Dissecting Design: make those products work!

Hi everyone,

This is Ashley today, hopefully with a few fun tips on how to make some products work for you, when they just don’t line up with your layout ideas. I’m sure we’ve all been there…. you have this fantastic idea in your head. The stuff is on your desk. You have a brand new kit and you love every last bit of it, but for some reason, something just isn’t working. Here are a few ideas to try the next time the stuff on your desk doesn’t quite line up with the ideas in your head. Make those products work!

1. Soften it up.

Ashley Calder "bows on her toes" for Cocoa DaisyI absolutely loved this aqua woodgrain patterned paper by Fancy Pants, from the London patterned paper add-on, but as I was working on my page, thought the colour was detracting from the photos. I loved this paper BECAUSE of it’s beautiful vibrant aqua shade, but once the photos were on top, there was too much competition between the vibrant hue of those cute jammie-feet and the vibrant patterned paper.

Solution: I mixed some glaze using matte gel and a few drops of gesso. I used a ratio of maybe 1:8ish or so? I didn’t measure, but that’s just to give you an idea of how little gesso you need to make a very pale while glaze. I then brushed the glaze over the patterned paper (before adhering the layout items) and let it dry. Once dry the glaze softened the intensity of the aqua paper just slightly, but the woodgrain pattern was still visible.


2. Mask it.

Ashley Calder "we flew" for Cocoa DaisySometimes a patterned paper may be just too bold, either for the photos you want to use or for the look and feel you want to achieve.

Solution: lay an entire sheet of patterned vellum over the patterned paper. This is one of my favourite uses of vellum! Not only do you get to appreciate the beautiful pattern and quality of the vellum when you see it across a whole layout like this, but it serves two wonderful purposes. First, it will soften and lessen the bold impact of whatever paper is behind it, but allow the colour and some of the detail to show through. Second, it creates an amazing dream-like or theatrical quality, which can be a very effective way to build a feeling or convey part of your story.


3. Small and unexpected.

Ashley Calder lined envelope, for Cocoa Daisy

I love big, bold and beautiful. But I usually have a really hard time using these kinds of patterns on a page as my style tends towards using simple colour schemes and layering colours that are more tone-on-tone.

Solution: use these amazing papers in small and unexpected ways. Here I made my own envelope… when closed and viewed as part of the page, the envelope is just white and very stark. But when the reader opens the envelope, there’s a bright and beautiful little pop of colour lining the inside!


4. Think outside the box.

Ashley Calder "into the day" for Cocoa DaisySomething I’ve always really struggled with — and as a result admired in other scrappers’ work — is the use of icons or themed products in a non-thematic way. What do you do with elephant print paper if you’ve never been on safari, or what do you do with sailboat paper if you don’t sail or even go to the beach?

Solution: think outside the box! This Studio Calico paper is obviously water and sailing themed — and my first thought would be to use it for boating or beach photos. After some more thought, I could also picture using it for photos of children playing with toy boats, or perhaps in the bath. But,  I have no photos that work with any of those ideas! Here I’ve used this paper with its watery imagery for photos taken from an airplane window, as we flew over the Atlantic ocean. There’s not a bit of ocean or water visible in these photos at all –just clouds — but using this water paper behind our airplane view really works to paint a whole picture of what was going on when these pictures were taken, and fills in what CAN’T be seen.


5. Go on tone.Ashley Calder "seriously really love this coffee" for Cocoa DaisyThe font and size of these dark brown Basic Grey letter stickers from the main kit were absolutely perfect for this page. After the painted cardstock background was dry and the letter stickers were in place and the rest of the layout set down, they looked way too dark. There was TOO much contrast: all I could see was that title, and it was actually taking away from the rest of the page, instead of working with it and being part of the story.

Solution: tone it down. I used the same paints and inks that I created the background with and added another layer of paint to the background once the letter stickers were applied to the cardstock. I swiped some gesso across them, then some aqua ink, then dry brushed a bit more gesso on, then wiped some excess colour off. Once I was done the title was still legible and visible but became more of the page instead of standing alone.




Teaming Up With.....Summer Creations
Tips & Tricks: Building A Background


  1. Lisa Flaherty (jjflair)

    Ashley, these are all fantastic ideas!!

    There is something that has nothing to do with this post that has caught my eye, though: You do not use page protectors!!!!! And I love it!!!! I have been struggling with the idea of not using them–I feel like they detract from my layouts, flattening their appearance with a “layer of glare”, and yet feeling like it is a preposterous thought not to use them. YOU HAVE FREED ME!!!!

  2. Cindi Reyes

    These are wonderful ideas. Thank you for sharing. I particularly love the layouts about your flight with the velum.

  3. Emily Pitts

    Really great post Ashley, I love all the ideas for making things work for you!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *