Design Do-Overs: The June Edition (I know, it’s a bit late)

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life52 Comments

Welcome to the belated June edition of Design Do-Overs. In the last installment, I tackled the ever challenging two-page spread, but not just any old multi-photo, two-page layout… that one had 26 photos covering a 24 inch by 12 inch space. And victory was in fact, mine.

This month, a much more simple and subtle do-over is on tap.

Blog reader Heidi Haakenstad from Norway sent me the following page and said:

I have a hard time choosing colors and patterned papers for my layout. Especially when I work on multiple photo layouts. Can you do something about this layout?


When I saw the photos I had to laugh. What a little imp, going and spraying her kid sister in the face like that. Totally fun and a very authentic little slice of life to scrapbook.

Heidi's digital page isn't horrible. Not at all. In fact, I was impressed with the nice common margin spacing between all the photos, and the simple type treatment and title.

Still, the goal of Design Do-Overs is to share with you how to take a page from now to wow and to do so by employing a few simple principles of design. With that said, let's begin.

The "keep in mind" catch-all disclaimer: I'm redoing pages in my style, and my style, while it may not be for everyone, will in fact illustrate some pretty basic principles of design.

(Note: I use Photoshop CS3 and InDesign CS3 for all of my digital processes.)

JUNE'S LESSON: Create a layout with unity

Heidi started with a great collection of photos, and ones that told a definite story from beginning to end. I wanted to create a design that told the story using a bit of suggested direction, and then punctuating it with one big focal shot—the money shot, if you will—of sweet little Mia getting the hose in the kisser.

STEP ONE: Create a Sketch
The first thing I did was create a digital sketch using Adobe InDesign. I settled on a 12 x 12 size because I wanted to make the photos as large as possible using the idea I had in mind. Digital sketching helps me to visual how a final page will look from a space standpoint. I rarely finish pages in the purely digital realm, but almost always create the start of them in this manner.


I like the way Heidi had the "money" shot as the largest one on her original design. I just wanted to make it pop a bit more by making it a slightly stronger focal point of the design. Often, I'll start with simple black boxes to stand in for my photos. It lets me look at the space without the actual photos or colors getting in the way.

What this sketch does is something I do on many of my pages: it gathers a group of photos together in a way that everything is connected to something else. Think of designing layouts as making a puzzle. If one of the pieces of the puzzle is missing, it will feel off. When elements feel connected and and appear as one, the design is said to have gestalt. Gestalt is a theory in design that states: the whole is more than the parts. In other words, everything depends on the other thing to be in the right place, and create the appearance of the whole. (I know, I'm starting to sound like a scientist here, but just tuck that word into your grey matter and pull it out at crops. People will be in awe of you!)

Next, I dropped in photos, and added a black bar to the very top.


The photos follow a logical left to right, top to bottom pattern. Your eye can easily start at the top left photo, and follow the progression. Sure, it could have been a clockwise set up, but… I liked setting stage with the three shots across, underneath the title bar strip, and then punctuating the design with the spray shot, and the money shot.

Then, I added text for the title box (which is really just a continuation from the black title bar), and using InDesign's Eyedropper Tool, picked a yellow from one of the photos to serve as the yellow background for my title box.


STEP TWO: Choose a Patterned Paper to Match
One of Heidi's complaints was not knowing what papers or embellishments to choose, and here's my advice to anyone who faces a similar dilemma when scrapbooking: don't sweat it! You may not need much at all to make a beautiful layout. In fact, the truth is this: you actually don't.

I decided to search out a sheet of yellow patterned paper to use on this layout. Why? Because there's a bit of yellow in a couple of the shots. Always look for a common color in your group of photos. Often times, it's possible to find one that stands out.

After digging through my color coordinated patterned paper stash, I found this sheet from Bo-Bunny:


It was just the right shade of yellow to match my yellow title square, and it was very monochromatic. Monochromatic-toned patterned papers are easier to use and I stock up on them whenever I can!

I also planned to adhere my photos onto another sheet of cardstock, then mount that grouping onto this sheet of patterned paper, which would then serve as the background.

STEP THREE: Print and Assemble
Next, I printed out the various components of the digital sketch onto two sheets of 8-1/2 x 11 photo paper and trimmed them out. I use a sweet plug in for Adobe InDesign that adds automatic crop marks to any elements on your page, which makes trimming a snap.


I created two yellow boxes: one with an ellipses, and one without, thinking I might want to toss a simple little flower embellishment on the left edge of the box. (In the end, I didn't, but if I'm sending a whole sheet of photo paper through my printer, I like to get as many options as possible.)

Once everything was trimmed out, I decided to mount the photo grouping onto a sheet of white cardstock. I also thought it would be fun to add a scalloped edge using my Fiskars Threading Water Punch (partly because it's cool, and partly because I have barely used it and I love it so!)

