I get a lot of questions about how I make my homeschool printables, so I thought I’d share them with you. By the way, this also applies to my digital scrapbooking supplies.

What software program do I use to make my downloads?

  • Software: I use Photoshop Elements, or Photoshop CS3 depending on what I need to do. If you are just starting out, I find Photoshop Elements very user-friendly and great for beginners. There are TONS of free tutorials to get you started, and it’s about $80, but you can usually find sales on it if you look. Photoshop CS3 (at the time of this post they have CS5 and it is currently $699), so there’s quite a price difference!
  • Tutorials:
    • Jessica Sprague: One of my favorite tutorial sites is Jessica Sprague, she offers some free tutorials that include graphic image downloads, as well as video classes that are well worth the cost. She is a very good instructor, plus most of her classes come with great digital freebies to help complete your projects! There are also TONS of free tutorials online, just Google “Photoshop tutorials” and you’ll see what I mean.
    • TutVid! Another favorite is TutVid! These tutorials are wonderful, this guy is a Photoshop genius and shares his knowledge FREE for all us newbies! Thanks, TutVid!
    • PSDTUTS+: Another great Photoshop tutorial site.
  • Process: I have a round-about process, but it’s been working so I’m stickin’ with it! After creating the images in Photoshop, I save my Photoshop file as a JPG then insert the jpg into an MS Publisher document. (I use MS Publisher because it is part of my MS Office Suite but you could easily use any Word program.) Finally, I save that document as a PDF file (I use PDF Creator).  (You can save the PDFs right out of Photoshop, but they seem to be much larger, even if you flatten the image first, so this is just a workaround I do so they are smaller and also so I can create multiple page downloads. NOTE: If anyone knows how to create a multiple-page PDF from Photoshop, I’d love to hear how!)
  • Organization: I use ACDSee 2009 to manage all of my digital scrapbook elements as well as my images for homeschool. Although Photoshop Elements comes with an organizer, I found that once I got a certain quantity of images in it, that it was very slow and had a tendency to crash. ACDSee 2009 seems to do a better job of managing my images. Although it was fairly easy to understand, there is a “How To” class offered at Jessica Sprague for ACDSee.
  • Space! Everyone should have an external hard drive that you can back up documents on in the event of a hard drive failure or some pesky virus! PLEASE TRUST ME ON THIS! I’d have to have you lose all your fabulous creations because you didn’t ‘backup!’ You can get a fairly inexpensive USB external hard drive to give you some peace of mind, I like these:

Where do you get all of your clipart/images?

  • My Images: I draw several of my images myself using Photoshop Elements or Photoshop CS3.
  • Public Domain Clip Art: I do use some public domain clipart that I find online. I do try to be VERY careful about making sure an image I use is indeed public domain before using it though. I’d rather not worry about Copywrite laws! Most sites will have a Terms of Use that will explain what you are allowed to do with their images.
  • Microsoft Clipart: I have MS Office, so I use quite a bit of clipart from Microsoft. You don’t have to have MS Office to use their clipart though, they offer tons of clipart online.
  • Stock.xchng: This is a great site with free tutorials, photos, clipart, etc. You do have to sign up for an account before downloading any free material.
  • iStockphoto: This site is not free, but they do have an excellent array of clipart if you plan on using it.
  • Dover Clipart: These design books are wonderful resources for images! Here are several to choose from, I usually make sure to get the books with CD’s or you’ll have to scan the images!

Please let me know if you have any questions not addressed here and I’ll do my best to answer them!

For other questions such as laminating, please see my Frequently Asked Questions!


  1. Just a tip for buying Adobe. I got the entire Adobe Master Suite STUDENT EDITION for about half the full price of the standard edition. There are a few limitations and they put a watermark in the designs but I have never seen it and I'm not doing anything commercial with it anyway. Thought I'd share.

  2. Thank you for this! At least I have some guidance on where to begin one day. 🙂 So, are you at all familiar with Scrapbook Max? I had considered getting it so my kids could use it to do notebook/scrapbook pages for school. Do you think they could (easily) do their own if I had Photoshop Elements? (They are 8 and 6.) Just in case you're familiar with it. :-)Thanks so much!

  3. Thank you for ALL that you do…such a blessing. I was wondering if I wanted to make free printables for my blog, do I need a license? Where do I buy clipart for this purpose. I don't want to break any laws:( I just have some ideas floating in my head and want to bless others. THANKS!! moffattgirls.blogspot .com

  4. I came across your website after looking for free file folder games. Thank you so much for posting them. I also wanted to let you know that I just recently purchased a suite of Adobe products through their education discount program. It was really easy and saved me at least 80% off list price. Homeschoolers qualify for their education discount. All I had to do was send in a copy of the receipt from my latest curriculum order and they sent me an activation code. Now I just have to figure out how to use it all!

  5. ERIKA YOU are the best!
    I have to ask you something, when do you find the time to create your curriculums,printables,units..etc?I takes a while to be able to sit and do all these designs..isn’t it? i am trying to make at least one page a night after putting my two kids to sleep,but sometimes i have zero energy left and just go to bed.you have 4 kids and a busy site..wondering how do you do?
    thanks for the e-mail and all the work you do!

  6. Hi Erica,

    I realize this is an old post, I’m just beginning the homeschool journey & apologize for the late question. How did you make your pattern block printables? I am trying to figure out how to get the right sizes & shapes in photoshop, but this is definitely not my program. Thank you!

  7. Thanks for sharing. I just got fired today and told a friend I wanted to learn how to do this and open my own little online store or something and finish writing my book. We looked here and she just bought Elements. Off to learn I go!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.