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The longer I scrapbook, the more I appreciate sketches. I used to believe that if you used a sketch, it took away from the originality of a layout. Over time I've grown to understand that even if 2 people use the provided dimensions and exact placement of elements on their layouts, the choices in colors and patterns, the mood of the photos, the choice of embellishments, and each person's personal style leave you with 2 completely different looks. The sketch just saves you the time of having to figure out how to make it all balance on the layout. And this leaves you with more time for the fun, creative stage!
Another idea I've let go of is that a sketch must be followed exactly.
I've created this sketch based on a layout I made about my son cleaning up his Legos each night.
And here is the layout. You can see that all of my elements are placed exactly where they appear on the sketch. That is only because I created the sketch after I finished my layout. The sketch I started with had journaling strips overlapping the large number 3. There were no tags beneath the focal photo. And all of my smaller photos were the same size and blocked together to create a rectangle that was the same height at my focal photo, stretching from the focal photo to the right-hand side of the layout. It was compact and linear. It was a nice design but it didn't really reflect my personal style. Toeing the line with balance of my elements is one way I add visual interest to my layouts so I ended up making some of my photos larger. I changed my sketch!
I used the above sketch to create this card. I kept the banner strung across the top as suggested in the sketch. Since I didn't have photos to use, I replaced them with squares of fabric and lined them up horizontally along the bottom of the card instead of in a vertical line as I did on the layout. I retained the oversized fabric number on the sketch but I centered it over the the line of tags. It replaced the focal photo.
Finally, I used a line of 3 tags as seen in the sketch but I replaced my journaling with stamped images using Fiskars High Density Ink Pads and It’s a Party Simple Stick Repositionable Rubber Stamps.
So remember that a sketch should simply inspire you to get started, not box you in to a set-in-stone plan. Most people are not going to look at a sketch you used, compare it to your finished layout, and tell you your layout is wrong because you didn't follow the sketch. In fact, most people will praise you for your creative adaptations!