Plus, adding a small unexpected edge or simple texture can be just the right amount of embellishment to make a layout interesting. You really don't have to go all out with embellishments just because you have them in your stash.

As I was going to place the photos, now mounted onto the white cardstock and then onto the yellow patterned paper, I realized there was one more small touch: grounding the entire layout onto some kraft colored cardstock, and… adding a date accent.

Oh, and one more thing: I put the entire photo grouping onto pop dots, just for a bit of elevation to the final design. Ah, finito!

STEP FIVE: The Results

(click on image to see it larger)

supplies: patterned paper (Bo-Bunny) • stamp (Cat's Life Press) • edge punch, circle punch (Fiskars) • mini stamps (PSX) • font (Archer) • note: I had to hand cut the circle out of the large photo. Sometimes, you have to make do if you don't have a certain supply. Go me! And small scissors!

STEP SIX: Why it Works
1. All elements on the design have a direct relationship to one another. They are all housed together in one big square shape. When things "hang" together well, they are said to have strong unity. Unity in design is the number one thing I see go wrong on scrapbook pages. Elements have to have a direct relationship to other elements to feel visually pleasing to the eye and the brain. It's not just because I'm anal retentive and crave order. Visual unity implies a sense of order and predictibility that makes people feel good when they look at things, as if to say, "Yes. This makes perfect sense."

2. Common margin spaces between elements creates allows the background paper to ground the grouping. They also provide a bit of repetition by having the same amount of space in and around the elements.

3. Square shapes are repeated several times. All of the photos are cropped to squares. I adore squares. They are my go-to shape when scrapbooking. Aside from being all nice and equal, when you repeat them, and then form a large grouping in the shape of a square, this type of repetition strengthens the overall purpose of  your design.

Design choice note: Even though cropping some of Heidi's shots lose a bit of the initial shot detail, you don't lose the essence of what's going on in the images.

4. The color yellow (and the kraft cardstock) repeats, connects and unifies. The yellow patterned paper links to the yellow that appears in two of the photos. The subtle pattern also adds a bit of fun and femininity to the page. Also, I decided to add the date circle using the kraft cardstock to create another visual link to the background cardstock.

5. The scalloped edged provides an element of suprise. Even a simple design can have one little surprise on it. This is something I try to do on my pages. Whether it's a simple embellishment, or a decorative edge, or a rounded corner here and there, little elements of surprise add charm and interest to a page without going overboard. I'm all about being charming and staying on deck, if you catch my drift.

6. The entire design is framed with white space. Yep, even patterned paper counts as white space. Why? Because other than the pattern, there's nothing else in it to compete for your attention. A pattern like this one tends to recede a bit more, allowing the photos room to breathe.


The final result isn't a huge departure from what Heidi submitted. It's simply rearranged, and a little bit of color has been added to create a new page that packs a punch for unity. The point is to show you how very subtle shifts, and a focus on true emphasis can make a strong visual statement.

Also, it shows how you don't have to be a master of working with patterned paper. One monochromatic-toned sheet can be all you need to complement your photo story.

Feel free to give this design a go on one of your next pages.


Feel free to post any questions you might have on this edition of Design Do-Overs, and be sure to submit your own pages for consideration by emailing me your low res page scans and why you think it needs to be done over. Email me and include a low res scan of your page and your design dilemma. I can't acknowledge all submissions, but if I choose your page I'll be in touch.

Now, meet this month's featured scrapbooker!

STEP SEVEN: Meet Heidi

Name: Heidi Haakenstad

The place I call home: Where my daughters and husband are. We're moving in a couple of weeks, so that's really true right now…

Scrapbooker since: 2007, when I was expecting my daughter ("the bad" one (that's only in the layout of course)).

Favorite all-time scrapbooking tool:
Photoshop! 🙂 I love being able to scrapbook without having to clean up (other than the snacks that I leave all around my computer desktop).

Favorite scrapbooking product company: It must be I love Anna Aspnes' products. But I seem to be purchasing more than I use. I think that's the scrapbooker's bad conscience. Mine, at least…

Digital or traditional? Well, I guess the two previous questions answered that…

Glitter is… not for me. I'm the "come as you were when you got out of bed" kind of girl. I love it simple.

Twitter or Facebook? Twitter. (click here to check out heidi's Tweets! P.S. Knowing Norweigan will help!)

If scrapbooking were to disappear from the face of the earth, you’d find me: On the hunt for another planet, preferably one with access to the internet and all the online scrapbooking stores.

I scrapbook because: I want to preserve the memories I create with my family. The good, the bad… 😉 And everything in between.

Thanks for letting my play with your pictures, Heidi!

