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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Digital Scrapbooking on the Cheap 3a: Free Digital Scrapbooking Materials

The Internet is jam-packed with digital scrapbooking freebies. This is one of the areas in which you truly don't have to spend a dime if you don't want to. If you know where to look, you can build a beautiful digital scrapbooking collection for no cost at all. First, though, you need to understand how and when people give away free scrapbooking stuff on the Internet. Tomorrow I'll give you several links to great digital scrapbooking freebies, but today's post focuses on teaching you to find and download great scrapbooking freebies on your own in the future.

Most freebies come from designers who post free items on their blogs in order to increase their readership or interest people in the products they sell. You can get leads on these great freebies by visiting the following two blogs:

Digital Scrapbooking Freebie Guides

Scrapping with Ikea Goddess.

Ikea Goddess is not a designer, but almost every night she scours the Internet for free digital scrapbooking materials and posts the ones she likes the best on her blog.

Strengths:
  • Because she's a real human, she can cull through all the freebies and only post those that are really good.
  • She doesn't make a mistake and post that something is free when it's not, or post that the wrong item is free.
Weaknesses:
  • Because she's a human, she sometimes takes a day or two off, leaving us starving for freebies. *Whimper*
  • She's not comprehensive, and she only posts the things that she thinks are cute. If there's something out there that you would have liked but she didn't like it, you won't get a lead on it from her blog.

DigiFree Blog

This blog is written by an automated program that scans several hundred sites for cues like "free," "freebie," and "download," which usually indicate that the blog contains a digital scrapbooking freebie. It automatically catalogs and links to these post.

Strengths:
  • Because it's a program, it never takes a day off and you can get your freebie fix daily.
  • It's comprehensive. You'll see almost all freebies on there.
Weaknesses:
  • It's not selective. Rather than culling through the best, it just indexes them all. You have to find the best ones for yourself. Digifree does have a star rating system, but those ratings do not indicate the quality of the available freebie; they merely indicate the popularity of the blog based on a variety of variables which often have nothing to do with the quality of the blog's freebies
  • Sometimes it gets it wrong. The heuristic works most of the time, but sometimes it finds a freebie cue where there actually is no freebie, or pulls the wrong item as a freebie.

Get More Freebies by Knowing How and Why Designers Post Freebies

Once you've started following these blogs for freebie leads, you need to understand the contexts in which designers give away freebies so that you know how to best track those leads to even more freebies.

Context 1: A designer posts one section of a freebie kit each day in order to encourage you to revisit or subscribe to their blog. They generally post the papers first, the elements second, alphas third, and any quick pages last.

Current Example: Spring Bouquet by Numb Bumm (She's actually posting the elements first, so don't get confused by that.)

How to follow up:
  1. Look for tag or category labels at the bottom of the post or on the blog's sidebar. (Not all blogs have these, but many do.) Clicking one of these tags or labels will automatically pull up any other post with the same label, enabling you to find other freebies from that kit or theme. For instance, if I find a post that has elements from a kit labeled "Freedom Fire," then clicking the tag or category labeled "Freedom Fire" would pull up all the other posts in which the blogger had shared papers, elements, or alphas from the "Freedom Fire" kit. I could then download those items as well.
  2. If the blog doesn't use tags or categories, you can still do a search on the blog to find any post containing that kit's name. These posts will likely contain additional downloads from that kit.
  3. Look through recent posts for other still-active freebies, either by scrolling through the blog or clicking the tag or category for "freebies" or "free."
  4. Subscribe to the blog or bookmark it for future visits. If a blogger is giving away a freebie, they likely give them away on a regular basis. If you like the blogger's work, they're worth keeping tabs on. (If you plan to track more than three or four blogs, subscribing in a feed reader like Bloglines or Google reader is by far the most efficient way to do this.)

Context 2: Two designers collaborate to make a kit (a collab) with the same theme and color scheme. They follow the usual pattern of posting papers first, followed by the elments and alpha, but they each create their own portion of the overall kit.

Current Example: Stars and Stripes. (Remember that this link is to just one of the collaborators on this kit. Be sure to follow her links to the other collaborator's downloads.)

How to follow up:
  1. On the blog of the collab partner you first discover, follow steps one through three above.
  2. Go to the design partner's blog (the first post you find will have a link to the other designer's blog) and collect the other designer's half of the free kit.

Context 3: A blogger posts a quick page, alphabet, or mini-kit add-on to a kit that they or one of their creative team members is selling. This is like a free sample that grocery stores give away in order to get you to buy the full-sized product. Since these things are often small and don't contain a lot of elements, I usually only download them if the product is insanely cute or I see an element that I think I can use with a lot of my other kits.

Current Example: Good-bye Yellow Brick Road Add-On (Scroll to bottom of post to see it.)

How to follow up:
1. If they've used the name of the kit as a tag or a category label, click on it to see if they've given away any other freebies designed around that kit.
2. Often, several creative team members will each create a quick page based on one of the member's for-sale kits. If this is the case, each blogger will mention the other bloggers' give aways in their post. Skim for such mentions and follow the links to download additional add-ons, alphas, or quick pages.

Context 4: Several designers participate in a blog train, wherein each designer creates a few elements revolving around an agreed-upon theme, event, or color scheme. On their own, each blogger offers a small selection but combined they make a massive kit.

Current Example: Those Summer Nights Blog Train

How to follow up:
1. Each post in the train will contain a link to the next blog in the train and possibly a link to the blog train home, which lists all the other participating blogs. Follow these links to collect the entire train.
2. As you travel the train, watch for designers whose work you particularly like, and subscribe to the blog or bookmark it to return to and hunt for more freebies later.

Context 5: A blogger posts a kit (usually a mini kit) in response to a forum-sponsored challenge or contest. There are color challenges, holiday challenges, and design-offs in which dozens of designers compete for spots on a design team. Some of these challenges and contests are simply for designers to stretch themselves or earn a participation award. Others are seriously competitive and designers pull out all the stops to create some insanely beautiful kits.

Current Example: Kim B's June Color Challenge (Instead of taking you to a blog, this link will take you to a forum where dozens of designers have posted links to their blogs, on which their color-coordinated downloads can be found. You may need to register to see the posts, but registering is well worth it since this challenge is ongoing and you'll be able to collect a massive kit every month from it.)

How to follow up:
1. If you stumble on a post that mentions that the kit is being given away as part of a challenge or contest, go to the source of the challenge. It's nice if the blogger has linked to the challenge, but if they haven't simply google the name of the challenge and the forum to find it. You may need to register to view the forum, but once there you'll find the challenge thread, which contains links to dozens of other kits or giveaways revolving around the same theme or color scheme. Like trains, these challenges and contests are opportunities to accumulate some extremely large, gorgeous, and varied kits. For free!
2. As usual, make sure you subscribe to or bookmark any bloggers whose work you particularly love.
3. It's always good etiquette to thank a designer for a giveaway, but it's particularly important for contests. Sometimes the judging is based partially on the comments and ratings left by forum members.

You should now be well-equipped to begin tracking down your own favorite designers and freebies. The next post will include a lot of links to permanently-available scrapbooking downloads that should have you burning up your bandwidth for a couple of days. To use a metaphor you're all familiar with, now that I've taught you how to fish, tomorrow I'll give you some fish to keep you fed while you're learning to plunge the digiscrap downloads depths.


If you're interested in other aspects of frugal digital scrapbooking, you can read the entire series.

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