Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Playing with Tools

Ok, I've been discussing acrylic techniques for the last couple of weeks. If you missed these posts you can find them here and here. Today we're playing with tools to create interesting looks in acrylic.

All of these techniques require you to handle your acrylic pieces, resulting in acrylic pieces covered in fingerprints and dust. Once you are done with the heavy-duty techniques and are wanting to start adhering photos and paper, simply rinse your acrylic pieces in the sink (both sides) and dry with an unused coffee filter. This will get rid of fingerprints and dust (and streaks). Don't use Windex on acrylic, it will make your acrylic dull.

Technique 1 - Acrylic Etching

Step 1 - Print. Print or draw a "go-by" of what you want to etch into the acrylic (although you can always free hand the design if you want to). Adhere your go by to your work surface (to prevent shifting) and lay your acrylic piece on top.

Step 2 - Etch. Use a pointed griding tip for your multi-tool (I'm using a Dremel) to etch your design into the acrylic following your "go-by". Use short back-and-forth strokes (as if you were coloring in the template with a marker).

No multi-tool? A similar etched look can be accomplished with a template and sand paper. Templates can be created with the Cricut, Wishblade, or other die cutter or hand cutting. Templates should be created out of transparencies because paper templates will tear when sanded.

Faux etching liquid (think cloudy translucent paint) is available as well.

Technique 2 - Custom Acrylic Shapes

Step 1 - Draw. Use a Sharpie to draw the desired shape on your acrylic piece. Any Sharpie marks that remain can be removed with alcohol ink blending solution. Keep in mind that the multi-tool cutting disk can only cut straight lines.Step 2 - Cut. Use the cutting disk attachment for your multi-tool to cut along your lines. Take it slow and wear eye protection.
Technique 3 - Imprinted Acrylic

This technique uses paper cutting dies to imprint acrylic. I used Sizzix Sizzlit dies, but this technique would also work with Sizzix originals and potentially other low profile dies.

Step 1 - Sandwich. The acrylic sheet is thinner than the standard Sizzix die cutting acrylic base, so you'll need to use Tab 1 on the multi-purpose platform (Tab 2 is typically used for Sizzlits dies). Place your acrylic piece on top of the multi-purpose platform. Place your die, cutting side down, on your acrylic. Place a standard Sizzix acrylic base on top of the the die.Step 2 - Imprint. Run through the Sizzix Big Shot or Big Kick as normal. Note the cracks in the acrylic in the picture below. This is what happens if you try to put the die face up and your acrylic piece on top :) .
Next week I'll be talking about acrylic page design techniques.

Happy humpday!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Binding Acrylic Albums

Ok, last week I discussed what acrylic albums are out there for sale and how to make you own. If you missed last week's post you can find it here.

This week I'm going to talk about acrylic album binding methods.

There are three basic methods: ring binding, wire binding, and book binding.

Most acrylic albums that are sold right now are "ring bound". Whether these albums are held together with three rings, one ring, ball chain, a metal post, or ribbon, the method is the same: round holes that are threaded with a ring, chain, or ribbon to keep the sheets of acrylic together. The rings, chain, or ribbon are not connected, but are independent.

Wire binding is similar to ring binding. The differences are that there are generally more holes, the wire binding is fully connected, and it usually requires specialized equipment. As far as I am aware wire bound acrylic albums are not widely available. Although Zutter has just started making acrylic album covers/pages that can be punched and bound with the Bind-it-All.

Book bound albums are albums that are bound with book binding tape, creating a book-type spine. Again, as far as I am aware, book bound acrylic albums are not widely available.

So, since last week I discussed where to buy and how to cut acrylic for your own handmade acrylic albums, this week I'm going to show you how you can bind your handmade album.

Typical acrylic is too brittle to cut with die cutters, the Bind-it-All, or the Crop-a-Dile. If you try, the acrylic will generally crack, if you can get the cutter through the acrylic at all.

So here's my "a-ha" moment of the week.

A while back I started wondering if I would be able to punch through acrylic if I heated it first. Well, I finally gave it a try this week, AND IT WORKS REALLY WELL. Here are the steps to ring bind, book bind, or wire bind your own acrylic album.

