can also find a printed version of this tutorial (and all of my others) in the Tutorial section at Oscraps.


Carol said...

Fabulous! What a great insight you've given.

My main trouble at the moment in journalling is whether to journal as the first person or third person and I fear I'm mixing it all up. I'm making a family history book and it's for us now yes, but also for future generations. I keep wanting to write "I" when I'm telling a story, but then change it to my name as if I'm a third person talking about me. It's mind bending! LOL

Thanks for a wonderful post. You've given me much food for thought.

Cat said...

Carol, I am like that too!! Hence why I dont put much journaling onto my pages LOL

Great insight Amanda, you rock with these tutorials :)

HeatherK said...

Wow is all I can say. Bookmarking this in my 'inspiration' folder. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic, so very well explained and so many beautiful LO's!! Thank you so much for this great tutorial, it really helps a lot:)


marcie said...

Thanks so much for a very useful and practical tutorial on fonts, text and journaling. I'm off to try some font and text work.

lynette said...

journaling is my weakest skill when it comes to scrapping so i definitely needed this! thanks for all the advice and info. your layouts are proof that you know what you're talking about! gorgeous!

Beth said...

awesome and amazingly helpful post!!

Gayle said...

Amazing! I've always been "journal heavy" on my layouts as I feel the need to record at the very least the who, what, where. I really love what you said and how you said it. Thanks for sharing.

Christine said...

WOW! This is fabulous, Amanda! Thank you so much! I find this the most difficult part of any page and I sooooo appreciate the time you've taken to spell it all out for us!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hai Amanda,

thank you so much for this amazingly, inspiring post!! I love your LO's and the time you spend learning us how to become better scrappers!!

fun2educate said...

Thank you so much for the great insight into text, titles, and journaling. This has been so helpful, I'm sure I will be referring to it time and time again. I love your layouts, they are always an inspiration to me.
Thanks again,

Stacey said...

Wow. You really designed an amazing tutorial on what can be a difficult part of designing a layout. I'm definitely a font lover, so I really enjoyed this and your layouts are absolutely inspiring!! (And gorgeous, lol)

Natasha said...

Wow...A, you have outdone yourself this time...what a tutorial!!! How long did it take you to write all this down?! You are so awesome!!! So much insight into why your LOs are so amazing!! It takes me SO long to figure out where to put journaling and titles...this is going to help SO much!!

Janet said...

This is wonderful. Thank you so much. I include journalling on 99.9% of my layouts and it is great to get another perspective. I tend to tell about the event and find that over and over again I talk about how much "fun" we're having (that's when I have the camera out, right?). I'm looking forward to trying some layouts about "where we are."

Kari said...

I am new to your blog and designs but must admit I am in *LOVE*!!! Your tutorial is fantastic - definitely one to print out and refer to often. Can't wait to read and see more from you :)

mercysawme said...

All I can say is "wow". First of all, it's midnight so I only got thru half of this, will do the rest tomorrow but so well written! It all made sense and the layouts are just beautiful! This must have taken alot of time and the school side of me noted no spelling errors - that's amazing in this day and age!!! I can't wait to finish this tomorrow.

MissD said...

What can I say but WOW! Every time you post a layout, I am blown away by your text placement and journaling (and your photos, and your blending, and on and on). Thank you for sharing your tricks of the trade.

MariaT said...

Thanks again for a great tutorial. I especially like when you explained about how to draw the eye in, I'll have to be more aware of that!

Anonymous said...

Awesome tutorial! Mostly I think I just need a lot more practice in the journaling part. I grew up in a family that didn't express feelings, so this is my challenge. My mom still thinks any layouts I've done that include feelings are tacky. (And of course she says so!) But, like you, I do want my kids to know how much they're loved. I love to look at your layouts. You make the journaling look so natural and flowing, and so necessary. Thank you!
- cassie-in-texas

MrsRomer said...

Thank you again Amanda. You were one of the first designers/artist that captured my eyes and inspired me when I began digi scrapping 3 months ago. Thank you for another fab tutorial. I may become an artist yet. LOL

Anonymous said...

This is just great! What a wonderful, thoughtful tutorial. Thank you for sharing it!

Erika said...

Thank you for sharing all your knowledge and thoughts about journaling. Life is to continously learn things, and reading your tutorials surely learns me new stuff. You really write in a fun and interesting way, that keeps me curious all the way to the end.

Thank you!!!

kayla said...

Thanks for the great tutorial on type. I learned a bunch of things that I want to try and some that I was doing but didn't know why I was doing them. Thanks again.

Also, I'm a Digital Artist Magazine subscriber and downloaded your actions. They look great. One problem though. I don't know how to use the set in PSE 6.0. I installed them but they run all of your actions as a set. How can I install them to use just one action at a time?

kayla_chamberlain (at) yahoo (dot) com

Arya said...

Again - thank you from the bottom of my heart! This helps me SO much!!!

Tali said...

Girl, this is a really, really awesome tut. I have been anxiously awaiting this one. :) I knew you would give me a ton of insight!! I'll be looking at this tut again and again.

Liz said...

WOW! What an excellent article!! I gave your blog URL to a friend of mine who only paper scraps, but I know she'll also get a lot of great (as well as inspirational) information out of it.

xo Colleen said...

This tut. was amazing - thanks so much. I'm emailing you on some specific comments, but always appreciate so much your detailed explanations. It's rare that someone speaks in a way that includes all the info. needed. And you do. thank you.

Colleen Chi-Girl

blurooferika said...

This was so helpful, Taylor. Your points were very well made and thorough.Thank you.

I see far too many lo's that feel like pieces of art to me and I wonder how to replicate them while still getting the "meat", i.e. the journalling on the page as well.

Fanny said...

Amazing tutorial ! Just what I needed ... so hard for me to find, place, size, color ... a text !
Thanks a lot for this and all your wonderful LOs.

Anonymous said...

This is a fabulous tutorial. I really appreciate your thoughtful, detailed comments.

susiecw said...

Amanda, I discovered you and Oscraps in the past few days. What a blessing as I am a beginner at digital scrapbooking. Thank you for this tutorial and others.

Opanasko said...


Elisa said...

Thanks so much for this tutorial.
I was thinking I wish I could print it when I found you have a printable version in oscraps. Perfect.
It is so generous of you to share your knowledge, thank you.

lime said...

Oh, this is such a great tutorial.I love how you let the layouts help me visualize your thoughts. Thank you very much :D

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