Does Size Matter? Scrapbook Page Sizes and Topics

by Lain Ehmann on July 25, 2011

I have to give a shout-out to darling Mikki for making me think of this post. She is working through the Define Your Style A to Z class, and had some comments about what size of page she uses, and how many photos she typically includes on a layout. I was thinking about her comments and this post came to be! Thanks, Mikki! Note: Online accredited colleges are an option for busy people who are looking for even more knowledge about art and design. Scrapbooking is a fun kind of art that anyone can enjoy.

Does size matter? When it comes to scrapbook layouts, bigger isn’t always better — but the size of the page definitely determines the topic I’ll be covering. Or maybe it’s vice-versa.

After being a dedicated 12×12 scrapper for years, I have started creating more and more 8.5×11 pages in the past few years. I couldn’t figure out what the cause of this shift was… or why I still occasionally reach for the 12×12 size of cardstock. I started mulling it over, and decided that I like 8.5×11 because it works better for single-photo pages… And of course, that begged the question:

Why am I creating more single-photo pages?

I had to puzzle that one for a bit. Then I realized,

I choose 8.5×11 (single-photo pages) for MEMORIES-based layouts or PERSONALITY pages.

I choose 12×12 when I have multiple photos — and that tends to be for an EVENT-based layout.


Once I figured this out, it made TOTAL sense that I’m doing more 8.5×11 pages:

  • I’m doing heritage pages with photos from my husband’s family, where I only have a handful of pictures, so they’re all single-photo pages (and 8.5×11!)
  • I’m doing more “personality” pages about my kids. As they get older, there are fewer “event” pages, and more “memories” (and thus 8.5×11!)
  • I’m doing more “how I feel” pages, where the journaling/topic often comes first and then I find a photo to match.

There are exceptions, of course. I occasionally create an “event” page with multiple photos on an 8.5×11″ page, but that’s rare:

…Or I’ll do a single-photo 12×12, but that’s even rarer! (Is that a word? Let’s say YES!). In fact, it’s so rare, I haven’t created one like that this year at all.

Now, here’s YOUR assignment: Think about what kinds of pages you trend towards. Why do you choose that size? If it’s because it works better with the number of photos you’re using, why are you using that number of photos? Does it tie in somehow with the types of stories you’re telling? Leave me a comment and tell me what you discover!

As always, no right or wrong here. We’re just gathering info for the journey. :)

P.S. Questions like these help me figure out how my scrapbooking fits together. Does the photo determine the page, or vice-versa? Does it really matter? To me it does. I don’t want to limit myself unnecessarily. Remember the old story of the women who cut the ends off her roast before she put it in the oven? If not, I’ll tell it on this week’s podcast. Stay tuned!

  • Clare

    I’ve never really though about tailoring my page size to my content – but I can see how it adds to the layouts. I digi scrap and have all of my layouts combined in to a 12×12 book so that’s the size I always scrap to.

  • Anonymous

    The digital angle is one I hadn’t thought about — you don’t really pick a size as much as a shape, right?

  • Rhonda H

    I only do 12×12. I have never done 8 1/2 x 11. I  don’t even know if 8.5×11 page protectors will fit in my 12×12 albums. Do you have a dedicated 8.5×11 album and a dedicated 12×12 album or do you mix sizes within a larger album? I know Ali Edwards does it. She even does some 6×12′s. What do you do with the backs of your smaller pages? Hope that another feelings/personality page comes along next? Oooooohhhh…sounds kinda risky. LOL.

  • Diane Curry

    I’ve been doing more 81/2 x 11 pages too. I do use them for single photo layouts more often than anything else. When I thought about I realized that just like you, I do the 12×12 for event scrapping for the most part. Thanks for making me think about this. 

  • Lynnette

    I think opening up the 8.5×11 option freed up my scrapper’s block that I had had for years.  A lot of times I didn’t take a lot of pictures at events (a small baby in hand plus another kid, etc) and the ones I did have were only so-so.  Then I would go to scrap them on a 12×12 page (or even try to do a 2 page spread) and realize that I didn’t even have enough pictures!  Frustrated, I would just abandon ship!  By using the 8.5×11 format, I realized I could use those few pictures or even just one of them to tell the story of the birthday party or whatever the event was.  Even more, I could opt to  not even talk about the event and just express my feelings.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t have a sequence of pictures – my story captured so much more.   By putting the emphasis on the story, my sub-par photography didn’t stand out so badly!  And during the design week of LOAD May 511, I learned to embrace white space and did several 12×12 layouts with only one picture.   What a statement that makes!  I definitely do a combo. of the sizes and agree that the smaller format lends itself to feelings and larger to the event layouts.  I don’t worry about how they look in my album.  I would like to switch over to a d-ring binder with the 2 sizes of page protectors, but for now I have the 2 sizes in a post bound and sometimes an 8.5×11 is backed up to a 12×12 in a 12×12 protector.  Doesn’t bother me at all because at least it is scrapped!  Thanks, Lain, for opening my eyes to a fantastic way to scrap.

