Project Life, Week 51, and my weekly process (from beginning to end)

This week I want to share my weekly Project Life process with you. I’ve been getting lots of technical questions so I thought I could address them all here in this post. So instead of covering Weeks 51 and 52 and my 2012 end page as I’d said last time, I’m just going to share Week 51 in this post, which consists of a double spread and various inserts (remember you can click on each image for a larger version).

1) Documenting (taking photos & journalling)

I take almost all my photos for Project Life with my iPhone 4S. I do not think of my DSLR (a Canon EOS 40D) as my real camera and my iPhone as a second-rate camera. To me, it’s about the moments that I capture rather than the ability of my camera. And honestly, the iPhone camera is a wonderful camera that can do so much more than we often give it credit for. Most importantly, it is the camera that I have with me all the time and, to me, that’s what counts.

One thing I’ve also noticed in the past year is that I tend to take different types of photos if I’m using my DSLR versus my iPhone. With the DSLR, I usually end up with portraits of Rick and the boys: these tend to be close-up shots that capture their expression at a particular point in time (partly because I tend to only use our 50mm prime lens), and usually only when we’re home. With my iPhone, I tend to take a wider variety of photographs: photos of the boys when we’re out and about, photos of landscapes, photos of twilight, up-close shots, self-portraits, photos of my family from a distance, silhouettes, etc. I think this is one of the reasons why my weekly spreads don’t usually look too busy, even though they’re filled with photos: the variety in the photos means that the spreads are not usually overcrowded with close-up portraits, thus giving the eye room to ‘breathe,’ whilst also adding a greater degree of interest.

When taking photos using my iPhone, I usually just use the native camera app as it’s easy to load and it means I have all my ‘raw images’ (so to speak) on my camera roll rather than having to manually save images to the camera roll when using some third party apps. If I have the time, I will use the VSCO Cam app to process my favourite photos on the phone: filters 05 and 07 are the ones that I primarily use. Now and then, I will also use the Afterglow app, which has the advantage of allowing you to adjust the strength of the filter that you apply.

For the last half a year, I’ve been practising the art of taking less photos: rather than snapping up every single frame at every single opportunity, I’ve been learning to only capture the moments that move me. This has been a huge change in the way I photograph: rather than cluttering up my camera and subsequently hard drive with photos that will never get looked at or printed, I’m choosing to take photographs that matter and that tell a story. This also makes the whole Project Life process a lot simpler, because choosing photos becomes a lot easier.

In terms of journalling, I actually don’t write anything down during the week because I use my photos as a way to document things that happen and how I feel at different moments in time. (I keep a running record of things that our boys say and do, but these are usually not included in our main family album, as I save it for their individual albums.) Plus, I know that I can always refer to our calendar to remind me of different things that have happened during the week.

2) Sorting, selecting and processing photos

Every Sunday, I import all photos from my iPhone, Rick’s iPhone and our Canon EOS from that week into Aperture. Using the system I’ve put in place, I re-name all the files, sort them into Aperture projects and folders, tag all the files and rate them if they have been taken on our Canon EOS. This is part of my photography workflow, which I’m planning to write about separately in the coming weeks.

With all the files from the previous week sorted and tagged, I sit down on Monday evenings to choose the photos for our Project Life spread. In Aperture, I create a new album that corresponds to that week of Project Life and then drag a ‘shortlist’ of my favourite photos to that album. This usually doesn’t take very long because I generally already have a good idea of which photos were my favourites from the week.

Generally speaking, I do not tend to include photos from the Canon EOS in our weekly spreads, because I know that I will be going through them at a later stage to create photo books. To me, this makes sense as it helps to draw a distinction between our Project Life album and our photo books – the former is about our everyday, as illustrated by everyday moments captured by the camera that is always with me, while the latter is more focused on portraits and event documentation. (This will probably become clearer after I’ve finished writing about my overall memory keeping framework.) If there is a set of photos I really want to include, I will usually choose to display them as an insert, rather than as part of the main spread.

Once the album is filled with my ‘shortlist’ of photos, I then go through and select my favourite landscape (ie. horizontal) photos by labelling them orange, and my favourite portrait (ie. vertical) photos by labelling them green. I almost always end up with more photos than I can fit on the spread, so I just keeping culling my favourites by de-selecting them until I end up with eight landscape photos and seven portrait photos for my weekly spread (only seven portrait photos because I always use the far left 3×4 pocket for ‘this week’ card). The photos I’ve already processed with VSCO Cam usually make the cut because they’re bound to be among my favourites.

