Scrapbooking was a casualty of my pregnancy (belly too full of twins to do much of anything) and then of motherhood (free time, anyone?). My cropping cabinet has sat safely baby-proofed for three years. These days I consider myself at the top of my game when I manage to snap new photos and post them on Facebook and Flickr for my friends and family to see.
I figured my scrapbooking days were gone until the kids head off to school, when the coast -- and my calendar -- will be clear for diving back into my hobby. Then I discovered the wide, wonderfully hip world of digital scrapbooking.
Sure, digital scrapbooking isn't quite the same. I miss the tactile nature of the traditional version: the papers, ribbons, doodads. But buying supplies is pricey, and creating those layouts is time-consuming. On the flip side, digital scrapbooking is easy, fast and cheap -- all words that time- and sleep-deprived moms want to hear. There's also the added perk of having nothing to clean up.
The online version of this popular hobby (25 million Americans consider themselves scrapbookers) is far more chic than it is shabby. The results are so spectacular you'll want to show them off on your Facebook page and order custom books and cards. Because really, doesn't grandma deserve better than an email with a link to your Flickr page?
Following are some of our favorite scrapbooking Websites. None has a steep learning curve, and all cost little (or nothing) to get started.
Cream of the Crop
Why it rocks This is the closest to traditional scrapbooking you'll find online. The site's extensive catalog of stickers, backgrounds and other embellishments remind me of shopping at a scrapbook store.
What it costs Starting an account is free, and there's plenty available at no cost to build and share fun layouts. But you can buy "credits" with your credit card to purchase premade themed layouts (about $5 each) and embellishments (from less than $1).
How do I print? Click the "Order prints" button and choose from hardcover or softcover books (starting at $10) as well as greeting cards and postcards (starting at $1.50 each). You can print at home for $4 a page.
Can I share my work? From the Scrapblog builder, you can easily share your creations through email, your blog or social networks. Scrapblog also creates a special Web page just for your creations.
Bonus feature Scrapblog can access photos you have posted on Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook and other Web sites, so you don't have to upload them twice.
Built for Moms
Why it rocks The site's premade layouts and the "kits" of embellishments, letters and papers to create your own designs are among the best around -- and you don't have to spend hours sorting through all the offerings.
What it Costs It's free to join and build as many layouts as you want.
How do I print? Printing actually involves buying a high-resolution JPEG-format image. One page costs $2; you also can bundle "credits" to print more and save money. Once you have your JPEG file you can print at home or upload it to a retail Website that can print larger scrapbook pages and hardcover books, such as Shutterfly.com.
Can I share my work? With the click of a button, you can email your pages to your mom, your sister, your best friend, etc.
Bonus feature CropMom lets you choose from four different layout sizes ranging from traditional 12-inch-by-12-inch and 8-inch-by-8-inch pages to 8-inch-by-10-inch pages ready to fit a standard photo frame.
So Simple You'll Smile
Why it rocks Moms new to scrapbooking or simply short on time will find the premade layouts a breeze to use. Choose your theme for your scrapbook (family, vacation, holidays), upload your photos and drop them into the photo squares. Personalize the text where indicated. In just a few minutes, you'll have a multipage scrapbook.
What it costs Starting your account and building your scrapbooks is free. A subscription is $6 a month or $40 a year and will buy you unlimited premium designs and unlimited DVD burns.
How do I print? First you have to "own" the premium design, and without a subscription each printing costs $4; you pick up prints at Walmart or Sam's Club. Subscribers can print at home or for pickup at Walmart or Sam's Club.
Can I share my work? You can email or post your scrapbook slideshow to Facebook or on your blog for free, but it'll come with ads, and it can't be printed at home. Subscribers don't have to deal with the ads and have access to additional features.
Bonus feature You can burn your scrapbook to a DVD and save your pages as JPEG photo images to display in a digital picture frame. You can even add music from your computer to your slideshow. If you're a Mac user, Smilebox can grab photos from your iPhoto library.