Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

September 19, 2008

weekend creative : hand-drawn grids + repeated shapes


I like organized layouts.

I have done my fair share of a variety of different kinds of layouts (single photo, artsy, words + photos, etc), but truth be told hand-drawn grids (where the grid is drawn onto the background cardstock) are one of my most favorite ways to actually construct a page. Using a grid provides a home for all my elements: photos, words, embellishments, stamps, patterned papers, etc.

Something about working in this fashion always seems to encourage me to dig through my stash and find some of those long-lost embellishments I forgot I had purchased.

All supplies from Designer Digitals. Ali Edwards: Hand-Drawn Overlay Grid (available Sunday), Stacked Dates (available Sunday), Painterly Backgrounds No. 1, The Story Word Art, Everyday Twill; Katie Pertiet: Messy Stamped Alpha No.2, Botanist Notebook Vol.2, Clock Parts 2, Curled Journal Spots, Journaling Strip Masks, Lil Bit Tags; Pattie Knox:Absolutely Acrylic Elements; Jessie Edwards: Gloriously Paper; Andrea Victoria: Faux Bois-Woods, Pina Paper Pack; Lynn Grieveson: Flitter Kit


Layout created for a class Margie taught this past year. Click for larger image. Supplies: Cardstock: Bazzill; Pen: American Crafts; Everything Else: Making Memories – felt flowers, ribbon, stickers, patterned paper.

Here’s the process I go through to create a hand-drawn grid:

1. Punch out a bunch of squares with my Marvy Giga punch. Use all those squares to figure out how many I want on my layout. Most of the time I fill it up (16, 2×2 squares on a 12×12) but you could also do half a page or a single row of squares to create a smaller grid.

2. After punching I arrange them on the background cardstock and use a pen (American Crafts Precision Pens) to draw around them to create the hand-drawn boxes (use the punched pieces as templates).

3. Don’t worry if there are little pen mistakes in your grid – that is part of the “look” and the “charm” of this style of grid. If you want it perfect you could create a bunch of squares on your computer and print those out onto cardstock. The digital version of my 12×12 hand-drawn grid will be available from Designer Digitals on Sunday (could easily be printed onto an 8×8 for a smaller version).

4. Add elements. Not all places within the grid “homes” need to be filled with a bunch of stuff. Sometimes just a word sticker is enough – especially on antwo-page spread. I also like to have some elements breaking out of the grid shapes (such as the larger flower on page one of the two-page spread above).

A hand-drawn grid design such as those above would be a cool base for a holiday project…hmmm…need to put that on my list for this year (similar to this one I created a couple years ago).

You may also notice that I like to do a painted background underneath the hand-drawn grid. This is as simple as dumping some paint onto the cardstock and using your brush to create a sqaure that does not touch the edges of the paper. Let it dry before drawing in your grid.

One of the biggest ideas here is this: don’t reinvent the wheel design-wise each time you go to tell a story. I love grids. Hand-drawn. Computer generated. Punched. Etc. Basically any lined up repetition of shape. They are a great way for me to organize information + accents and they are a great starting point for just about any project.

Here’s a couple non-hand-drawn grid/repeated shape examples from the past:


Here’s one from 2005. The white on top of the green cardstock is an old transparency from Karen Russell’s Narratives line. Those metal rimmed circle tags continue to be a favorite today.

Grids don’t have to be hand-drawn. Grids do not have to be squares. Grab a glass from the kitchen and create a layout based on a bunch of circles or gather a bunch of chipboard circles and use those as your foundation. Think repetition of shape.


Above is my second-ever layout from back in 2002. Photos placed together to create a grid with “gutter” space in between each photo. This was before I had purchased any embellishments at all – words + photos and some vellum.

The examples from Three Things this week were also grids.

