Welcome to Day Two of a one-week series on the basics of scrapbooking with your computer. If you are just joining in today you can check out the previous posts here.
Below you will find a link for a small free element for you to download, unzip, and use. I will be incorporating it into the topics that will be addressed later this week - it's meant to give you a chance to actually practice going through the steps. If this is your first time downloading an element you may want to read the information below before clicking on the link.
Today we are diving in and addressing the topics of downloading, unzipping, and organizing digital elements. As with many things in life, there are a variety of different ways all of these things can be done - many different approaches that end up at the same final destination.
Let's take a look at my process for getting these digital elements into my computer.
After you have made a purchase from an online scrapbook site, or located a free element, the next step in the process is downloading the package to your computer. Most sites give you immediate access to your files. Check with the store you are purchasing from for specific details on how you retrieve your purchased files.
Depending on what browser you are using (such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) when you click the link to download you will be asked what you want your computer to do with the file. Initially I save all my downloaded files to my desktop - I like seeing them there before I move them to their permanent home.
You can designate where your downloaded files are saved to in the Preferences window of your web browser. See the window for Firefox below:
To unzip or "expand" downloaded files you need an unzip program. If you try to open the zipped file in Photoshop or Elements it will not work. It is likely that you may already have a program to unzip files on your computer. The program I use is called Stuffit Deluxe which allows me to both "zip" and "unzip" files. Unless you need the ability to zip files I suggest their free program: Stuffit Expander. Here's a list of more free unzip programs.
When you unzip the file (to do this I double click on that file) you should see a folder appear in the same location with the same name minus the .zip extension.
Inside that folder you will find something like this (click the image to view it larger):
NOTE : If by chance you end up with any files beginning with an underscore (looks like this "_") you can delete those files. For some reason when I zip files here on my Mac and they are opened on a PC they end up with these extra random files. If you purchase any of my products from Designer Digitals this will not be an issue as they are re-zipped before being added to the store.
The folder you are downloading today includes:
1. A preview file that let's you know what's inside the package you have downloaded. Sometimes this preview includes all the elements and sometimes it only shows some of the elements (meaning you will need to look inside the folder to see all the elements that are included). These previews are generally the same previews you see in the shopping section at online stores.
4. Some products include an .abr file which is to be loaded into your brush palette in Photoshop or Elements (more about importing that tomorrow).
After I have unzipped the file and see the folder on my desktop I put the .zip file in the trash. Many people save all their zipped files or burn them to a DVD or store them on an external hard drive (which is smart if something happens to your main hard drive or the drive in which you are storing all your elements). I regularly back up my collection of elements to a second drive.
That's the basics of downloading and unzipping. Depending on what programs and operating systems you have on your computer things will likely look a little different.
ORGANIZING & STORAGE
There are lots of different ways you can go about organizing and storing your digital elements. What you choose will likely depend on a number of factors including hard drive space, time, interest, level of organization, number of products, amount of digital scrapbooking you plan to do, etc.
From reading a bit about this online I have found that people use a variety of different programs to organize their digital elements including ACDSee, iPhoto, Adobe Bridge, Picasa, and Shoebox. I believe the key in all those systems is tagging the products to make searching easier. This is a very informative thread on organizing your elements at Designer Digitals (it is a bit advanced if you don't have any experience...but reading is how we learn). JessicaSprague.com offers downloadable, self-paced organizing classes for ACDsee and Picasa.
To be honest, I have not tried any of those programs for organizing my digital scrapbooking supplies.
Rather than use a specific program, after I download and unzip I choose to store my digital elements (both the ones I create and the ones I download) in category folders on an external hard drive: LaCie d2 Quadra Hard Disk 1 TB. This drive is backed up to a second drive just in case.
This simple organization has been a really good system for me. I think part of the reason for this is that I don't have an overwhelming amount of supplies and I tend to know what I like and am fairly particular about what I download. Just as with my paper supplies, I have found that less is more in terms of getting the story told.
Here's a look at how I organize my category folders (click the image to view it larger):
Embellishments (includes subfolders: Butterflies, Circles, Clocks/Time, Dates, Element Combination Packs, Hearts, Metals (no words), Ribbons/Strips, Stars, Tags, Words)
Photo or Frame Clusters
These categories were created after I had started collecting supplies. From what I was using most I began making the folders and organizing products within each one. I have made adjustments here and there and combined or expanded folders based on my work flow.
As I was working on this post yesterday I made a few changes to my structure. One of the big changes was eliminating the Full Kit category. Instead of storing Full Kits (packages with a bunch of coordinating elements) together I went ahead and separated the contents out into other folders: mainly Papers_Patterns and Element Combination Packs (within the Embellishments folder). The reason I did this is that I have found that I rarely use a bunch of elements from one kit on the same layout. I am more of a mix-it-up embellishment user. I find that I like to take one thing from this package and one thing from another package and add them together.
The important point here is that your organization should match the way in which you work with the products. The other important point is to be flexible and ok to change things up when you find that they aren't working as well for you as you had hoped.
Here's a look at the sub-categories inside my Embellishments folder (click the image to view it larger):
Later this week I will address the way in which I go about selecting which supplies to use. I usually have a general idea of what I am looking for - such as a heart shape - and am able to go right into the Hearts sub-folder and select one.
As someone who does traditional, hybrid, and digital I find this method of organization to work really well.
I'd love to hear about how you organize your digital supplies. What works best for you? What have you tried that didn't work so great and what changes did you make?
WEDNESDAY : Working With Hybrid Elements (what I use the most and why)
Tomorrow we will take a look at using digital elements on traditional layouts. I will walk you through my process and talk more about the different products that tend to work best for hybrid scrapbooking.