Hybrid/Digital Scrapbooking : Brushes


One of the things I have loved since digital scrapbooking products began becoming available are brushes.

Brushes are essentially stamps.

I think of them like stamps when I am adding them to photos, cardstock (usually journaling bases stamps) or to digital layouts. Many digital brushes available online are also sold as stamps through scrapbook retailers for those of you not interested in venturing into the hybrid/digital arena.

Date stamps have always been a favorite. Here are a couple I love designed by Katie Pertiet:

Dated Journaling Brushes-n-Stamps


And here's the Autumn Leaves stamp version:


Digital Date Stamps Volume 3 - I think these were one of the first ones I purchased:


Brushes come in all shapes and sizes. There are lots of florals + natural stuff like these butterflies:


and cool photo edges + frames (place on your photo before printing):


and handwritten brushes such as this Everyday set I designed:


One of the things you may notice is that I am more of a single item purchaser rather than looking for big kits. Digital kits come in all colors of the rainbows in more themes and styles than you could ever imagine. They come with a variety of elements all packaged together: papers, accents, embellishments, frames, etc. Since I am doing more hybrid projects rather than full digital layouts (more on those later this week) I find that picking up a couple things I am likely to use over and over again on my paper projects works just fine for me.

Just like so many other creative/crafty things, buying the products can become the "main" part of what you do with the hobby rather than actually creating anything. Before you go on a major buying spree think about the things you will really be using. For me I know that things related to date + time tend to be things I use more than something seasonally theme-based. Know yourself, but don't be afraid to go outside your comfort zone once in awhile too.

Working with Brushes:

Brushes are super easy to load and to use.

Download a set from a digital retailer. Brushes come bundled in a file with the extension .ABR (and many come with the .PNG files as well). The .ABR file is the one you want choose after you select Load Brushes:


If you want to always have access to those brushes when you open your brush palette then you will want to click "Save Brushes" before closing your project. Most of the time I just load them when I need them rather than having to scroll through way too many brush options (the ones that I use most often are saved in the brushes palette for easy access).

One of the key tips when working with brushes is to always create a new layer for each brush you use. Layers are your friend. Separating the layers allows you to make changes (I mess up all the time) without having to re-work the entire thing.

Here's that same photo of my new niece Lucy as you saw at the beginning of the post:


There are three digital elements on this photo: (1) capture life brush, (2) baby title + journal blocks (most of the brush is off the page, I ended up just using the bottom portion on this photo), and (3) and the dated journaling brushes-n-stamps.

Brushes can be any color you like. I tend to go with black or white or another color from my photo. To re-color a brush simply select the layer and go to Edit/Fill and then choose your color, select "preserve transparency" and hit ok.

To resize a brush I hit command T (this is on a mac...not sure what that "transform" shortcut is on a pc), select one of the corners and adjust it while holding down the shift key. Holding down the shift key is important to maintain the correct proportion of the brush (if you don't hold down the shift key things will look squished or spread out).

As you can tell from my samples over the last couple of days, words + photos are still my thing. Working with these digital elements, as well as simply adding text to a photo, are just another way for me to get our stories told.


For more information on hybrid and digital check out Getting Started With Digital Scrapbooking.

34 thoughts

  1. Sharon F.

    2008-07-09 03:08:02 -0400

    lucy is precious and I love the brushes and how you use them.
    So here is a question for you. How is an overlay different than a brush?
    Does the overlay (like a transparency) go over the entire photo and a brush (like a stamp) just in a particular space?
    thanks for sharing all this. Its so intriguing and inspiring. Just dipping my toe in the digital arena. Lots of good stuff.

  2. Shelly Kettell

    2008-07-09 03:26:07 -0400

    So inspiring! Love the digital world...just haven't traveled there yet! Need some time, but I've definately got my inspiration!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Lucy is so precious...miss that time!

  3. Hillary Chybinski

    2008-07-09 03:30:09 -0400

    Ali - this was terrific!! It seems so simple. . .now all i have to do is get hubby to load photoshop on my mac!

  4. alecia angell

    2008-07-09 03:37:12 -0400

    She is adorable! In other pics I have seen, I didn't really notice her looking like anybody--I am not one to usually look for those things--but in this picture it was like a punch to the gut! Boy does she look like John.

  5. Ali

    2008-07-09 03:55:23 -0400

    Sharon - they are really similar (a brush + an overlay). In fact sometimes they are both. For my purposes I am thinking of an overlay more like a transparency and a brush more like a stamp. When buying you just want to look for the .ABR extension for brushes (my photo overlays come with that as well)...

  6. terri

    2008-07-09 04:03:11 -0400

    Thankyou...thankyou...and oh THANKYOU!!!I've been wanting to try digital scrapbooking but everytime I have something goes wrong and I'm sitting at the computer for hours trying to figure it out and then i just give up....i will be printing out your steps thanks Ali you are the best!

  7. Michelle P.

    2008-07-09 05:07:04 -0400

    Where do you find stamps that are similar to brushes? Any online stores? Do you have any plans to create stamps out of your digital elements? I'd love to see that come to pass. Thank you for all of your insights and sharing your passion with all of us.
    Michelle P. from Spokane, WA

  8. Angi Smith

    2008-07-09 05:13:54 -0400

    I am really enjoying this series, Ali. You are being informative for those who know little about digital scrapping, yet look to you for inspiration. Your info is solid without being condescending and, as you say, it remains all about story+photos as you include the computer.

  9. Catherine

    2008-07-09 06:30:42 -0400

    Hi Ali-
    I'm loving your blog. I'm a designer, but not a scrapbooker and your posts have so many great ideas. You may be converting me.
    Thanks! Catherine

  10. michelle

    2008-07-09 06:34:14 -0400

    thanks for the inspiration, as always.

  11. Rhonda Markham

    2008-07-09 07:53:23 -0400

    You've done it now, missy. I've been hanging tough, fingers curled, knuckles white to keep it "real" with traditional scrapping. I've so far resisted any foray into the digi world because of my chest tightening up at the thought of tackling that big ol' bear. I've been a scaredy cat. Thanks for sharing your info on brushes and sweet Lucy with us. I might just have to let go and face that bear. I think I can, I think I can...

  12. Heather Johnson

    2008-07-09 08:16:59 -0400

    i have officially transitioned into the digital world, and you where one of the people that convinced me to do it! i gobbled up all of your products at designerdigitals....and I am happy to say that I have already produced ten pages. TEN. I have a room, and I mean a ROOM full of paper supplies--and I haven't completed more than 3 or 4 pages in the last two years.
    thanks for the great products and keep them comin'! i am eternally grateful that i am finally telling my stories, and enjoying it!

  13. jenny

    2008-07-09 09:58:42 -0400

    Basic question- do you need to have photo shop to use brushes? or can you download and use in other programs? Thanks! You are always inspiring.

  14. Joan

    2008-07-09 10:09:07 -0400

    Ali, I have not tried digital scrapbooking yet, but want to. I am going to buy a new Mac soon.
    You continue to be a favorite artist of mine. I just love what you do!!
    Thanks for all the inspiration, Joan

  15. amber belmonte

    2008-07-09 10:40:18 -0400

    hey ali.
    thought you might like this... http://wordle.net/ [have you already seen it?] your work is so inspiring! love love love!

  16. Deanna

    2008-07-09 11:08:18 -0400

    I rec'd a Wacom tablet from my husband last year and I have been dying to use it! THANK YOU for explaining things in a simple, easy to follow way.
    Any chance you will be saving your hybrid/digital instructions as a .pdf?
    Thanks again!

  17. diane

    2008-07-09 12:20:38 -0400

    Can't thank you enough for sharing your knowledge and talents with us! I have just bought a new mac and the latest PE6...happy days now!
    Thanks Ali
    Diane in Australia

  18. Melissa

    2008-07-09 12:54:06 -0400

    I don't have Photoshop...can i still download the templates?

  19. Wendy

    2008-07-09 16:58:08 -0400

    Love your ideas! So inspiring. I have purchased the 2 sets of photo overlays and am attempting my first photo. I am able to open the overlay in PSE. It is grey checkered as you indicated, however when I drag it over my photo, it turns opaque and I cannot see the photo underneath. I have tried everything I know to change it back to transparent, but no success. I am fairly new to PSE so my knowledge is limited. What am I doing wrong?

  20. Lara

    2008-07-09 17:55:38 -0400

    I bought your Road Trip brushes for my first digital scrapbook and LOVED them. Thanks for the cool tips, tricks and tools!

  21. Ali

    2008-07-10 04:03:50 -0400

    Hi Wendy - try it this way:
    open your photo
    open the overlay
    select > all
    edit > copy
    and then go back to the photo
    edit > paste

  22. Anne Alley

    2008-07-10 06:12:19 -0400

    I've had my Wacom tablet since December, and have barely touched it since. Thanks for the instructions, they are making hybrid/digital world a lot less daunting!

  23. Asha

    2008-07-11 00:51:12 -0400

    That baby is so darn cute!!! I'm looking for something on your site and I keep passing her picture and I had to finally say something!

  24. Stephanie

    2008-07-11 04:43:33 -0400

    Hey Ali!
    Just wanted to let you know that I love your transparency overlays. I just used them to create a book journal and I love the results!
    I can see myself using these often.

  25. Ayana Posadas

    2010-02-26 06:17:30 -0500

    This was very helpful.
    Thank you! :)

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