For another project, I spent some time looking at several digital scrapbooking shops, and thought some of my observations might be useful, especially for folks new to digital art journaling or collage, and looking for images to work with.
My comments are very brief, but should serve as an introduction, at least. This post is focused only on shops that provide at least some art journal, altered art, or collage-specific products and activities. There are many more shops that serve the digital scrapbooking world.
What's the difference between scrapbooking and art journaling?
Briefly, scrapbooking usually includes photos, and is often about people and events other than the scrapbooker (though there is much effort to encourage scrapbookers to scrap more about themselves.) Art journaling may or may not include photos, and is about self-expression. Self-expression and/or art and design; art journalers do a wide range of work on this continuum.
Is there overlap between the two?
Absolutely. It's entirely possible to use scrapbooking elements on an art journal page, or art journal elements on a scrapbook page. Especially with art journaling, anything goes; you may use whatever you like, however you like.
What are forums, challenges, and galleries, and why should I care?
Forums: Most digital shops have an online forum where digital designers and customers interact. Most have a few sections devoted to the shop and its products and designers; tips and tutorials; challenges and contests; and general conversation. Some forums are slow, some are very active. Forum participation is not required to be a customer, or to post to the gallery, but if you are a social person, or even just looking for more information about the hobby, a forum can be a fun place to be.
Also, this world, nearly entirely female, is a happy, optimistic, supportive one. If you need some relief from the general crankiness of other online places, this will provide it. On the other hand, you may sometimes feel over-dosed on sweetness and flee back to the darker corners of the interet.
Challenges: Most shops offer challenges to inspire their customers to actually use, not just collect, their products. Some challenges are very specific and require the use of shop products; some are more open-ended. Some offer freebies to challenge participants. I find challenges very helpful in giving me inspiration and new ideas for pages.
Galleries: Most shops provide an online gallery where customers can post their pages, and where designers' creative teams can show off what can be done with a particular kit. Most customers don't post their pages, and I didn't think I would when I began. But I do now. It's very rewarding to get and give encouraging comments, and it's inspiring to see what other folks are doing.
Every shop has different forum and gallery guidelines regarding products, credits, and linking; be sure to find and read those before jumping in. An "open" gallery means that it's ok to post pages with products from other shops, but within the the guidelines specific to the gallery.