I get this question a lot, so I thought I’d answer it here! What program should I use if I want to get started in Digital Scrapbooking?
Technically, you can use any program that can open a PNG and a JPG and can layer your objects. Some programs do this better than others. But if you really want to just dabble and see if you enjoy the process of creating a digital page, you could use Microsoft Word, or any number of programs that are already on your computer. As long as they can open JPG papers and PNG elements and allow you to layer them and arrange them onto the page, you can probably use it!
But, what if you’re ready to invest in software dedicated to digiscrapping? There are a few top contenders. Let’s take a look at a few details regarding each.
Adobe Photoshop Elements (PSE): I highly recommend this program for beginners. It’s a relatively low price point at around $100 (though you can get it on sale for as low as $50 from time to time). Costco has a fabulous bundle with a special digital scrapbooking DVD included. There are lots of tutorials and classes available for PSE. And, since it’s made by Adobe, it’s an easier transition if you decide to upgrade to full Photoshop later. There are also a lot of proprietary products available for Adobe software like actions, templates, brushes and styles. This is a fantastic program for beginners, and will do 95% of what any digital scrapbooker might want to achieve.
Adobe Photoshop CS6 (PSCS): You have two options here. There is the box edition which can run $600 (or $220 for the Student-Teacher Edition). Or you can subscribe to the Creative Cloud for $30/month ($20 for Student-Teacher Edition) and get the entire suite of Adobe products. This program has lots of options and customized controls. In reality, this is probably beyond what most scrappers want or need. However, if you fall in love with the technical aspects of the hobby, it may be something you want to upgrade to later down the line. This is the preferred program for most digital scrapbooking designers. Photoshop CS will allow you to not only use things like actions and styles, but create and save them as well. (NOTE: Adobe announced that CS6 would be the last box release of Photoshop CS. For all future updates, you must subscribe to the Creative Cloud. The most recent version of Photoshop will now be referred to as PSCC.)
Paint Shop Pro (PSP): There is a small percentage of passionate scrappers who use Paint Shop Pro. At around $100, it offers more complex features than PSE, but it’s not as popular. So, although you will find a niche community dedicated to training and special products for it, it’s not as easy to come by as Adobe tutorials and products. But, some people love the ease of use. I’ve never used it personally, so I cannot really compare it for you. PSP can open layered templates if they are in PSD (photoshop) format, and it has it’s own version of automation called scripts, but it won’t open traditional brushes, styles and actions created in Photoshop.
Proprietary Softwares: There are a handful of softwares our there from places like Serif Digital Scrap Artist, Memory Mixer and Creative Memories’ Storybook Creator that are very easy to use and have a small following. They do have limitations when it comes to using things like templates, or exporting for print. (For example, some of the programs insist on exporting the page at 50″, with a resolution of 72ppi instead of 12″ with a resolution of 300ppi. These are both the same 3600 pixels that is standard for a digi page, but some printers have problems when they aren’t saved properly.) Some people do love these programs for their simplicity and ease of use, but it’s my honest opinion that it’s worth learning in Photoshop Elements if you think you are going to embrace and love the hobby.
Some other resources that may help…
The Daily Digi’s Getting Started Manual (look for the image on the right)
The Digital Scrapbook Teacher
Patty has a great book for sale on the hobby and getting started.
Learn It TV by Studio Wendy
I have a full series of short video classes on mastering digital scrapbooking techniques in Photoshop and Elements. New classes are released weekly.
One thing this hobby has taught me is that there isn’t one right way to do anything. You have to find what works best for you! So, pick a software and dive right in. You’ll learn as you go and refine your preferences and strengths. And, no matter what software you settle on, the important thing is that you’ll be recording your memories in a beautiful, meaningful way. Happy scrapping!