Project Life - "How To"

A few of my good friends are about to start the Baby Edition of Project Life, and I've had a lot of questions as to what to buy, what they need, how many they need, and basically, what to do.

Becky posts a lot about this on her blog (check out her getting started page here or her latest Advice for Project Life Newbies post here) and there are lots of others who have a really good overview of Project Life out there, so this isn't really "new" information, but for my friends who only follow me, here you go! :)

Project Life is meant to be a simple way of scrapbooking your life, your memories, your history. Whether you use it as a heritage album, a baby book, or in the week by week approach, all you need to do is slip in your photos, the journaling cards in a core kit, and add your journaling. Done.

For any album, the simplest approach is:
  • A binder
  • A big pack of Design A page protectors
  • A core kit
  • Your photo
  • A pen
To elaborate a bit more:

I use two binders per calendar year, because I find I include a lot of extra inserts (for extra photos). If you are doing the Baby Edition, one binder should suffice (unless you are crazy and take so many photos you want to include of the baby's first year - then get two). Right now, the White Signature Binder is on clearance on Amazon.

I strongly suggest sticking with Design A, and not a variety pack, if you want to do this in the simplest form. I tried alternating Design A and B last year and it was far too difficult for me to match up the opposite side of the page. Plus, I like consistency. The Baby Editions do come printed double sided, in both orientations though, so if you do want to change things up, they'll work in either direction.

For inserts, my favorites are designs G and H. I like G because it allows for vertical pictures. C is a great option for adding in extra photos without any journaling.

Get a core kit if you want to keep it simple. It has everything you need to fill those pockets so you don't have to think about patterned paper or what to do with an empty pocket. Note: you absolutely can purchase a digital core kit and print the elements you like. But you'll want a printer, and a paper trimmer, and a corner rounder to do so. The files come in PNG format, and the newest releases on AC Digitals come with printable PDFs too. I have purchased the digital Baby Edition For Him and I print these myself.

Take & print photos 4x6 horizontally. You can fit two 3x4 vertical orientation photos on a 4x6 print though. If you have a photo editing program (such as Photoshop Elements) that lets you merge two photos onto one canvas, you can use those in the smaller pockets. Ali Edwards has a fantastic tutorial for this.

I alternate between printing my photos at home, ordering through Shutterfly when they have a free prints special, and printing at Walgreens or CVS. I have had some customer service issues at Walgreens, and CVS has a $1.50 charge for orders under $5, so I don't print my weekly photos there, only batch photos. At home, I use an Epson Workforce 630. Not a fancy printer, but it prints beautifully, with the right settings. I have to remember that on my Mac, I have to turn off any color correction. I like Epson 4x6 photo paper the best. (I've tried several brands - Staples, Kodak, and the stuff from KMart and DollarTree, and Epson is by far better).

If you'd like to round the corners of your photos, I use this Marvy corner rounder. A great alternative is this X-Acto corner rounder. Becky has said on her Facebook page that there IS a 3x4 punch in the works. I'd imagine this will be released in the American Crafts line in the spring but don't quote me on that, it's just a guess. I myself am a bit iffy on the idea of a 3x4 punch. Punches are heavy and I find can mangle photographs, so I'd be hesitant to recommend a 3x4 punch on photos, but it sounds like a great idea for card stock or patterned paper. I really prefer using a paper trimmer and a corner punch on photographs.

I love Sharpie pens for journaling. They come in a bunch of colors and they write beautifully. There's a smaller pack here, and a larger one (the one I have) here.

If you're doing a Baby Edition album, I suggest pulling out all the cards, separating the prompt cards, organizing them by the month you want to use them, and slip those into the pockets in your album. Save any of the journaling cards without prompts to use as you go. Choose your photos for each month and add those. Then add your journaling. Do this and you have a finished album. You can opt later to add extra embellishments, stickers, etc.

For a week by week approach, here are a few tips that I've found helpful:

I like to plan out my layout - right now I'm using these free templates from Marcy Penner.  I have finally come up with a design for my 2013 planner that will include a version of this template, when I have this I'll release it on the blog for anyone who wishes to use it. These templates are great so you can jot down which photo you want to use where, and there's even room for journaling if you use it throughout the week.

I like to use OhLife to record daily journaling. This is a free site - there's a locked journal just for you online, and it sends you an email every day at the time you choose. It asks you how your day went, and you simply reply to the email. Then you can go back into the site and view your entries. It's a great daily reminder. You can even attach a photo.

I've done my spreads several ways throughout the year, and the easiest has been printing the photos first, slipping them into the pockets, then adding the journaling cards. I add "extras" last, if any. If I tried to do one pocket at a time, it took way too long to complete the layout. Doing this has cut my time by more than half. Here's a simple layout I've done quickly using the Clementine Edition:

If you don't take enough photos in a given week, don't stress. Use the longer journaling cards to fill up the week, or just make one page for that week instead of two. I've done two weeks in a spread a few times this year. Stuck on what to photograph? Check this blog for some amazing photo ideas.

Finally, there's been a ton of information released lately on Becky's blog and Facebook page, but if you don't want to weed through it all, some highlights:

Becky has joined up with American Crafts, and in the spring, they'll be releasing Project Life products in local stores. I'd imagine Michaels would carry them. It appears they will be all new products, and that the current core kits (Cherry, Turquoise, Amber, Clementine, and Cobalt) will most likely be retired when they sell out on Amazon. So if you like these, and don't have one, go get it now. Your only option when it sells out is to go digital (which you can print at home). The same goes for any of the matching binders, and the White Signature Binder. 

Speaking of using the digital versions - you can use them in several programs, PSE being one of them. If you make a layout, you can upload this to Shutterfly as an image and use it as the background photo on a page with no other elements or photo boxes to print it. Or, Persnickety Prints also prints 12x12 sheets that you can put into a 12x12 page protector in a binder. There are also two current versions of Project Life on Shutterfly's photo books, with Olive on the way, along with two of the Childhood kits, according to Becky's Facebook page. These work like any of the Shutterfly photo books - add in your photos to the layouts, change up your embellishments, add stickers, you know the drill.

There are two new editions coming out later this month - Seafoam and Olive. They will have coordinating binders, too. There are three Childhood Mini Kits coming out this month as well, and adorable mini albums (which I have an amazing plan for). These mini albums would go great with those Childhood kits.

Becky has also teamed up with Studio Calico for a monthly subscription Project Life kit. It's definitely more expensive than the core kits, and is really geared toward the creative crowd, who want to take their albums a little further. I've signed up, so if you watch my blog, you'll get to see what these kits look like and how I'm going to use them.

And of course, don't forget about the newly released Baby Editions - For Him, For Her, and a Neutral themed album. None of them actually mention a gender, the difference is in the colors and patterns. There are no coordinating binders for these, but check out Becky's post for some recommendations, or go get that White Signature Binder while it's still available.

Any other questions about my process or products I use, please feel free to ask in the comments. Becky and her team also answer many questions on their Facebook page.


  1. This is SO ridiculously helpful, thank you. :) Bookmarked and saved for future reference! I appreciate you putting the time in, as it was getting a bit overwhelming, all the options. I'm looking forward to start once I get my core kit!!


  2. Great post Melissa, you covered a lot :-) it will definitely help newbies.

  3. Thanks so much!! Would love to hear your ideas for the mini albums!! JEssica