If a special event has taken place that week (e.g. a birthday, a Christmas gathering, family holiday etc.) or I’ve captured a particularly special series of photos that I feel must be included, I will choose my favourites for an insert and label those photos in yellow. Because I have a number of different insert templates set up that can accommodate for different numbers of photos to be included (see below for a couple of examples), I can be flexible in terms of how many photos I include. As a general rule, I try to not go crazy with inserts so that I can fit an entire year into one album.

At this point in time, if the photos I like the most have not already been processed with VSCOCam, I will choose one of my VSCO Film presets in Aperture (from the same makers of VSCO Cam) and apply it to the photos that I’ve chosen. This is usually all the editing that I will do with the photos. The great thing about using both VSCO Cam and VSCO Film is that the photos have a consistent feel about them across the board.

Despite how complicated this sounds, the entire photo selection process only takes about 15 minutes at most.

3) Adding text and graphics

Every week, I create a new folder on my hard drive for that week’s Project Life. Once the photos are selected and processed using VSCO Film where necessary, I export the image files into this folder. I will then also copy and paste my Adobe InDesign templates from the previous week into the new folder, and rename them so that they correspond to the current week. (I have templates set up for the landscape photos, the portrait photos and the different inserts.)

I then place the new photos into the InDesign template files and add any text that I feel is necessary. You’ll notice that sometimes I’ll include a circle graphic on the photos – this is usually only when there is ‘breathing space’ in the photo for text to be added on top, so I use the circle as a background to carry the text.

At this point, I also ‘crop’ the photos if necessary in InDesign, usually if there is something near the edges of the photos that make them too busy or extra cluttered. Lastly, I add the date and day of the week to each photo, in one of the four corners.

I use the same design for my title card each week, which means all I have to do is change the number of week as well as the corresponding dates. In terms of the photo I choose for the title card, it is usually either my favourite photo of the week, or the photo that best accommodates having the large text placed on top. Sometimes I will move the large text up or down on the photo depending on the composition of the photo.

The ‘this week’ card is a short summary of the week (again I just use the same design each week). Here, I will list events that took place and anything else that was special about that week. Each bullet point corresponds to the seven days of the week.

The main reason I use Adobe InDesign is because I’m familiar with it. In my work as a graphic designer, Adobe InDesign was the program I used the most and so I can be pretty quick with it.

Once I’ve finished in InDesign, I export the photos back to the folder that I’ve created. Again, this process only takes about 15 minutes.

4) Printing and inserting photos into the album

On Wednesday evenings, I import the new files (ie. the ones with the text added) back into Aperture. I then print the photos using my Canon Pixma MP630 onto Kodak premium photo paper (210gsm).

Once the photos are printed, I trim the 3×4 ones down and then I lay them out onto the floor to determine how they will go into the Design A page protectors. The process here is as simple as can be: I put the title card and the ‘this week’ summary card in their appropriate spot and then I lay down the rest of the photos in chronological order. I’ll then stand back and see if it looks okay. Sometimes, I don’t need to change a thing. Other times, I might just need to switch a few photos around to make the layout work better. Sometimes (though this does not happen often), I may decide to reprint a photo in black and white or to add white space around a photo to make the spread less busy. Obviously, if there are inserts for the week, I print them out too, and put them into the appropriately sized page protectors (my favourites at the moment are the 8×8 ones from American Craft and the 8×10 ones from Becky Higgins).

And that’s it. Into the pockets the photos go, and the week is done.

All up, across the two evenings, the weekly process only takes about 40-45 minutes.

In terms of Week 51, I decided on two spreads instead of one so that I could include more photos from the festive season, especially since I had no plans to do a separate December Dailies album. I also included extra inserts (shown above) to display the photos from setting up our Christmas tree (these were taken on our Canon EOS), one of our family Christmas gatherings (again, EOS), and also a series of photos I snapped while we were out at a cafe one day (these were taken on my iPhone 4S).

* * *

Anyway, I really hope this post was helpful, especially if you’re just getting started with Project Life. Of course, this is simply my approach and other people’s process would look quite different. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask!

Other posts you might be interested in reading:
Tips on taking photos for Project Life
What you need to get started with Project Life
How to control the exposure on your iPhone camera
Using the grid on your iPhone camera

You can read my other Project Life posts here.