  • Joanie

    I am totally a 12×12 scrapper.  I’ve done a few 8.5×11 layouts when taking Cathy Zielske’s “Design Your Life” class at BPC.  The thing that I liked most about a 8.5×11 layout was that I could use my standard size printer to print directly on my page.
    Other than that, I would rather stick to a 12×12.  Maybe this is because I rarely do one-photo layouts.  I do use D-ring binders to store my layouts, so I would be able to mix in the smaller size easily, but I perfer not to.

  • Lisa M. Zepponi

    Well i have to say I am a 12×12 scrapper; only because I have WAY TOO MANY papers that size.  I will make a mini book on occasion, but only on occasion.

  • Anonymous

    I end up trimming down my papers to use on smaller pages. How many photos do you usually use?

  • Anonymous

    Great revelations here, Lynnette! I use the American Crafts binders for our family albums. They are so easy to adapt to whatever size page you use. So glad you’ve found FREEDOM! :)

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t it fun to think about it and go, “Wow! THAT is why I started doing such-and-such?” I admit it, I’m a scrapbooking geek. ;)

  • Anonymous

    That is another benefit I didn’t think of – printing right on your pages. You’re so smart. ;) Wasn’t CZ’s class amazing?

  • Anonymous

    Hey Rhonda, I mix them in a single American Crafts album. If you go to “Product Picks” on my blog, you’ll see a link right to the albums. You should give it a shot sometime — maybe you’ll find you love it! (I resisted for a long time).

  • Lynnette


  • Sue

    When I started scrapbooking years ago, 12 x 12 wasn’t an option.  But when 12 x 12 papers, albums, page protectors became available I was all over them.  Being able to put so many pictures on a page and still have room for the embellishments was great.  I’ve never thought of doing an 8 x 11 page again, and doubt I ever will.

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like the larger size works great for your multi-photo pages. Aren’t you glad things evolve? :)

  • a1983alaskan

    I started out with 8.5×11 pages… but it seemed that was when photos were being printed in 3.5×5 format.  Photos moved on to  4×6, so I moved into 12×12.  Now it seems I do more “theme” albums in 8×8, as my child has flown the coop ;-)   I still enjoy doing single-photo layouts :-)

  • Anonymous

    Those darned kids! Mine are growing up and fewer and fewer “firsts.” That is one of the reasons for the move to more personality based pages.

  • Bjmascara

    I need to buy those nesting dolls for my twin granddaughters.  Do you know where to purchase them?

  • Janice Carl

    Interesting topic, I have never scrapped 8.5×11. I attribute that to being a graphic designer and that size seems like work! I started with 12×12 but couldn’t quite get into it, they are really just too big for me. I create lots of little sized books, 8×8, 6×8, 4×6 and most pages have just one photo or a few photos that accordian out. Mostly I create travel journals and books that cover a few months of a particular job. The smaller sized is easier to hold in your hands. On my small books I create the covers as well and never use page protectors, they are meant to hold and touch. Although right now I am stuck on ATCs, which are 2.5×3.5 with no photos. The artist part of me is very prolific at the moment!

  • Anonymous

    Here’s a link to a cute set of animal nesting dolls from Amazon:
    Here’s a link of the more traditional dolls:

  • Ann

    I really want to switch to 8 1/2 x 11 but the shift of buying a different size album is holding me back. I know I can mix and match pages but for some reason I am stuck.  My page size is based on the number of photos for sure, or the story.  I am trying to limit the number of pictures for sure and only use the best.  I think I just need to buy one album and start putting my pages in there and just deal with it but dealing with it is the problem.

