Clustering v. Layering: Is There a Difference?

Often, people use the digital scrapbooking terms “clustering” and “layering” interchangeably.  Is this really true, though?  Are clustering and layering the same digital scrapbooking technique?  The answer is no, clustering and layering are not the same technique.  In fact, they are two techniques that can provide very different looks on your layouts.  In order to improve both techniques, first we need to know the differences between them.


Clustering is a technique that I use very often on my digital scrapbooking layouts.  Clustering is the process of taking digital scrapbooking elements and arranging them into small clusters in different areas of your layout.  For example, you might put a cluster of five different flowers at one of the corners of your layout.  Clustering is also often achieved by combining a number of different elements into clusters on the page.  Some of the elements often associated with clustering are flowers, buttons, bows, paper mats, stars and other three dimensional elements.  You can learn more about clustering on your digital scrapbooking layouts by taking my class Digital Clustering Like a Pro at Big Picture Scrapbooking.  Here is a layout that I’ve done that features clustering.

On this layout, you’ll notice the groups of flowers and other elements arranged in certain areas of the layout.  In each, I’ve taken a number of elements and gathered them together in a cluster to draw the eye around the page.


Layering is a technique in which you use different elements and tools to build up the background of your layout.  For example, you may layer a few different papers behind your focal photo.  You may use paint or scribbles on the paper below your focal photo to draw attention to the photo.  The key thing to remember about layering is that it’s often done with “flat” items: paper, paint, scribbles, doodles, glitter, and sometimes stitches or such.  Layering is a great technique for adding visual interest to simple or white space based layouts.  I often use layering when I want to create a more “artistic” look on my page, like on this layout.

You’ll notice, that aside from layering all the different patterned papers, I also use some glitter sprays on the background paper.  Using the sprays does not add the visual weight of clustering, however it does enhance the visual interest of the layout.

It makes a difference

Just by looking at the two layouts I’ve shown you, you can see that both clustering and layering are techniques that create a different look and style to your layouts.  I like to experiment with both techniques, and occasionally combine them to create layouts that really pop.  If you would like more examples of clustering and layering, you can visit my gallery HERE.

Do you use both of these techniques?  Which do you prefer?  Which do you want to learn more about?

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3 Responses to Clustering v. Layering: Is There a Difference?

  1. Helena_catt says:

    that makes sense – have often wondered about the difference.  I’m a layerer – I rarely use any embellishments that are not flate

  2. MelanieC says:

    Never thought about the difference, but this makes so much sense!!  Thank you for clarifying these two techniques.  I am always so inspired by your layouts.

  3. Lynn Adams says:

    thanks for sharing this! I had long suspected there was a difference between the two terms but now you have confirmed my suspicions, hah. I love clustering and IMO am pretty good at it, but I really STINK at layering!

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