Story Telling Scrapbook Layouts Without The Photos

Story Telling Scrapbook Layouts Without The Photos main article image
Posted on March 25, 2021 by Lisa-Jane Johnson

Most scrapbookers I know have a pile of photos several inches thick at least. Many of us are inspired by our photos and our pages are led by the events, colours and themes in our images.  But what do we do on those occasions where there is no photo? These days with our phones we are usually within an arms reach of a camera at all time but of course it wasn’t always like that, for example, I don’t have any photos from my childhood other than ones taken at ballet shows or the yearly school mug shot. There are quite a few scenarios where there might not be a photo for a story you want to tell. For instance, after 3 months of lockdown without my weekly walk ‘n’ talks with a friend, we finally got together and didn’t stop talking the whole way around (okay that was just me). After I got back in the car I realised I didn’t have a photo of us finally walking together again to mark the momentous event. On another occasion I took my husband to a 3 Michelin star restaurant for my husband’s birthday and we weren’t allowed to use our phones inside the building. Similarly there are many examples of photo taking just not being appropriate, such as at a  swimming pool or children’s school event where there might be a privacy issue. Sadly there are also times when we are sure we’ve saved the photos but when we go to print them, they are just not there.

I asked popular scrapbooker Shimelle Laine what she does in this case and she told me that she uses another photo, or even takes a new one, that represents the story in some way.  I remembered that on my walk with my friend we took a picture of some tiny ducklings bobbing along the water, so while it’s not a photo of us, it does mark the memory of that day.  In other cases there might be memorabilia available such as tickets and programmes, or for example, a menu in the case of the posh restaurant I mentioned.  Sometimes though the situation calls for something a little bit different.

One Year On

I think we can all agree that the last year has been somewhat challenging, wherever you might be in the world.  I’ve obviously got plenty of Covid related photos and stories from the last 12 months but I wanted to create some sort of summary to mark a year since schools closed (for the first time) here in the UK, which felt like the first major landmark for us.  Capturing a brief overview of a very different year is really tricky when it comes to photos.  I could make a collage of really small key images for a year in review, or I could create a then and now layout.  In my Christmas album I actually Googled a picture of the Prime Minister to use the day he announced a dramatic change to the Christmas restrictions!  But for this layout I wanted it to be more of a message of hope and a reminder that we got through it but that we should never forget what we personally went through.  It needed to act as a reminder of the anniversary in my album but I felt it was important that it also contained a message of hope, even though the actual pandemic is far from over.  I decided the main focus should be on the words and therefore that I wouldn’t use a photo at all.

With photo-less layouts, the structure of the page doesn’t really need to change and it is still important to have a focal point.  There wasn’t a lot of inspiration around for photo-less layouts that weren’t title pages or section markers but those that I did find seemed to work best where there was a focal point that had imagery or size comparable to a photo, and where the journaling was a deliberate part of the design rather than being added as an afterthought.  With my anniversary summary I really wanted to focus on the journaling rather than replace the photo in some way so I based my design around fitting in lots of words, and what better way than in a letter to myself.

Altering a cut file

I’ve used mini envelopes on layouts before but I really wanted to make the letter the star of the show so I decided to use a cut file to create my own envelope. You could of course use a pretty pre-made envelope but I wanted mine to match my supplies and I’m really not short of pretty paper to make envelopes from! There are some really lovely envelope cut file designs with flowers bursting out from within or tucked around the design but I wanted a plainer envelope for my page so I could use houses as an accent to my lockdown theme. I used this Mom-velope Mother’s Day Envelope cut file from Creative Fabrica which I altered slightly to fit my design.

I wanted to be able to take the letter out and to write on both sides so I used my Silhouette Cameo software to slice off the parts of the cut file that created the look of the paper inside the envelope. I removed the lettering by ungrouping the image, then I used the knife tool to chop off the corners of the letter at the top. I then sliced the sides away where you can see the red lines above. Sometimes you get left with little bumps depending on how close you managed to get to the joins but you can easily smooth those out with the point editing tool and then you are left with a plain envelope. This one has nicely curved edges which look more realistic but using a cut file instead of a real envelope allows you to create something truly original.

I cut the design in white to match the Bramble Fox title I knew I wanted to use so then I chose densely patterned paper to contrast with the thin white cut file. When you work with cut files you need to think about which layer or piece to do in which order and this was especially true here where I wanted to use the cut file as an actual envelope. If you stick things down in the wrong order you can make things very difficult for yourself later and / or not be able to use the envelope as a pocket. Firstly I backed the 3 bottom sections which make up the outside of the back of the envelope with one continuous piece of paper stuck down along all of the lines to create the front of the pocket. Next I chose a contrasting paper to create the back part of the envelope, which would be the inside piece in real life, but this piece only gets adhesive added around the very edges so that it leaves the pocket open.

Putting the Layout Together

For my letter, I created a typed look with a typewriter font and laid out the wording and margins so that plenty of the pretty paper behind the letter would show. I folded the letter slightly at the bottom so that it sat with the right amount of text protruding from the envelope. The filled envelope takes up quite a lot of real estate, as it should, so I only added some torn strips of coordinating papers at the top and bottom to complete the paper layers. I scuffed up all the edges by running my nail along the torn strips for extra dimension. With the title at the top, I was ready to add some embellishments. Even without a photo, we can bring attention to our focal point by applying the same visual triangle design idea that we often employ in our normal scrapbook layouts. My clusters contain some fussy cut and sticker houses popped up on foam towards the bottom left, a Bramble Fox Perspextive house with a globe inside at the bottom right of the page and then a little joy sticker with another little house top right. Each cluster has some sparkly enamel dots to finish off. It’s quite a different layout for me but it tells exactly the anniversary story that I wanted to remember.

Another Example

A key feature of the run up to Christmas for me is indulging in a Christmas film or two. Or 47 the year I had my leg in plaster… I’d been meaning to do a list layout for a while and this Charlie Brown cut file was a great focal point in the absence of a photo. I typed out my list of films from 2020 but it wouldn’t fit alongside the cut file without being covered in part by Charlie Brown’s poor little Christmas tree. I decided instead to cut my films up into individual journaling blocks so that I could space them out all around the page. I trimmed them all down, laid them on a strip of double sided tape and then cut them into their individual pieces again. I then adhered each film title to the green cardstock that edged my layout, or to the red spotty paper to match the bauble. Finally I did the same with my title and journaling block.  I used foam under the page title to make it stand out slightly and simply added the fun clapper board as a finishing touch.

I hope this has given you some ideas for those memories you want to capture but that you might not have the perfect photo for. I’d love to see your layouts if you’ve been inspired to create a page without photos or where the story takes centre stage, so please do tag me or pop me a message via the blog. You can find me on social media as PrettyMyPage.

Happy story telling!

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Fernanda Rafagnin

May 13, 2021

Your layouts are so beautiful! I love your choice of colors specially for the first one. Love all the details as well. Great job!

Lisa-Jane Johnson's profile picture
Lisa-Jane Johnson

May 13, 2021


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment x

Ronda Cook

March 26, 2021

Great article and I love, love, LOVE your layouts! Thanks for the inspiration!

Lisa-Jane Johnson's profile picture
Lisa-Jane Johnson

March 27, 2021


Oh wow, that’s so lovely to hear! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

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