Materials used: Becky Higgins Design A page protector; American Craft 8×8 page protector; Kodak 210gsm glossy premium photo paper. All photos printed on the Canon MP630 Pixma.

66 comments

Ruby Hoppen February 3, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Wow it’s such a process. I am in awe.

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Pink Ronnie February 17, 2013 at 11:38 pm

LOL, it does sound like it, doesn’t it? But actually, once you get into the swing of things, it’s quite easy and straightforward.
Ronnie xo

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claire February 4, 2013 at 1:50 am

This is so helpful Ronnie. Just let me know if you ever decide to run workshops! I’d love to see this process in action (I think I’m a visual learner)…x

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Pink Ronnie February 4, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Claire, that is the loveliest thing to read! You’ll be my very first attendee. :)
Ronnie xo

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Mary February 4, 2013 at 3:28 am

Awesome post! Thank you very much for providing so much detail. This is my first time doing Project Life and I’m still working to get my process down. It’s one thing to buy all the “stuff” but quite another to actually do it!

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Pink Ronnie February 4, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I totally understand Mary – the first time is particularly daunting, but it will get easier as you work out your own style and way of doing things. Feel free to email me with any questions.
Ronnie xo

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Linda February 4, 2013 at 3:46 am

Thank you kind lady for sharing this and all your bag of tricks with us!! Just getting around to reading this post today and have to say I am loving this series Ronnie! Your work always inspires, now a blueprint on ‘How to’ goes with it :)

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Pink Ronnie February 4, 2013 at 8:34 pm

You’re very kind with your words, Linda. I’m genuinely glad you find this helpful – I had you in mind when I was writing this.
Ronnie xo

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libbywilko February 4, 2013 at 4:19 am

Always great to see how other people sort and organise their photos/ journal/pages for PL. thanks for sharing yours. Love the Christmas collage.

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Jo February 4, 2013 at 10:47 am

Thank you so much for sharing all this info, I seriously need to read it again and take notes. I have about eleventy billion photos on my computer, and really need to get a handle on the whole thing!!

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Pink Ronnie February 4, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Project Life would be perfect for that!
Ronnie xo

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amanda February 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Thanks for sharing, Ronnie! Which VSCO Film pre-set is your favorite? I use it (in LR4), and find that I like VSCO FILM 01 much better than 02.

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Pink Ronnie February 4, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Kodak Portra 800 has always been my favourite. And I agree – when I got 02, I still preferred 01. But I’m starting to play with some of the other presets a bit more, and I find I’m also liking Fuji Superia 1600 and 800, as well as K Portra 160NC. But a lot depends on the photo itself and the original colours…
Ronnie xo

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krystal/village February 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm

i think you’re inspiring me, it would be so fun to have these memories!

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Pink Ronnie February 17, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Do it, Krystal! :)
Ronnie xo

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Meg February 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Ronnie! Thanks so much for this. I just started doing Project Life and even though I’ve followed people’s project life adventures for the past year, it’s so helpful for me to read posts like this as I start mine.

And, no wonder I love your aesthetic so much.. you’re a graphic designer!!

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Che February 4, 2013 at 8:02 pm

What a wonderful and helpful post! Thank you so much for sharing!

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Pink Ronnie February 4, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I’m glad it’s helpful, Che. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Ronnie xo

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Rachel // heraura.com February 4, 2013 at 8:26 pm

I have a question as I’ve started my first ever project life project. when preparing the photos for printing how do you ensure that you print them out at exactly 4×6 or 3×4? I find printing to be one of the hardest parts to get right. If you could shine some light on this that would be wonderful!!

BIG BIG fan of your simplistic design. It’s very inspiring.

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Pink Ronnie February 4, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Hi Rachel,
Ah yes, the printing can be tricky at first. My Adobe InDesign templates are set up so that they are exactly the size I need the final photos to be to fit into the pockets. Then in Aperture when I’m printing the files, I specify under ‘custom size’ what I need the final size to be once more, otherwise the software tries to automatically crop my photo. It depends on what software you’re using to print, but there should usually be a similar area for you to enter the final print size?
Anyway, it’s lovely to have you here.
Ronnie xo

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Lina February 4, 2013 at 9:32 pm

A true inspiration! I love your style, and now your workflow too!
I just like how you keep things simple, practical, and concentrate on the most important…capturing that once in a lifetime moment. Looking forward to see a video tutorial or if you would be so kind to share your In Design template :-D
Hugs from Barcelona, Spain! :-)

