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There are a lot of styles of scrapbooking out there.  Some seem to follow naturally from certain product-lines, like the pocket-style scrapbooks (Project Life, Sn@p Studio, and others) naturally tend towards a similar look because the pockets force the crafter to following the same layout scheme.  I’m not knocking the pocket-style system, May Flaum recently did a nice video on this style and really sold me on how great these systems would be for scrapbooking on a road trip!  So great for gathering ephemera! But the layout is constrained.

I am beginning to suspect other styles are regional.  When I first started following 7 Dots Studio, I thought I was seeing the work of just one designer who gravitated towards single-photo layouts with a foundation of beautiful, soulfully distressed-look papers, fantastic inky-messy splatters, and then the one small square photo encrusted around with embellishments and textures pulled together by ink-washes or distressed paint treatments.  I started to realize that all of the designers who contribute to the blog go for this same style.  I love it, but I started to wonder why it was so prevalent.  I recently started to realize that many of there contributors are living in eastern Europe, when I saw a recent contribution by a scrapbooking Guest Designer who happens to be Russian.

So maybe it’s a regional preference?  It certainly looks different than most of the American scrapbook bloggers that I follow, even those that work in distressed styles.  I’m quite curious about this particular layout and method of scrapbooking, so if anyone knows if this is a 7 Dots Studio-specific thing or a regional thing, I’d be delighted to find out!  Are there other styles of scrapbooking that seem to resonate geographically?

I definitely want to try one or two pages in this “European” style, but I don’t have plans to make a whole album using this small single-photo distressed style.  I definitely want to get my hands on some of the beautiful 7 Dots Studio papers at some point, though!

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I have been working hard lately on improving the look of my blog.  One of those improvements was to update the theme and background, including designing a special header. What do you think of my look?

The next challenge has been to improve my “product” photography.  Product photography is the art and science of making small objects look awesome.  Since I work a desk job for most of the daylight hours (and Northeast Ohio isn’t known for it’s plethora of sunny days anyway), I don’t have the ability to stage photos with nice natural sun lighting too often.  I usually do my crafting after my baby’s bedtime and pictures are often taken after midnight!  So my photography set-up has to accommodate for my lighting deficiencies.

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My new photography set-up: A work in progress!

My first step has been to address the background.  A scrap piece of posterboard that has been rolled up in a corner for too long makes a nice seamless sweep.  I just let it curl up around my sewing notions box.  I did invest in an $18 Neewer reflector/diffuser thing that turned out to be about twice the size I imagined when I ordered online.  Still, the diffuser part softens the light nicely and eliminates harsh shadows.  My Ottlight flexible desk lamp gives me full spectrum light – great for crafting and photography!

You may have noticed that this setup is pretty small.  Great for cards, ATCs, jewelry, and miniature figures for games.  But I’m going to have to refine this set-up the next time I try to photograph a scrapbook page or something larger than 6×6!  It’s always a learning process.

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Photo taken with the new set-up

Photos below are recent photos that could have used some help from the new set-up!

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Photo taken with the sweep, but without the diffuser to reduce shadows

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Photo taken with a messy background

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As I get more into the paper craft world, I’ve been investigating which marker system I want to invest in for both the near-term and the long term.  Markers are popular both for writing and drawing by hand, as well as coloring in stampings and printed digital stamps.

Alcohol-based Markers:

First and foremost, I needed to figure out what the big deal is about Copic markers.  They are everywhere!  Clearly they offer a huge range of colors, which can be really helpful for producing quick coloring.  This is why we’ve invested in a massive quantity of Reaper acrylic paints for painting our gaming figures – of course we can blend color, but when you want quick consistent results, having a large pre-packaged palate is incredibly helpful.

On the Nattosoup blog, illustrator Becca has done some extensive testing to compare all of the alcohol-based markers.  A craft discount retailer near me carries Spectrum Noir, and I have been curious about them, so I really appreciated her detailed comparison.  Copic Sketch vs. Spectrum Noir
She also compares Prismacolor, ShinHan, and several other popular Copic alternatives to the Copic gold standard.

The short summary is that Copic Sketch has a lot of advantages.  Blendable and refillable, with interchangeable nibs and a compatible airbrush system, Copic Sketch also carries the most hefty pricetag.  Which is why the alcohol-based alternatives are worth checking out.

But what about comparing the big apple to the big orange?

Watercolor Markers:

Tim Holtz’ Distress Markers are the big brand of watercolor markers that most paper-crafters talk about.  The color palette is no where near as large as Copic Sketch’s, but the colors can be faded and blended with water just as alcohol-ink markers can be faded and blended with a blender solution.  And of course, watercolor markers have a different possible range of techniques and effects that depend on the water reaction:  blooming, using wet paper, soft or hard edges, fading, washes, and transparency.

Since I have always wanted to invest more time into watercoloring, but never really had project ideas that would suit the media, incorporating watercolor markers into my paper crafting seemed like a great idea.  Plus, Distress markers are a fraction of the cost of Copics!  There are other brands of watercolor marker (here’s a review of Letraset’s Aquamarkers, for example).  But I already have (and love) several of the Distress ink pads, which use the same color palette as the Distress markers.  Ok, and admittedly,  I’m also somewhat sucked into the whole Ranger brand.  It started as a Tim Holtz designer-crush and it’s just spread to their stable of other amazingly talented signature designers.  Don’t let me gush, now!

Here is a great review and test of Distress markers that shows some of the techniques possible with Distress ink.

Maybe some day I’ll try out the alcohol inks, but for now, I’m all excited to use “aquamedia” (the cool term for water-based supplies ranging from water-reactive inks, to acrylic paint).

One big disadvantage of water-based media is that not all papers stand up well to the extra moisture.  Wrinkling, layers rubbing off, and even surface cracking if embossing is combined with wet media are all potential problems I’ve already encountered.  So far, I’ve had the best success with watercolor paper, but I hope to sit down and do some experimenting with wet media on different types of paper very soon.

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I think I’ve finally settled on a new look for my blog.  I had kept the same style and header for about 4 years, but I was feeling like the look didn’t reflect my thematic change in the last couple of years to cover all of my crafty endeavors, and not just my knitterly ones.  I wrestled with the current WordPress setup and tried different themes until I got one that resonated.  Then I used my graphic design skills to make a background and header that pulled it all in.

I’m still Unravelling the metaphorical Argyle.  I’m still untangling techniques and improving my crafting.  But my artistic life has never been just about knitting, and I think my craft blog finally reflects that complexity.