Getting Started With Project Life

Ever since I shared here that I'm finally taking on Project Life, I've been wanting to blog about the project. But, I've been so behind on it, I just didn't feel like I could.

However, I've finally finished all of January and got to Week 5. Yes! At last! I still have a few weeks to catch-up with, but I'm trying to figure out the best way to do that without getting too overwhelmed. I'll tell you more once I've got a system going. But, let's not hold our breath, shall we? 😉

Anyway, since some people have been asking me about how I do Project Life, I thought I'd start off with this.

Project Life: The Basic Tools

Getting Started With Project Life

While there are no rules about using official Project Life merchandise in order to get started with this, I decided to go ahead and work with some basic stuff using Becky Higgins' line. I've looked around for alternatives, and I just didn't find any of the others that attractive or suitable.

Basic Project Life Materials I Bought:

  • Project Life Core Kit: I got the Jade Edition because it was the only one that I could find from a local Ebay seller at the time. I didn't want to buy overseas because of the astronomical shipping costs. Since I bought this set, I found 2 or 3 other sets at my local Spotlight store. But, I refrained myself from buying any more at this stage. A hard task, that was!
  • Memorology Plastic Sleeves: They had similar sizes and layouts to the official Project Life sleeves, so I ended up buying these. They're not perfect, however, but again, I was limited with my choices at the time.
  •  Album: I can't remember the maker of this album. All I know is that I bought it from Spotlight and it wasn't an official Project Life album. I love the colour, the fabric cover, and the embroidery details on it.
  •  Project Life Blank Cards: Since I wasn't sure if I was going to like all the pre-designed cards, I thought I'd buy myself the two main card sizes (4x6 and 3x4). I'm really glad I did. They come in packs of 100 at Spotlight.

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My Go-To Tools for Project Life Making

Apart from the general Project Life kits and materials, I use several tools to finish off my weekly pages. There are tools that I use just occasionally (like watercolours, acrylics, gesso, and the like). Then, there are tools that I seem to use on a regular basis.

Here are some of the tools that I use quite often:

  • Glue Sticks: I love 'em.  I use them all the time to stick photos on to the Project Life cards. Occasionally use them when sticking other things too.
  • Cutter: Easy way to chop photos, cards, and papers into my desired sizes.
  • Pens:  I use all kinds! But, my favourites: My white gel pen, black Sharpie fine pen, black Sharpie marker, white Sharpie paint pen, and different colours of gel pens. I use them for writing dates on the photos, journalling on the cards, and doodling.
  • Edge Rounder Puncher: I LOVE this puncher. It's one of my most favourite punchers. Certainly one I use the most. Basically, it's a puncher that helps me create rounded edges for my photos - and any type of cardboard or paper.
  • Date Stamper: Easy way to add dates, of course. And besides, I love the look of these date stamps.
  • Stamp Pads: I have different colours. Right now, I like this 'sky blue' one the best. But, I find that black and brown ink pads are great to have too.
  • Scissors: For cutting. Anything. Of course.
  • Washi Tapes: For taping stuff. In pretty, decorative ways.
  • Stickers: They add extra texture and design. And, I love them, so I use them whenever I feel like it.
  •  Photo Paper: Yes, I print my own photos. This is probably one of the most frequently asked question I've had so far regarding my Project Life pages. And, I often say that I prefer printing my own photos because it's just easier that way. More convenient for me just to start printing photos whenever I felt like it - or when I have a moment I can work on my Project Life pages. The next question I usually get is: What printer do you use? My main printer is an Epson Artisan 730. It's about two or three years old, at least. I can use Epson, Canon, and Kodak photo papers on it. They're the only ones I've tried so far, I think.

Anyway, all of these tools, I already have in my stash long before I decided to try Project Life.  So, I didn't need to buy anything extra. But then, I already have a huge stash of crafty and artsy stuff, so, this is only me, making sure I use the things I buy. 😉

Gadgets and Software I Use for Project Life

Apart from photos and printers, another frequently asked question is: What do you use to create your photo collages for Project Life? 

I primarily use a Sony VAIO laptop with Windows 8 (still not blogged, I know!). And, I take most of my photos nowadays with Mr Lumi, my Windows phone, a Nokia Lumia 1020. However, I still do use my Nikon D7000 (yes, needs to be blogged too!) and my Canon Powershot SX40 Superzoom camera.

