Jigsaw Puzzles In a Book

Pictures of three jigsaw puzzles that were painted with glue to save.

We all know photocrafting is good for scrapbooks — lots of family memories, pictures of weddings, baby books. How about a scrapbook of jigsaw puzzles? My friend, Anita, has a long family tradition of doing a jigsaw puzzle together at Christmastime. The puzzles represent happy family times so they kept them. Now, many years later, they have a collection of jigsaw puzzles that has outgrown their walls and storage spaces. What to do? Photocrafting, of course!

Anita has provide the blog post for us this month. Thanks, Anita!

Anita says…

The pictures shows one wall on which some of the jigsaw puzzles are displayed for the Christmas holidays.
Puzzles displayed at holiday time.

My goal was to memorialize the Christmas jigsaw puzzle collection that we displayed every Christmas. My husband had begun the jigsaw puzzle tradition with our two children in 1984. I used puzzle-saver or Mod Podge glue to paint the faces of the puzzles so they could be hung as pictures during the holidays. But 36+ years later, storing them is a burden and it is time to let them go. A special book will allow us to hang on to the memories.

Shutterfly had been my go-to for creating photo books and greeting cards for years. In January 2021, they decided to upgrade and introduced a Beta version which I found completely unsatisfactory. Controls or tools I was familiar with were missing or simply did not work. Unfortunately, I was locked into using their Beta and not able to access the former Classic version of Shutterfly. After several attempts to create a photo album, I vented my frustration with a friend who recommended I try Picaboo. She suggested that the quality of their product was very similar to Shutterfly and maybe, best of all, Groupon offers coupons with significant savings.

Picaboo had great 5 minute videos for introducing and using its tools. So I started over on my project using Picaboo instead of Shutterfly! First I photographed and edited each of the 36 puzzles using FastStone. Each image was renamed with the proper year before importing them all into Picaboo. My plan was to use only one photo per page to make the details easier to enjoy. When imported to my computer, the photos easily fell into the photo tray in chronological order. I chose one-photo layouts as I worked through the book. As recommended by Picaboo, I waited to design the front and back covers until the end.

A picture of the Picaboo screen with controls.
The interface was very clean with images easily accessible in the tray, controls visible on the layout, and tools available on the left.

I wanted a square album but, because all the pictures were rectangular (landscape or vertical), my attempts to place images on the page were challenging.

A jigsaw image and an image of the way it is automatically cropped when placed on a page.
Importing the original photo in the layout could result in cropped images.

I learned how to resize them to fill the layout placeholder. This was my process:

1)  by using the sides and top/bottom pulls of the photo placeholder, I would expand the image until I could see all the details of the puzzle. Often I was expanding well beyond the page boundaries.

 2) using the four outer corner handles for cropping with aspect ratio, I moved the corners in until the size fit nicely into its placeholder’s space.

 Picaboo provided guides indicating where to position and maintain alignment of the page elements. 

Two pages with the images properly laid out.
The resized images fit well and compliment each other on facing pages.

My design decision was to use plain or very simple backgrounds for each page to avoid distracting from puzzle details. Thus, I discarded the red striped background in the earlier illustration. For consistency I framed each photo in either black or white and captioned the date to match the color of the frame. I think Shutterfly offered a greater variety of backgrounds, embellishments, and stickers. But for this project in Picaboo, I Iiked the simplicity of fewer background choices and shunned embellishments or stickers. Avoiding busyness around the puzzle images was important to me.

As a summary of how we used the puzzle collection as a wall gallery in 2020, I chose a 2-page spread to complete my album.

An image of a two page spread of various walls with jigsaw puzzles displayed during the Christmas holidays.
The final two pages show a spread of the puzzles.

Picaboo recommended doing the cover at the end. I think that was wise because by the time I had completed the project, I had a better sense of my goals. I love the simple and bright pattern which I chose for the cover. I will never lose track of this album because of its bright and cheery cover. I like that Picaboo’s cover format included labeling the spine. I experimented with vertical and with horizontal text and decided which was more readable on my bookshelf.

The text against the background pattern was hard to read so I created a solid text box for the titles:  Select text box/ edit text background color/ select white/ send to back.

The cover of the book is simply swirls of red and green with  the title "Christmas Puzzles 1984-2020".
The cover is cheerful and includes a title and dates on the spine as well as on the front.

When I received my order, I was disappointed because I thought I was getting lay-flat pages. So, I went back to Picaboo, and wouldn’t you know it? They had started with a new and improved version. Sound familiar? A new (beta) version of Shutterfly is what sent me to Picaboo!! I have a terrible sense of timing apparently.

This new Picaboo version is wonderful with updated and plentiful backgrounds but now there is a clear distinction between lay-flat and lay-flat spineless (which is what I believed I was getting). Following my previous experience, once again I was unable to access the “classic” version I worked with for my initial book! After brooding for several days, I decided to recreate my book using the new Picaboo. It has been relatively simple, because the photos were already uploaded and the same backgrounds were still there. I love that the photos fit into the layout placeholders without a lot of messing around with re-sizing. So, I am excited about Picaboo and will use it again.

Although it took time to recreate the book, my pictures were all available and easy to place on pages.
The picture shows two examples of book pages with the seamless lay-flat pages including the two-page spread that looks like a single picture.

My new updated Picaboo Christmas Puzzles book arrived and it is gorgeous! The colors are bright and vivid. I am so glad that I redid it.

Now I have seamless lay-flat pages. Photos are not disrupted by the center seaming in the spine and flipping through the book is so much nicer. Note how the seamless layflat style allows the two-page spread to appear as a single image.

Because I had a Groupon for the first book, I didn’t feel terrible ordering a new one. It is well worth the $94.74 plus $9 shipping, but Groupon saved me quite a bit of money. I would encourage checking out Groupon for any Picaboo project.

Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Anita for her interesting, informative, and detailed blog post. We welcome suggestions and posts from other photocrafters! Let us know what you’ve tried, what worked and what didn’t, what you’d like to do.

Preserving a Church’s Beauty

A picture of the chancel area in the sanctuary.

We usually talk about very personal books — one describing a year in a family or a favorite vacation. This book is certainly a very personal effort. Its focus is to recognize the beauty of a church’s physical facility while acknowledging memorials established by those who felt a spiritual call to create that beauty. The First Presbyterian Church of Arkansas City, KS, will celebrate 150 years of their heritage in 2023. Tim Harmon, a lifetime member and longtime music director of the church, and other members of the worship committee wanted to honor that heritage.

The book began with an idea to get photos of the five memorial windows at the west end of the sanctuary, interview family members for short biographies of the people memorialized, and then use the church copier to print out some type of pamphlet or booklet for the church membership.

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Phone Photocrafting

By now you probably know that I most often use my computer or laptop for photocrafting. Niece Shell likes being on her smartphone so this post is from her! She suggests five photocrafting options for your phone. (She uses an iPhone; I use an Android, and these work on both). Apps that work directly on your smartphone mean you don’t have to upload your photos to a computer!

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Photocrafting Coronavirus Experiences

The coronavirus has many of us staying at home and most of us adjusting to new ways of living. Hopefully photocrafting is still a fun part of your week — and even an occasional escape. We propose to combine the news and adjustments into a photocrafting history especially since it can involve at-home kids as well as adults!

A photo of a group of neighbors getting together  in the street with all their chairs carefully placed 6' apart.
Friends obeying the 6′ separation but enjoying a neighborhood Happy Hour!
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