And one more I posted last weekend featuring a circle grid (good example of partial page grid):


All products from Designer Digitals: Ali Edwards: Layered Template #22, Circle Overlays + Frames, Family Hand Drawn Words; Katie Pertiet: Little Forest Friends, Krafty Ledger, Flossy Hearts; Patti Knox: Have A Heart, Absolutely Clear Acrylic Elements, Have A Heart Felt 3; Anna Victoria: Autmn Crush

And the cover page for my Week In The Life CKU album from 2007 (I have plans to do another version of this project sometime in the next month):


This one is really a bunch of square punched photos and patterned paper squares all gathered together in a nice grid format. Again, it’s not rocket science. It is punching things out and lining things up and finding a way you like to do things and repeating it for different stories.

Another way to think in terms of a grid? Use divided page protectors – they essentially provide you with homes for all your elements. You can read more about working with those here.

Today’s prompt is to create a layout (paper or digital or both) that incorporates a literal grid. Play around. Try creating a hand-drawn base or play around with aligning a bunch of the same shape on one or two pages.


[ weekend creative is a semi-regular feature appearing on Fridays : past projects can be located in the archives. ]


  • 1.
    Emily J. said…

    Some great layouts Ali!! I am definitely going to “lift” some of your pages featured. have a great weekend!

  • 2.
    Amy K in FL said…

    I think maybe this is what I need to do for our Europe trip…I have so many pictures I want to use, and if I just repeat this format for at least each city we visited, I’ll have a good start. Maybe it’ll help me finish my week in the life album from CKU too! Thanks for the reminder.
    Amy K in FL

  • 3.
    Amy said…

    great ideas Ali, can’t wait for the new DD products!

  • 4.
    Felecia said…

    What I love most about your style is that you get so much of a story on one page! Love this!

  • 5.
    jenny said…

    Loving this inspiration…..I was stuck on a page last nite..and this will be perfect. Great advice you gave…don’t reinvent the wheel – design wise!

  • 6.
    ms ellie said…

    Thank you for the inspiration! I love the simple style.

  • 7.
    Nicky Anderson said…

    Like it a lot – may try and get a few done this weekend around redoing Brody’s bedroom – we ordered him a bunk bed – he is so excited. Hence time to repaint, new flooring (take the old carpet out), new maps and pictures for the wall. I think I am more excited then him. Also, just got my Wacom tablet and Photoshop elements in the mail this week – time to play, try some of your templates and take a new look at combining digital and traditional. May be a good way to try a grid!!!! Have a great weekend!!
    Have you got your lockers painted and ready to go yet??

  • 8.
    Erin M said…

    Thanks for reminding us that we don’t need to “reinvent the wheel” every time we sit down to create. I often get stuck on the design and just waste too much time worrying about that, rather than just getting the memories onto paper.
    Thanks for the constant inspiration Ali!

  • 9.
    Mary Rogers said…

    oh my gosh! those baby pictures of simon – what a little chub he was! love this and I can’t wait for your new stuff to show up in the DD store…

  • 10.
    Ann-Marie said…

    So simple and yet so AWESOME!

  • 11.
    Laura T. said…

    Ali – Absolutely LOVE ALL of these layouts. I’ve never thought about hand-drawn grids. I think I may need to try this soon.

  • 12.
    noell said…

    I love your gridded layouts, Ali. It’s so good to see some new ones together with some of your older ones. It also fascinates me how early you found a concept you love (you gridded your second layout!).
    I have a layout I love, which I’ve repeated, that I base one what I call an “invisible grid.” The grid isn’t drawn and it’s not 100% filled up, but enough of the places are filled so that it implies a grid–our brains are able to fill in the missing spots and sort of feel the grid that isn’t all the way there.
    Here is a link to the layout:
    I have a video tutorial on how to do it, but it will be archived soon, perhaps this weekend. Here is the link while it’s still free:
    Have a great weekend!

  • 13.
    Nikki said…

    This grid style and your talent for pulling it off in such an artistic way is why I gravitated towards your work when I started scrapbooking!