I don't usually edit my photos, but when I do, it's often just apps on my camera phone - or the built-in editors on apps like Instagram and Flickr.

At the moment, my most used apps for creating Project Life pages are:

  • Fotor - This is a free Windows app that's available both on the Windows phone and the desktop. They don't operate the same way, though. But, I'm enjoying using both, for different purposes. Both the phone and desktop versions can create collages, as well as serve as photo editors.
  • Windows Photo Gallery - Another free Windows app. It comes with Windows Live Essentials, I believe. This is great for organising photos too.  Well, at least it automatically organises the view by months that the photos were taken. Something I find quite handy.
  • OneDrive - I have fallen in love with OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive). I used to be quite an avid Dropbox user, but I'm making almost a full transition to OneDrive now. And no, it's not just because I work with Microsoft (as a client at Vervely). The reason I've become an avid OneDrive user is that I really love having all my devices sync seamlessly to it now. In fact, I can easily back-up all my photos from my Windows phone into OneDrive just by turning on the feature. No need to remember to upload photos to keep them safe. Plus, both Fotor and Photo Gallery work well with OneDrive so I can just access photos there from the apps.
  • Flickr -  This is another place where I store, share, and organise my photos. And, using a Windows app called Flickr Central, I can create a second auto back-up of all my photos from my phone there too. And, why not? They do give a 1TB free storage space! It's quite a mess to look at when signed-in, but if you set your auto uploads to 'Private', then no one else can see all your auto uploads.

Occasionally, I use other apps, but these are the main stuff that I use.

If you're not into the Windows system, there are many other similar apps that work with iOS (for iPhone/iPad users) and Android. On iOS, some collage apps I've used include: Diptic and Frame Magic. Some photo editing apps on iOS include: Rhonna, Snapseed and Photogene. I've never used an Android phone, so I won't be able to help with this at the moment, but Google also has a tool called Picasa that I used to find helpful. I believe Picasa is available on the desktop via Windows and Mac systems.

I've also used Photoshop Elements in the past to tweak photos and create layouts/collages, but haven't really needed it recently for Project Life. Maybe in the future?

Project Life Tips

Sometimes, I get asked about what tips I can give when it comes to doing Project Life. Since I consider myself to be just a newbie Project Lifer, I feel like I can't really give authoritative tips. However, here are some things that I've learned and found useful so far:

  • Find kits and tools that can make Project Life as easy and as simple as it can possibly be. This is one of the reasons I decided to go for the Becky Higgins' stuff as my core kit. And, why I looked for possible plastic sheet layouts and chose one that I think I can work with the best. I knew that if I had to decide on a layout, and hunt for different materials, every single week - I'd be a wreck. There was no way I could keep up. It's a challenge enough as it is to take photos and to note down daily events. So, anything that can make the process less complicated is absolutely welcome.
  • Take daily(ish) notes, as often as possible. This is where combining Project Life with something like the Documented Life project becomes handy. I find myself referring to my notes in my hybrid journal, to check which photos to print out for particular days... And to find out what happened on certain days. This is actually a great reminder of why I'm trying to do all these life documentations. It's just so easy to forget! No, we don't need to remember everything. But, I find that there is a certain kind of pleasure from remembering SOME things from our daily lives.
  • Print photos often and/or organise photos.  Ideally, I'd be printing out a photo a day. But, that's not always doable. And besides, some days, I might not want a whole 4x6 pr 3x4 print of some photos (I use either a full A4 photo when printing out multiple photos or use a 4x6 photo paper to print out a single photo, one photo collage, or a page of multiple photos).  So, really, once or twice a week would be good. But, again, busy weeks don't always allow us to do that. Since I can't print photos as often as I'd like to, I want to make sure that photos can be referred to as easily as possible.
  • Add personal touches! Handwriting, scribbles, doodles, and sketches --- they're all great additions to Project Life pages. While the pre-designed cards are great, it's always nice to see other things that make your pages special.

Hopefully, this would help some of you get started (or keep going) with your own Project Life endeavour. I hope to share more thoughts in future blog posts.

Next time: I'll be sharing my first few Project Life pages (cover + Weeks 1 to 5).

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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