  • cheryl

    Oh Lain.  THANK YOU!  I’ve been in such a scrapbooking rut (over a year now) and with these words you just helped me get back on track.  I have struggled with everything about memory keeping but now I think I’ll just focus on “what” kind of scrapping I want to do (memory, personality, how I feel….etc) and go for it.  I’ve done both 12×12 and 8.5 x 11 and your words and approach shined a light in my world.  THANK YOU!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Tell yourself you can always move them later! It’s not permanent — it’s an experiment. :)

  • Vonda Orders

    I go back and forth for basically the same reasons you do.  But recently I’m finding if I have a lot of photos to scrap of an event, I use those 12×12 photo pages that are sectioned into a 4×6 pockets and I just stick the photos directly into the page protectors and add a 4×6 journaling card and a 4×6 title card

  • Dmjones21

    Thank you Lain for sharing this.  I just attended a crop in Plymouth, MA and found myself getting frustrated with having too much empty space on my pages.  Shockingly I did not even think to go smaller.  I use 3 ring albums so there is no reason not to give 81/2 by 11 a try.  Thanks so much!!!!

  • Amy So

    12×12 still works best for me. This is because I journal a LOT. Even on single-photo pages I still like the freedom that the extra space gives. I don’t think I’ll ever switch to 8 1/2 x 11. And…just curious? Do you put your 12x12s in a separate binder from the 8x11s? Or is there a way to make them fit into one?

  • Rachelle Ludwinski

    I digi scrap as well, and I use 8.5×11 horizontal because it fits on my shelves & I think 8×8 is too small.
    Occasionally I do a theme album (like a vacation album) in 12×12 (printed 8×8), but I like the horizontal format to leave on the coffee table.

  • Honoré

    My “go-to” size has been 8×8; mainly because I approach my LO from the story – memory or personality – and then find or take a photo to go with it. I also like the simplicity of a one photo LO. Lately, I’ve been doing 12 x 12 , still using the same thinking & approach but adding more embellishments & patterned papers, etc, in clusters. I find that I like the look of mixed media tastefully placed on a page, too.

  • Lilbearhugz

    Hi Lain :O)
    Wow, what an eye opener here. I did not understand the differences either, but it makes so much sense. I have tons of pics and tend to tell my stories by events or at least for now. I also tend to think of groupings for my layouts. Baby pics of parents, kids, etc. in a sort of comparison… I have several 12×12 albums and TONS of 12×12 paper, so no doubt I will be completing my events pages, but also in teaching my g.daughters, we are using 8×8, so they have a smaller space to deal with overall. We are all learning together, but as I teach them, I keep your ideas, and tips right in mind :O)  They all LOVE the paper crafts we do together, so I have no doubt they will be avid scrappers for life :O) 
    As always Lain, thank you for all your great information.
    Deana :O)

  • Vesta

    I usually scrap 12 x 12 because I rarely do one photo. If I do, I use a 5 x 7. I’ve considered 8 1/2 x 11 for printing ease (but then I would need a better printer). Usually I print text on that size then incorporate it onto 12 x 12 page. I either use the whole sheet as background or cut the text out and mat it. I started on 8 x 8 album and never finished it. Need to work on that. By the way, I just participated in LOAD 513 and loved it. Thanks, Lain and Kelli.

  • Jenny Leonard

    That’s exactly what I was wondering. I’ll have to go check out the American Crafts albums that Lain suggests. I’ve only tried 6×12 for LOAD512 and it worked perfectly for the panoramic pictures I had but I haven’t been able to find page protectors that are just for 6×12 pages.

  • Robyn Crowningshield

    I started scrappin 81/2×11 from the beginning. It is easier to take out into the public’s view. Many of my pages go with us to farm events were people see what we do and who we are. I have no problems putting multiple photos on my pages……….in fact I will make double pagers if I have more than three photos and do not want them to be tooo tiny. I love having photos that one can see easily! I love the challenge of taking a 12×12 sketch or lifted LO and making it work on 81/2×11. I find it hard to complete a 12×12 as I have not done many of them. I am doing a wedding album for my son and his fiance but find myself adding more than normal as I think it does not look done.
    As far as whether the photo determine the page or not……………………it does not really matter to me. I will find inspiration first then decide my photo/s then match up the rest. Sometimes I will have the rest then go in search of photo/s that fit.

  • Cody Doll

    I never even thought of 8.5×11. I am just getting started and I was thinking either 8×8 or 8×6.5, which is A5 or mini binder size. But I like the idea of 8.5×11….hmmm.

  • Tammy Shupard Brandt

    I started at 12×12, but have switched a lot to 8.5×11 as I with on heritage albums, because they are easier to scan and easier for others to print at home, if they like. I think I would also really like a smaller binder. The real estate on a 12×12 is great, but binders that are full are HUGE! I just wish anyone made the beautiful nice faux leather binders in that size in the same range of colors as 12×12.

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