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Pink Ronnie February 5, 2013 at 9:39 am

Hi Lina,
So wonderful of you to drop by all the way from Barcelona! Love that I have a reader from Spain! :) Thanks for all your kind words. I’ll definitely look at sharing the template at some stage – just haven’t gotten around to it as yet!
Ronnie xo

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Marie February 5, 2013 at 10:10 am

Hi Ronnie,
I’ve been coming here for a while now, was then so so so happy to discover that you were member of the Project Life 2013 creative team. I’m a huge fan of your layouts, your pictures (I mean your pictures… Wow!). Your blog is a real source of inspiration for me. Thank you for everything you share here. Marie xo

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Pink Ronnie February 6, 2013 at 6:43 am

Thanks for such sweet words Marie. How lovely to have you here! Thanks for reading along.
Ronnie xo

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Paula February 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Hi Ronnie! Loved your in depth PL process. Thank you for keeping the inspiration alive. It’s easy to get lost in PL. I’m a huge fan following your fabulous posts and layouts all the way from Alaska!

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Pink Ronnie February 7, 2013 at 5:50 am

Hi Paula,
So wonderful to have you here – thanks for reading all the way from Alaska! That is too cool. Pun not intended. :)
Ronnie xo

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Latrina February 7, 2013 at 5:39 am

Wow, thank you, Ronnie! This post has been so helpful, you have no idea. I’ve been curious about your workflow & process for awhile… I’m really shocked to hear that it takes you less than an hour too. But then again, you have been doing this for quite some time now!

Very well written. by the way — very easy to follow & understand from someone who isn’t too familiar with Project Life. I enjoyed this, very much! Ty.

Also, I thought _I_ was organized but wow… you have given me so many more examples on streamlining my workflow even more so!

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Pink Ronnie February 15, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Hey Trina,
You definitely get quicker and quicker at it as you work on it more… I love that it’s just part of my weekly routine now and I don’t even have to think too much about it.
Ronnie xo

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Catherine February 7, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Gorgeous and insightful. You know I love all you do!

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Pink Ronnie February 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Thx Catherine! Right back at you.
Ronnie xo

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Emily February 15, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Thank you for this post! I have all my PL stuff sitting on my desk and I’m printing my pics as the weeks go but since this is my first time, for some reason I am hesitant to actually put anything in my book. My creative process hasn’t kicked in yet and that’s not usually the case. There are so many great way to print pictures I am only used to 4×6 prints. I really want to be able to use all the photo shop programs at once, but I’m on overload. Do you have downloadable templates for your layouts? The hardest thing I’m finding is filling the 3×4 pockets. Do you just print and crop for most of them? Help!
#stressedandhesitant

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Pink Ronnie February 15, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Hi Emily,
Thanks for stopping by here. It’s lovely to have you. I think that very first spread can be really daunting. I can remember it taking me a VERY long time to actually be brave enough to start working on my first spread and then even longer to get it done. My advice would be to focus on just your first week to begin with. Then choose your favourite photos from that week. Then look back over the sample PL pages that you may have collected from other bloggers to work out which are your favourites and why. It’s perfectly fine to take inspiration from other people, especially when you’re doing it for the first time! One of the biggest things to work out is whether you want to digitally add text to your photos or whether you’re happy to handwrite onto the journalling cards or even onto the photos themselves. I think it looks beautiful both ways – it’s simply a matter of working out what you’re most comfortable with yourself. Then just start laying out your first spread using your fave photos, adding text when you feel inclined to and keep playing around with it until you’re happy with it. I think the creative juices will start flowing once you start. And after your first spread, your second one will be a bit easier, and the one after that, and so on and so forth. Trust me – you’ll very quickly work out your own style. At the moment, I haven’t had time to create any templates for download but down the track I am thinking of doing that. As for the 3×4 pockets, I simply choose my favourite portrait photos then use Adobe InDesign to set up the right photo size for printing. Another option would simply be to use the core kit cards for the 3×4 pockets – easy peasy!
Ronnie xo

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Leilani February 17, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I’m so glad to have stumbled across your link from Becky Higgins. Your workflow really speaks to me. I can see how much of what you’re doing is something I can also do to make my process easier. I have 4 kids (3b1g)and carving out slots of time to complete my PL can be nearly impossible. I also downloaded the VSCO Cam app. (Yours was the third or fourth recommendation and I finally read up on it.) I love the color and tones of your pics and I’m glad that I can achieve this feel with the app. Just need to get Lightroom so I can post process my DSLR photos using their Film version. Thanks for the great and useful information! Congrats on the pending arrival of your baby!