  • 14.
    Johanna said…

    Thanks so much for this post! This one really “got” to me :) (I’ve tried to put down in words what it actually was, but somehow I didn’t get it straight – it has a lot to do with seeing your second-ever layout and your current work next to each other though and suddenly feeling flooded with hope, that I can do this, too!)

  • 15.
    Sara said…

    A couple of years ago when I found your blog I started doing a lot more grided layouts (thanks for letting us borrow your style!), and it’s totally changed the way I scrap. I do strictly digital, and love getting more photos on a page. I’m always amazed how I can use on template on so many pages and none of them look remotely the same because of embellishments. When I stopped reinventing the wheel I got so much more caught up and love that there is some consistency that pops up from time to time to pull the whole book together as well.
    Thanks for all the great tips… hope you’re feeling well!

  • 16.
    Kristin said…

    Thanks for so many ideas Ali – I love this style, i love order in my home and also in my scrapbooks!

  • 17.
    Christina said…

    Hee heee….baby Simon was soooo cute.

  • 18.
    noell said…

    Sara–what a great comment about having some consistency in the album. I have also found that duplicating templates doesn’t take away the variety–but there is still that underlying consistency that I hadn’t really considered that can pull the album together. You just gave me another reason to duplicate even more. =)

  • 19.
    Bonnie said…

    Hi Ali.
    Congratulations on baby #2 and I love seeing Simon just blossom! I want to thank you for sharing yourself — your mind, your eye, your art, your perspective. I have a doctorate in Org Behavior but consider myself — in all venues of my life to be a storyteller. I strive for pushing the creative exploratory edge in my teaching, research, photography, personal life…all of me! — and in merging the space between academia and life in its fullest. I have struggled to explain this since it usually results in categorizations that I reject and that don’t fit. I just can’t wear anything anymore that doesn’t fit. So instead I simply “do” and the more I lean (sometimes fall!) into this the more I emerge. I am now experimenting with breaking traditional research boundaries through art using photography, digital scrapping and other hybrid forms. It is exhilarating. I wanted to tell you how much you sustain me in this journey. You are unique in that you do push the limits beyond traditional notions of scrapping (and I respect traditional, radical and new forms yet to come) and I find myself resonating with how you gently nudge and push intellect into the scrapping world in new ways (not that its absent at all!). I teach in a business school in Cleveland and if you are ever inclined I would love to invite you to speak at our school. Management today is about breaking boundaries, expression of thought/idea and innovation — my working theory is that stories are the way through the chaos. Thank you for being a touchstone of clarity for me. You possess a beautiful, gentle genius. Blessings, Bonnie

  • 20.
    Kate said…

    I’m a grid girl too! I love the new stacked date you came up with.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  • 21.
    Laura said…

    i have really been using these grids with scrapbooking old photos I have…and it is so helpful. Thank you for your wonderful designs!

  • 22.
    Jessica Stoops said…

    Ali- I had been thinking about that square punch you rave about for awhile. Your post today pushed me to finally get and try some grid layouts. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • 23.
    Molly I said…

    Good stuff! These are just classic, timeless layouts. I love all of your work, Ali, but this look is the reason I was drawn to your books and your style in the first place. Hope you’re well.
    - Molly

  • 24.
    jennlui said…

    ooooohhh great inspiration! thanks ali! sometimes it’s the simplest things, like repeating squares, that make a light bulb light up!!! i’m running to my art journal right now!!! have a great weekend!!!

  • 25.
    Lisa said…

    This is a technique I learned from you at WITL/CKU/Nashville last year. I’ve used it many, many times since. It has become a favorite for me too. And I can’t tell you how many friends have bought the square giga punch after browsing through my layouts. You should have bought stock! As always, thanks for the many things you teach us, Ali.

  • 26.

    I love your simple style. I’ve definately been over thinking design and using a grid patter is so easy! I will think about this post next time I scrap! I love the simple and clean style of yours.