I suggest practicing these techniques on a piece a scrap acrylic first, it takes a couple of tries to get a feel for the amount of heat that is required.

First, wire binding with the Bind-it-All.

Step 1- Remove Protective Film. You don't need to remove it completely, but at least peel it back from the area you plan to heat. If you don't it will melt to your acrylic.

Step 2 - Heat. Use your heat gun to heat the edge of your acrylic. The Bind-it-All only punches about 4 inches at a time, so focus the heat only where the punching will occur. Heat one side of the acrylic for 5-10 seconds and then heat the other side for 5-10 seconds. Continue heating until you see the acrylic start to warp slightly. Once warping begins, heat each side approximately 2 more times and you should be ready to punch. Don't worry about the warping, as long as you don't overheat the acrylic, it will flatten back out as it cools.
Step 3 - Punch. Working relatively quickly, punch your acrylic with the Bind-it-All. Punching through the acrylic will take a little elbow grease, but as long as you heated the acrylic sufficiently, it's not too hard. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until the entire edge of your acrylic is punched. Repeat steps 1 through 3 for each sheet of acrylic in your album.
Step 4 - Reheat. Once the entire edge of the acrylic piece is punched, reheat both sides of the punched edge with your heat gun for approximately 30 seconds each (moving back and forth along the edge). This will melt any acrylic spurs that were formed by punching and gives you a nice smooth punched hole. You may want to brush off any acrylic dust on the edge before you do this so that you don't melt the dust onto the surface of the acrylic. Repeat this step for each punched acrylic piece.

Here's my pile of punched acrylic. Fully heating/punching 12 sheets of 8x10 acrylic took me about an hour. Next, book binding:

In the picture below, I am binding an 8x8 piece of acrylic to an 8x10 piece of acrylic along the right hand edge to create a fold out inner page for my acrylic book.

Step 1 - Tape Outside. Cut a piece of binding tape the same length as your acrylic book. Lay the tape, adhesive side up, on your table. Place one piece of acrylic on top of approximately 1/3 of the binding tape and press down to get the acrylic to adhere to the tape. Step 2 - Fold. Place the second piece of acrylic on top of the first and line up the edges of both pieces of acrylic. Fold the binding tape over the edges of both pieces of acrylic and adhere the tape to the top piece of acrylic. Press the tape down from the middle out. Press the tape down along the edges of the acrylic as well. Step 3 - Tape Inside. Open the pieces of acrylic. Cut a second piece of binding tape the length of your acrylic. Line up the edges of the second piece of binding tape with the edges of the first and adhere to the acrylic. Press the binding tape down to make sure it binds well.

That's all there is to it, here's the finished book binding:

If you wanted to create a fully book bound album, you would tape all the inside seams between the acrylic pieces first and then tape the outside edges of all of the acrylic pieces at once.

Finally, ring binding.

In the pictures below, I am ring binding (with ribbon) an 8x6 piece of acrylic to the right edge of an 8x10 piece of acrylic to create a smaller fold out page in my album.

Step 1 - Measure and Mark. Figure out how many holes you want and where you want them to be. Measure and mark your acrylic with a Sharpie (you can remove Sharpie with alcohol ink blending solution if you end up with a stray mark). Keep in mind that if you are using ribbon and not rings to bind your pages, you'll want to keep your holes relatively close to the edge of the acrylic. Step 2 - Heat and Punch or Drill.

You can make your holes using the heating method described above for wire binding and using the Crop-a-Dile to punch the holes. Heat the acrylic as described above for wire binding. Heat the location for one hole at a time.

If you don't have a Crop-a-Dile or a heat gun, you can drill the holes for you ring binding. Start with as small a drill bit as possible and work up to the size hole you want. If you start with a large drill bit the acrylic will crack. Don't lean into the acrylic like you would with a piece of wood. The less pressure you put on the acrylic during drilling, the less cracking you will get. Just be patient.

Step 3 - Bind. Once your holes are drilled, add your rings, ribbon, chain, etc. In this instance I am using ribbon. Remember to open your bound pages before finishing tying your knots to make sure you are leaving enough slack in the ribbon for the pages to open easily. So, I'm using all three binding methods in my acrylic book. Here's a peak at the overall construction (without the wire binding, I'll add that at the end):

That's it for today. Next week I'll be sharing some HEAVY DUTY techniques for acrylic.