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Pink Ronnie February 17, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Hi Leilani,
So wonderful to have you here! Yes, can totally relate to not having much time when you have more then a couple of kids at home. That’s why I like to keep it simple and straightforward, so that it can fit neatly into my weekly routine and I don’t have to stress about ‘falling behind’ and ‘having to catch up.’ Love both VSCO Cam and VSCO Film. In fact, VSCO has just realised 03 for Lightroom, and it contains presets that will achieve almost the same look as the VSCO Cam app so you’re all set! Thanks again for stopping by, Leilani.
Ronnie xo

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Kelsey McEvoy February 21, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Oh, thank you so much for sharing this! As a new PL’ers I’m always trying to take a peek into how others approach their spreads each week and this is such a great resource! I plan on writing my own post soon, from the perspective of a “beginner” — if I can ever find the time! I am so thankful to learn about the VSCO Cam app!!! I am a big fan of bright, bold color most of the time but I really, really like the look of your photos and have been obsessed with this app since downloading it two days ago. The photos I edit in this app will most definitely be making their way into my Week 8 spread that I’ll post about next week :)

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Pink Ronnie February 21, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Hi Kelsey,
I’m glad you found it helpful. VSCO Cam is pretty awesome – enjoy!
Ronnie xo

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Laura February 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Hi Ronnie, I just found your website today. I love your minimalist approach to project life! I was wondering, do you use the VSCO presets in Aperture on JPEG files or RAW files? I’d like to get the film 01 and 02 packs but I only shoot JPEG. Thanks!

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Pink Ronnie February 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Hi Laura,
Lovely to have you here! I use the Aperture VSCO persets on JPEG files (I never shoot on RAW) so you’re all set!
Ronnie xo

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Lynn June 12, 2013 at 9:09 am

Hi Ronnie,

I’m new to LP and am really eager to get started because I just printed a mountain of 2012 photos and was a little disappointed that it felt like a chore putting these into a generic album. My problem I realised was that I just take too many snaps and they didn’t feel special. I don’t want to miss documentating those special moments with my 2 little boys! After reading your blog I have become more acutely aware of the special moments and how I’m not documenting them in an ordered manner.

I love your tips (thank you for sharing them!) but I’m a little confused and have a couple of queries:
- after processing the photos in the iphone, can you upload them direct to indesign to add text etc? If possible I’d like to avoid programs like aperture as I use windows and am purely a point and shoot mum!
- why do you need to import the spread from indesign to aperture to print? Can you print straight from indesign and cut the photos out?
- indesign looks quite expensive… Would you recommend a similar more basic program?

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Pink Ronnie June 19, 2013 at 1:13 am

Hi Lynn,

Thanks for reading here and for taking the time to leave such lovely words.

In response to your questions:
- Yes, you can import photos directly into InDesign to add text. Personally I import them into Aperture first because I use Aperture to sort and tag all my photos, that’s all.
- I use Aperture to print my photos because I have it all set it to print 6×4 photos and it integrates seamlessly with the settings on my Canon Pixma. However, you can definitely try and set it up to bring straight form InDesign too.
- I’m not aware of another design layout program like InDesign. There are no freeware counterparts to it, as far as I’m aware. Have a look at the new subscription-based offering that Adobe has introduced with its Creative Cloud. They have actually made software like InDesign VERY accessible to the general public through their new plans: https://creative.adobe.com/plans

Hope all that helps!
Ronnie xo

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Deanne May 29, 2014 at 12:42 pm

You’ve inspired me – I must have been hiding under a rock somewhere (or just frantic between work, home business and 2 young boys) but you’ve completely opened my eyes to the gorgeous world of PL.
Trying to get me head around process first before tackling a weekly page – just going to dive in from now and work it out from there I think.
Is there a template for the design you use? I love, love, love the fonts you use!
I’m pretty minimal in my design preferences and am not sure about ‘standard’ card kits.
thanks again – can’t wait to share these with the boys!

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Pink Ronnie June 4, 2014 at 12:12 am

Hello Deanne,
So wonderful to have you here and glad you’ve been inspired to take on PL as well. It’s such an easy and beautiful way to document family life. I’m working on making my templates available for purchase/download soon. Keep an eye on the blog for updates.
Ronnie xo

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I love hearing from you!

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