Cathy ZielskeDesign Do-Overs: The June Edition (I know, it’s a bit late)

52 Comments on “Design Do-Overs: The June Edition (I know, it’s a bit late)”

  1. #1

    Just a quick question…I’ve been looking to make crop marks inside an InDesign doc for a while. You said you have a plugin. Is that included in the program? Or do you download the plugin somehwhere?

  2. #3
    tammy b

    question: why did you print out & cut out the pics/element rather than just printing the whole 8.5×11 page and mounting/embellishing?

  3. #5

    Love this do-over! It really works. Great job! PS, I think the scrapbooking vault is like the ‘safe room’ in that Jodi Foster movie… 😉

  4. #6

    Tammy: because the page is a 12 x 12, and wouldn’t fit onto one 8-1/2 x 11 sheet.

    Plus, I still like the whole aspect of cutting and trimming and working outside of the digi realm.

    The hybrid aspect appeals to me!

  5. #9

    I can’t speak for Heidi, but i decided to keep it as she had it. The shot itself was a bit dark, and for me, it was hard to lighten the shot and maintain a normal skin tone.

  6. #11

    I love it all. As you said, a great start and then the Wow! Cathy, I too love simple and square or rectangle. I may play with other shapes for fun, but my heart/nature is minimalist. This is a good example of taking it beyond a Yaaawn layout.

  7. #12
    Deborah Hom

    This is my favorite blog series in all blogdom. I got all panicky and nauseated when June passed and still no post. Please don’t put me through that again. Infinite thank yous for constantly preaching the importance of white space. You’ve got great style — turned a sleeper into a keeper!

  8. #13

    Absolutely priceless pictures! Thanks for taking a cute page and making it even cuter!
    Love this wonderful feature on your blog!!
    Thanks, Dawn

  9. #15

    The yellows really add a touch of sunshine and warmth…that summertime feel. Thanks for another great re-do lesson. I’ll be using this concept on my very next layout!

    P.S. The whole “vault scene”…very funny

  10. #16

    i love design do-overs. i look forward to them each month. thanks for sharing your great designs!

  11. #17

    i love design do-overs. i look forward to them each month. thanks for sharing your great designs!

  12. #19

    Love it. Really helps me to see that simple changes really make a layout go from good to great.

  13. #20
    Kathleen S.

    I really enjoy your design do overs, great addition to your blog. Think I now have a glimmer of how to fix a current LO that’s not making the grade. Keep ’em coming, I’m learning a lot, and thanks!

  14. #21

    Hi Cathy! I love this column you do!!!!!

    I do have some questions I would love answered. Your “style” is very blocky and square. I like square a lot too but many times I feel my design is not dynamic enough? I realize you threw a little half circle in there, but do you ever feel all the squares and blocks you use in your designs are not dynamic enough, or do you ever want to break out of the “box”?

    I see a LOT of LOs all around the internet where there are 1-2 small pictures and a whoooooole lot of embellishments, and those LOs work visually, but I would like to know why so I can apply some of that to my designs too.

  15. #22

    M… I never get bored with a blocky approach. I think because it’s very plug and play… you can put photos/papers/embellishments in the spaces but still retain the order.

    I’ve broken out of my box at times, and it’s been great. But, i always come back to what feels the best for me.

    Good design is not JUST blocky. Not at all! Funky design can have all sorts of great design stuff going on too!

  16. #24
    Tamie Spears

    Cathy – I, too, am a graphic designer using InDesign. I often layout the page in InDesign, but I want the more traditional look to my pages, so I upload my finished cropped photos to Shutterfly and WAIT for prints to come – which is a pain – and then assemble everything. I’ve not had good luck with color printers and photo paper. Can I ask what you use for a color printer and what brand/type of photo paper? And do you do anything specific in the InDesign print dialog box? THANKS!

  17. #26
    Tracy V

    Gorgeous redo, Cathy! Love the yellow- I agree you had great photos to start. I gotta learn me some photoshop CS3!!! Y’all make it look so easy 🙂

  18. #28

    Hey Tamie, i linked both the paper and the printer in the post! Printer: HP Photosmart 8750. Paper: Ilford Gallerie Smooth Pearl.

    And in the print dialogue i choose Best quality, but that comes from the HP Print Driver. Make sense?

  19. #29
    Tamie Spears

    Cathy – Yes, makes sense. Thank you. I read the post at 3 a.m., so I must have skimmed past the link to the printer and paper. I have an HP Photosmart C5580. I’ll have to try to locate the paper. Do you spend the extra money for HP’s high-end ink?

  20. #30
    Tamie Spears

    Cathy – Nevermind about the HP inks. Just read the info on your printer and it is MUCH higher-end than mine. And uses higher-end inks than mine. I’m going to try the paper you use, but I’ll probably stick with Shutterfly or Walmart for large quantities of prints. THANKS!

