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I was having a sort out of a huge wad of holiday photos a couple of years ago, and decided I wanted to do something a bit more interesting with them than just stick them in a photo album. I borrowed a book from the library on scrapbooking, and a new obsession was born! Now whenever we go away or go on a day trip out, I will always keep any tickets, leaflets or other memorabilla, so that I can use them along with photos to make a fun page for my scrapbook.
My first dilemma was how to present my photos. I am by no means a fantastic photographer. However much I try to compose the perfect shot, I more often than not end up with lamp posts/ electricity pylons/ strangers/ edges of buildings etc spoiling the finished photo. Also, I struggle to get objects in the centre of the shot, so I usually have a big chunk of grass/ sea/ uninteresting background somewhere in the photo! In addition to this, the scrapbook I had chosen took pages that were 12 inch (30cm) squares, and so i wanted to be able to use more than just four photos per page.
The obvious solution is simply to cut the photos with standard houshold scissors. However I am not very steady and struggle to even cut wrapping paper straight, so I didn't like my chances of doing a very good job of this! Also, I didn't think I would get a very professional finish on some of the less standard shapes- things like ducks, cakes, people etc would would end up looking like a dog's dinner if I attempted to cut them out!
I asked for advice in my local craft shop, and the helpful assistant recommended I tried Fiskars templates. The templates come in a huge variety of shapes, including circles, stars, hearts, Christmas trees, Birthday cakes, flowers, fancy frames. I have tried many of these templates, but this review is for the square shape template, as I feel that this is the easiest template to use for anyone considering trying them out.
As you can see from the picture, the square template is made from orange plastic, and you consists of seven different-sized squares. The sizes are as follows:
I have found this to be a good range of sizes, and it is very rare that I have found none of those sizes will crop my photos to a size that I require.
The template can be used in two ways. Firstly, you could simply use the squares as a guide, and draw round the square hole of your choice onto the photo. This can then be cut out by hand using normal scissors. However I have found that I get far superior results by using the template along with the Fiskars ShapeCutter Plus. This is a very clever cutter that works like a craft knife, but gives you much greater control about the shape you cut. The cutter pivots around corners, to give really smooth and precise cropping, and give you a much more professional finish than is achieveable with a pait of scissors.
You need to use a cutting mat, as with any blades. I would suggest using a non-slip one, as this makes life much easier when using these templates. I have a Fiskars cutting mat, but I am sure other makes are available. You place your photo on the cutting mat, and then position the template on top of your photo. You then line the cutter up with one edge of your chosen square, and simply move the cutter along the edge of the template.
I would strongly recommend practising on scrap paper first, as it took me a little while to get used to using the cutter along with the templates. It is incredibly annoying if the cutter suddenly develops a mind of it's own and slips away from the edge of the template, as you then end up chopping off chunks of the photos you had planned to keep (in my case, I ended up chopping off a couple of people's heads, which was not the look I was hoping for!) Having said that, once I got used to using the cutter and became more confident (and accurate!) with my cutting, I found it a fantastic tool that had completely transformed the look of my scrapbooks.
Once you have got more familiar with the cutter, I would recommend cutting in a clockwise direction, with the thin pointy end of the blade pointing to the top of the cutter. If the pointy end is at the bottom, you will find that as you move the cutter downwards along the edge of the template, the blade will swivel round so that the pointy end goes to the top. This swivelling will result in cutting a tad wonky, so it is definitely worth taking a second to ensure the point is pointing upwards.
I would also advise you lead into the corners with the point of the blade going first. Mastering smooth corners took me a little while to get used to with the cutter, but the square template has the most straightforward corners out of all of the templates I have tried in this range. By cutting with the point first, it is also easier to line up with the last stroke of the cutter with the first, ensuring a smooth straight line.
My last little tip is to ensure you have the template the right way up! Always makes sure you can read the text on the template before you start cutting. If the template is upside down, you will find it the cutter very jerky, and the results it gives you will be poor. Luckily it is easy to check this, as if it is upside down then the writing on the template will be back to front!
My craft shop didn't stock these templates, so I purchased mine from Amazon. The square template is currently available for £3.99, although the RRP is apparently £5.60. Amazon also sell a variety of other templates, and some multipacks which contain a few different templates. These packs usually work out cheaper than buying the template separately. The cutter costs around £14, and comes in a pack with two spare blades. I have found a wealth of uses for my square template. I have used it countless times for scrapbooking, and have also found it useful for making cards. Although I have used it mainly for cropping photographs, and backing papers to mount them on, it is suitable for use on any type of paper or thin card. The template is very durable, and shows no signs of wearing- I plan to get many more years of use of it.
Once you get the hang of it, this template along with the cutter produces very accurate results and allows you to crop precisely the sections that you want. I feel this template is great value for money as it is very long-lasting and has so many uses. It produces very professional results, and I feel it is an invaluable tool for anyone into scrapbooking.