  • 27.
    Jen said…

    I’ve always liked your style. I like organized layouts too. I knew I was going to enjoy your post when I read that first statement!!! ;D Tee he! And so I also laughed as I was reading down through your post because I’ve been struggling with a creative slump and wondering what I need to do…I need to get back to what things I love…simple…clean lines…squares!!! ;D Here’s the post on my blog for today…ironic :D
    Thanks for another great, great post!
    Have an excellent weekend!!!!

  • 28.
    Rachel Dallaire said…

    Totally awesome! I was inspired by your post to create this:

  • 29.
    Andrea Ford said…

    Great grids Ali. Will give this a go for my next LO-I love chopping up photos so this will tie in so I can make them fit. I am also trying out scrapping the features of my son that are quite ‘autistic’ but they are jsut uniquely him and things I want to celebrate and acknowledge make him so special. Thanks for the inspiration again! xoxox

  • 30.
    henny Lee said…

    Thanks for being such an inspiration to me, Ali. May the Lord bless you with His perfect joy and peace.
    Love from Singapore!!!

  • 31.
    kristi said…

    loving these…completely miss looking at your scrappies.

  • 32.
    Catherine said…

    Love the cousins layout-very nice!

  • 33.
    O said…

    All your layouts are fantastic, Ali. Your style speaks to my creative soul. :) Here’s my take on this Weekend Creative:
    Simon was an adorable baby and has grown into such a wonderful little boy. :)
    Hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend!

  • 34.
    iHanna said…

    I love grids a lot too, yours are always inspiring!

  • 35.
    Elisa Bohm said…

    So I tried this and had so much fun. So many great ideas in one post. I was feeling a little stuck creatively and this challange was a great way to break through.
    I started with painting the cardstock. That’s something I’ve never done before and I love it!! Drawing the grids was so much easier than I thought and I turned out so nicely.
    The layout was about all the different houses we’ve lived in and the small squares were perfect because I don’t have great pics of those places. The finished product is wonderful. I love it. This is a technique I will use again and again.
    Thank you for teaching me something new.

  • 36.
    Laura said…

    Thank you for this week’s Weekend Creative.
    I was staring at four 4″x4″ photos last night and trying to figure out how to arrange them on my page. Your grid idea popped into my head and I am pleased with the results. Thank you for all your great ideas and congratulations on the baby.

  • 37.
    Jenny Bax said…

    Thanx Ali!
    You always get me fired up en wanting to create! So I handdrew my grids and just enjoyed creating.

  • 39.
    Bethany said…

    Thanks for the inspiration! I finally bought a 2″ square punch and created a page last night using punched squares on a grid. Love it!

  • 40.
    sue said…

    Love the hand drawn boxes. Your layouts always look so effortless and that is a sign of a true artist. Me? Not so much but I try.

  • 41.
    Michele said…

    Love the grid template and painterly backgrouds. Would you consider making them in 8.5 x 11 as well??

  • 42.
    Loren said…

    Thanks for inspiring us this weekend Ali! I passed on the challenge to 2 other friends and we loved the painting and grids. Turned out some great layouts that we’re so happy with and they were so easy. Thanks!

  • 43.
    ChanelD said…

    I did it! Loved the results.

  • 44.
    Elizabeth said…

    Hi Ali,
    I was inspired a few months back by your Summer 2007 – Antique Fair Layout when you posted it on your blog, that it gave me an idea of what to do with all my “366 Photo a Day” photos I have been doing this year.
    Each day I take a photo of an everyday thing we are doing and by the end of the month have a great collection of our everyday lives.
    I used your grid system for my January layout.
    I love how it turned out – SO THANK YOU FOR THE INSPIRATION :)

  • 45.
    Renee A. said…

    that was such a fun class at CKU-Anaheim last year Ali. I want to do it again!

  • 46.
    Marjorie said…

    I have longed to do a grid layout for awhile now and was inspired again when you posted all the info in one place last week. So I finally made one and really love it. It’s located here:
    Thanks for your blog and all the info you give out. It is terrific.

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