When I was walking into work yesterday, I couldn’t resist scuffing through the leaves. My library is at one end of our city’s arboretum, so in autumn the grounds are covered with leaves. There are maple, sycamore, honey locust, mulberry, oak, catalpa, and Persian parrot leaves, scattered everywhere. I started thinking about how the mix of different leaves makes it so much more beautiful than just one type would be.
Which made me think about scrapbooking.
I know, odd connection, but stick with me. Look at your container of scraps (however you store them). You want to use different combinations of them on your layouts, but how do you mix them? I think we can learn a lot about mixing patterns and colors—using up pieces and parts of supplies, in other words—by watching how Mother Nature does it. Take this little pile of leaves the wind made in my yard today:
There’s a big leaf from one of my sycamores, a medium leaf from the catalpa, the small-ish flowering plum and maple leaves, and the tiny one that blew over from my neighbor’s burning bush.
Variety in size makes it prettier.
And then look at colors: the dun neutrals of the sycamore and catalpa leaves are a sort of platform for the red, purple, and orange, and the green grass—not the vibrant green of summer, it’s starting to brown just a bit—makes the colors pop with contrast.
And patterns! The subtle speckle on the sycamore leaf, the delicate veins in the catalpa, the smooth glow of the maple and the translucent marbling in the burning bush.
It’s a hint: here’s how to combine color and patterns into a cohesive whole. According to Mother Nature, when you’re mixing a variety of objects:
1. Size matters. Use one big thing, a couple of medium things, and a few small things. This can be the actual size of the patterned papers you’re using, or the patterns on the paper themselves. It's also true for embellishments and fonts: small, medium, large. The same thing goes for color—a big chunk of one, a medium swath of something else, and a few small tidbits of a third. (Or a fifth, or a seventh. Just stick to odd amounts.)
2. The neutral hues set the tone, so stay consistent as you add color. For example, all of the autumn leaves, no matter their color, are similarly hued. They all have brown tones that are mirrored in the neutrals.
3. If the colors “go” (they don’t have to “match”), the patterns will work together.
Here’s an illustration to show what I mean. I purposely did not use autumn colors to show it’s not just autumn magic. (It is Mother Nature magic though!)
My neutral here is white, which you find both in the solid background and in the details of the patterns. I repeated colors in proportion: lots of blues, medium amounts of greens, and a few splashes of yellow.
An added bonus: nothing I used here was brand new. The alphabet stickers and the patterned paper have all been used before on other layouts, but looking at how to mix them together using the hints from autumn’s leaves gave me a new direction to follow.