Happy humpday!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Happy Dance....

....you ever have one of those "a-ha" moments? One of those "I wonder if this will work?" and IT DOES moments?

that's what leads to my Happy Dance.....

(I'll share today's "a-ha" moment as part of this week's hump day post)

What leads to your Happy Dance?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

White Water Photos!

Well...I've looked back at my last few posts and realized.....there's just way too much text....not nearly enough photos. So, to remedy that, here are the white water photos I promised!

My husband and I took two separate white water trips while on vacation in June. The first was on the Nolichucky River. This one was just the two of us, and about 20 strangers.

We're the two in the front of the raft: Here's a closer one:
And this one gives you a nice overview of the beautiful Nolichucky River (at a calm spot):
The second trip we took was on the Upper Pigeon Forge River. This trip was with my parents and my sister and her husband. That's us in the back of the raft, my parents are in the middle, and my sister and her husband are up front (again, at a calm spot):

The first three photos were provided by our guide company, the Nantahala Outdoor Center (highly recommended, they did a great job). The last one was taken by our raft guide with one of our waterproof disposable cameras.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Acrylic Albums

Acrylic albums are available in a multitude of shapes, sizes, thicknesses...and yes...materials. What we refer to as "acrylic" is not always acrylic.

When you buy acrylic, it is often covered by plastic film to protect the surface from scratches. This plastic film can be clear, blue, brown, I've even seen white. Don't let this fool you, the acrylic itself is still clear. When you're ready to create, simply roll up the edge of the plastic film and pull it off.

Acrylic albums are available from these manufactures (not an exhaustive list):

Clear Scraps
D. Reeves Design House
Rusty Pickle (sorry, their acrylic albums don't seem to be listed on their website)
Tinkering Ink
My Acrylic Album

If you checked out the links above, or if you've shopped for acrylic albums at all, you may have noticed two things. First, acrylic albums are expensive. Second, they are generally bound with rings.

Let's deal with the expense problem first.

I make my own acrylic albums. It's easier than it sounds, and I promise, it's probably easier than you've heard.

Lowe's and Home Depot both sell Plexiglas and Lexan (i.e., "acrylic") by the sheet. I purchased a 36-inch x 30-inch piece of 1/16-inch thick Plexiglas from Lowe's for approximately $15 with tax. Lowe's will cut the sheet to any size you want (mine does it for free but I don't know if they all do, if they don't, it's something like $0.35 per cut). The sheet I bought cut down into 12 8-inch x 8-inch pieces and 13 4-inch by 6-inch pieces. Enough to make at least one 8x8 and one 4x6 album (if not two of each size). All for $15.

Now, Plexiglas/acrylic is brittle so the cut edges may get chipped a little during cutting. An album I created from the cut 8x8 pieces can be seen here:

8x8 Acrylic Album

You can click on the pictures of the album to see larger versions. As you can see, any chips along the edges are not really visible. I did run sandpaper along the cut edges to smooth out any rough spots.

If want want an even easier option, Lowe's also sells 1/16-inch thick Plexiglas in 8-inch x 10-inch sheets, no cutting required, no chips along the edges. These sheets are approximately $1.50 each, more expensive than cutting down the larger sheets, but still much cheaper than most of the albums being sold in scrapbook stores.

These 8x10 sheets are what I will be using to create my new acrylic album (to be unveiled at the end of Acrylic Mania!).

I'll be covering binding methods next week!

Happy hump-day!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hating scrapbook classes...

.....kinda weird for a scrapbooker, huh? Maybe some explanation is necessary.

I love, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE ideas. I love the ideas that scrapbook classes are based on. But I hate being stuck in a chair with only the papers, paints, inks, tools, etc. that someone else thought should go into my project.

My favorite scrapbook classes ever have been the ones where someone presents an idea or gives you the base of a project and then gives you the run of the store to pick the papers, ribbons, and embellishments YOU like. Alas, I have only ever been to two such classes....