  21. #31

    oh man this is another great one cathy. i also havent had a chance to tell you but i love the vibe of the new blog look. xoxoxoxo

  22. #32
    Louise D

    I havent entered the digital scrapbooking world at all but love photoshop. Thankyou for making it seem so easy and achievable. I love your take on things.

    PS The layout looks great

  23. #34

    Just delightful and so well worth the wait! I find it so hard to use patterned paper and would have got stuck and probably finished at the end of Step One! The kraft paper is brilliant (not so easy to get here in the UK) because it links to all those skin tones. Off to think about using this LO design myself. May I scraplift? (and I will naturally acknowledge you!) 🙂

  24. #35

    Cathy, I have loved following this do-over series. I have been checking your blog every day to see this month’s do-over. And yes, it was worth the wait. I liked the original and love the do-over! Great pictures, super design. Thanks so much!
    I may just have to scrap lift this one!

  25. #36

    I love that you didn’t change much in this month’s challenge. Just tweaked a little. But I honestly think that it was harder for me to try and figure out what few little things to change this month versus others that have had many changes done to them.

  26. #37

    Alexa, yes… scraplift away!

    And Tracy… you know, that’s sort of the idea on this one… that really, just regrouping the shots and adding a simple paper is all you really need!

  27. #38
    Holly A. Moss

    Cathy, this is just amazing!

    As last month’s (May) Design Do-Over Challenge winner, I thought after what you accomplished with my layout was phenomenal. Yet, here you are again, knocking my socks off! You never cease to amaze me with your creative genius. Heidi, your pictures are just adorable & really tell he story.

    I, too, love the yellow.

    Can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next! <3

    Love ya!

    Holly Moss
    Lynnwood, WA

  28. #39

    I have just discovered your blog. I loved your make-over and would like to try something similar. I am new to using PE7, with an EPSON R320. In other words, I can only print 8 1/2 x 11.

    Your directions are very clear, but I do have to ask this:

    How did you take your pictures from your 12 x 12 layout and put them onto the smaller sized layout?

  29. #40

    Hello again. I just figured out that I can crop out the photos that I want to print – save as .jpg – then CTRL + Z to return to my 12×12 document.

    Thank you again for the inspiration!

  30. #46

    Love your blog and do overs!

    One question, can you or have you explained somewhere on your blog how did you go from the layout in indesign to the photo collage page for trimming? I’m not just talking about the crop marks. Looks like you rearranged the photos so you can maybe trim easier or fit more stuff in one page? Can you mention easy ways to do that? Do you just duplicate the indesign file and rearrange for printing/trimming?

  31. #47

    Beck, I dont usually post about InDesign stuff, mostly because so few people use it! : ) But yes, Id put several images onto one 8.5 x 11 sheet, add crop marks via a slick little plug in and then print. : )

  32. #48

    I’m dying to see how people use InDesign and Photoshop together too! You’re right too few people have InDesign, and the InDesign crowd doesn’t usually do scrapbooking.

    So let me see if I understand – You create a layout in indesign, and save the layout as a separate file and start moving photos around for optimal printing/trimming?

    Do you ever use photoshop in your workflow too? Photoshop has brushes and other things that indesign can’t do. Would you just do a layout design in InDesign, print, and use photoshop to create and print embellishments? Is there a way to import an InDesign layout with photos to Photoshop and add artistic touch on it, or the other way around?

    I guess eventually I’ll figure out what works best for me, but I can’t believe there is so little information (if any) about Photoshop + Indesign. If you do a class on that, I’ll totally sign up, although I’ll probably be the only one haha!

  33. #49

    I definitely mix it up now that I actually use PS in my scrapbooking. That took a while to get used to, believe it or not. I mean, i used to just use it for photo editing. Never design.

    Actually, I create a page base in InDesign, then simply take the photos off that page drop them onto a new doc, add the crop marks and photo bleeds and print, leaving the original design on the ID page with the journaling and titles, then print that page onto card stock!

    I will probably not do a class on ID because there just wouldnt be enough people to take it to justify the time and effort that goes into creating a full class. : )

  34. #51

    Just wanted to share with you I finally got time to play around with ID and PS for scrapbooking. PS is such a pain for the photo frames I switched to ID. Even though I’ve never used ID before, it’s still a breeze compared with PS. I was able to set up the photos right in ID and export to PS, then separate each frame onto its own layer.

    ID is amazing! Now I gotta look into it more to find more hidden features. Just thought I’d share my excitement with you!

  35. #52

    You know who makes good books on software? I dont know the publisher, but its called the Visual Quick Start Series. Very, very helpful stuff~

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