Classes that actually TEACH you something are okay. Like I once took a class that was based on making a layout that used quilling. I hated the layout, threw it away as soon as I got home, but in the process of making it I learned how to quill. I'll have THAT with me always, even if the layout has probably been recycled by now.

If I ever own a scrapbook store (...here's to the dream...) I want to offer classes that allow freedom in creating...for every student...even if we're providing the IDEA.

How do YOU feel about scrapbook classes? Am I missing something?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Acrylic Mania!

I am in the middle of switching over to a new, higher powered computer, so, unfortunately there will be no hump-day post this week (I still am trying to get all of my software moved over, not to mention all of my hardware hooked up). But I have an exciting announcement!

I have received a ton of questions and comments regarding acrylic and acrylic album techniques. So, starting next hump day, I will beginning a month-long series of posts focused on acrylic and other clear material techniques. I am planning to discuss:

  • Where to buy acrylic albums and what shapes and sizes are available.
  • How to make your own acrylic albums.
  • Binding methods for acrylic albums.
  • Adhesive methods for clear surfaces.
  • Page layouts conducive to acrylic and clear pages.
  • Acrylic and other clear material specific techniques (paint, ink, rubons, etc. on clear surfaces).

At the end of the month long series, I will be posting a new acrylic album that I am currently working on!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Today's Farktography contest is especially awesome. The topic is shallow depth of field (a.k.a Macro photography). There are some extremely beautiful submissions and some really neat techniques in today's entries. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Let's Talk Process!

Happy hump day! Sorry I wasn't around last week, but the vacation was much enjoyed and desperately needed. I promise to post pictures soon.

Today I'm going to talk about process. You've heard this before, "What is your scrapbooking process...." and such like that. This question has always made me laugh because my answer depends on my mood, what I have available (both in terms of pictures and product), how much time I have, the phase of the moon, the relative humidity, whether my pinky toe hurts, etc. You get the idea....I don't think I've ever used the same scrapbooking process twice.

Instead, I'm going to discuss my technique process. I just recently realized I had one.

First, let's discuss what qualifies as a technique. A lot of people seem to be think this word entails a long drawn out process that results in an artist effect only belonging on "fancy" scrapbook pages. I'm here to tell you that a technique can be as simple as matting a photo.

To explain. Matting a photo is just one way of providing visual separation between your photo and your background elements. There are other ways to accomplish this visual separation, such as printing your photo with a white border, painting a mat, using ribbon to create a frame, inking or sanding the edge of your photo, leaving empty or "white" space around the subject of your photo, etc. All of these are considered techniques. The outstanding question is not whether you want to use a technique on your layout. The outstanding question is what "look" do you want to accomplish on your layout. The ultimate "look" will determine which technique you want to use.

Let's use an ATC I recently created as an example:

I created this ATC by stamping the dinosaur with clear ink on white cardstock and heat embossing clear powder. I then inked and stamped over the embossed dinosaur to create the background and the title. The ink wiped right off the embossed dinosaur giving me a clean image.

There are several other techniques I could have used to create this ATC. I could have created the the inked and stamped background and then stamped the dinosaur on top with white paint. I could have stamped the dinosaur on the back of white cardstock and then cut it out and adhered it to the inked and stamped background. I could have created the background using textured paint and then created a "debossed" dinosaur using the dinosaur stamp. Each of these techniques would have resulted in different final "looks".

I had a certain "look" in mind when I started to create this ATC. I wanted the dinosaur bones to be really white and look like bones stuck in the mud. If I had created the stamped and inked background and then stamped the dinosaur on top with white paint, I would not have gotten as "white" or "crisp" a dinosaur image as I did with the embossing method. If I had trimmed the dinosaur out of white cardstock and adhered it on top of the background, the dinosaur bones would not look like they were stuck in the mud, they would look like they were lying on top of the mud. The textured paint and "debossed" dinosaur technique could have worked really well and given me the look I wanted, but it seemed a little "over the top" for an ATC.

And that's a peak into my "technique process". It all hinges on the final "look" I am going for, whether that look is distressed, aged, modern, artsy, whimsical, urban, etc. or very specific and focused.

Just remember, there's no reason to think that "techniques" are beyond you and your pages, we all use techniques, whether simple or complicated, to get that final "look".

Have a happy hump day!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

July 2008 Scrapbooking from the Inside Out Kit

Here are my design team submissions using the Scrapbooking from the Inside Out July kit which is themed "freedom". You can click the pictures for larger, more detailed versions.

Each design team member creates 4 layouts and 1 altered item for each monthly kit. My favorite submission from this month's kit is my altered item, which is a 16x20 canvas:This canvas uses a really cool gradient paint technique for the background. I have to admit, I think this is one of my favorite paint techniques.

And my favorite layout from this month's submission is "Self Portrait": Here's the hidden journaling from "Self Portrait": The next layout is called "Butterflies": "Butterflies" uses another cool paint technique which gives a textured edge to your painted surface.

The next layout is "Shine" (and yes, that's me wearing a cheesehead):The fun part of "Shine" is that the "S" in the title is actually a chipboard flourish that just happened to work really well as an "S".

The final layout is "Young and Wild and Free":

"Young and Wild and Free" takes full advantage of the Coredinations cardstock which has a different color core. Sanding this paper creates some cool effects.

Here's the hidden journaling from "Young and Wild and Free": I really had a ball putting together my first design team submission. I can't wait to see what's in next month's kit!

Feeling a Little "Inside-Out"?

It's launch day for Scrapbooking from the Inside Out. Please join us all day today on the Scrapbooking from the Inside Out web page and message boards (please be patient, the web page may not be up and running until mid-morning). You can get a sneak peak at July's kit on Rachel Kaufman's blog in the meantime. Here is the official press release:

Join me today for the launch of Scrapbooking From The Inside Out!

Scrapbooking from the Inside Out, founded by published designer and instructor Rachel Kaufman, launches today, July 1st, 2008. Scrapbooking From The Inside Out is a kit club, an inspirational source and an online community for scrapbookers who want to explore their inner lives and deepest thoughts and dreams. July's kit and inspiration will focus on ‘Freedom.’

Scrapbooking from the Inside Out advocates Rachel's trademarked approach to scrapbooking – starting with the emotion. It’s ‘Scrapbook Therapy’ – using scrapbooking as a means to self-exploration, self-expression and self-discovery. Each month, the site, and kit, will focus on a specific emotional theme. The stylish, bountiful kit will arrive with products that will take the user on a creative journey of the heart that starts with feelings. Each kit includes at least 10 pieces of patterned paper, 4 pieces of specialty paper, 5 pieces of cardstock, two alpha sets, and a luscious array of ribbon, hard and soft embellishments, two paints or inks, a mini stamp and an album or other item to alter. These limited edition kits are available exclusively online at Scrapbooking From The Inside Out. The kits are ideal for anyone – beginner to advanced, and are perfectly balanced to be adapted and customized by scrapbookers of any style – clean and graphic, funky and freestyle, or vintage and distressed.

Unlike any other kit club, Scrapbooking From The Inside Out offers an online ‘Inspiration’ webpage with music links, photos of great art, quotes and journaling prompts to encourage personal exploration through each emotion. The site will also include techniques, samples and challenges from a stellar international design team: Amanda Berens, Nancy Doren and Bjay Jaminal, and special celebrity guests to help jumpstart creativity. The site includes a forum for sharing ideas, experiences and feelings, as well as a user gallery where scrapbookers can post their pages and projects to help themselves and others be inspired. The kits sell for $49.95 for an individual month, $47.95 per month for a three month subscription, and $45.95 per month for a six month subscription. Subscribers will receive members-only access to additional instruction and rewards, as well as free bonuses with each purchase. Gift certificates are always available – and make the perfect gift for any scrapbook enthusiast.

The mission of Scrapbooking From The Inside Out is to help scrapbookers explore their inner worlds and motivate them to express themselves on the scrapbook page with greater depth, to reach for scrapbooking as support, encouragement and catharsis in processing life’s pleasurable and difficult moments. Scrapbooking From The Inside Out creates a totally new space in the scrapbooking world for sharing thoughts and feelings in the way that only scrapbookers can. We look forward to welcoming you there!

You can catch Rachel’s video introduction to the Scrapbooking From The Inside Out concept on designer Leah Fung’s blog today at http://www.leahfung.typepad.com/