Before I tell you about where to find digital elements (free and for purchase), let's talk about the people who create the digital designs.
Please take a moment to visit the Stop Piracy blog and to understand before you move any further that sharing and redistributing digital kits is wrong and illegal. It's important that you understand this. Please respect the digital scrapbooking community and industry.
Designers share their work in 2 main ways: through a major store (like Sweet Shoppe Designs or The DigiChick), or through their personal website (like Shabby Princess.com or Gina C's Digital Design Essentials.) Many designers have websites where they'll list previews of kits and give links to where they can be found. Usually when you buy through a major store (site), you will be dealing with the store's customer service; buying through a designer's personal website has you dealing with the designers themselves.
My favorite thing about digital scrapbooking is that with the internet, the playing field is leveled. Designers don't have to get noticed by a big company or find large amounts of start-up cash to get a product ready to offer. Just about anyone with talent, a computer with access to the internet, and a little e-knowledge can jump in. (Whether they thrive or not depends on other factors, but I love that anyone can try!) Designers can start out and remain independent and still thrive. Digital scrapbooking right now is a wonderful community -- designers talk to each other, buy each others designs, leave feedback on layouts posted at DigiShopTalk, post comments responding to questions on digi-message boards, and respond to customers (and fans!) in e-mails. I hope this remains as the "industry" continues to move forward.
Here are some things you need to keep in mind about digital designers:
1. Above all else, they are people. They are mothers. They are wives. They are daughters. They have homes and families and lives to take care of. They aren't raking in money selling their designs. Seriously. Even the most popular ones. They pour their hearts and time (a LOT of time) into their kits. Many are SAHM's making a little extra money to supplement staying home. Some have full-time jobs in addition to designing. Give them the benefit of the doubt, be patient with them, be respectful and kind when you e-mail them.
2. Overwhelmingly what I have heard from them is that they DO care about their customers. They WANT to hear from their customers. They love to see pages made with their elements. Sending an e-mail with a link to a layout you made will not bother them; most likely it will be flattering and fun for them. They enjoy feedback on the kits they made, and many are open to suggestions for future kits.
3. If you have a problem with an element from a designer, e-mail the designer directly. Give them time to answer the e-mail (I say 48 hours. Some may think differently.) As Danielle says, "PLEASE let us know if something's not right with a kit or element, and never feel like you're 'bothering' us with an email. If we've chosen to sell our designs, we've also chosen to take on any and all questions and concerns about them."
4. In the same vein, THINK before posting on message boards (like TwoPeas or DigiShopTalk) about a digi-designer. If the problem can be resolved in e-mail, it's best left to e-mail. People are very impressionable -- it only takes reading one bad thing that may or may not be true to plant an idea in someone's subconscious. When you have a GOOD experience with a designer, it's nice to let others know -- give the designer a shout-out and tell the world. It's nice to feature them on your personal blog, too -- designers really appreciate this. But be careful about jumping to be negative -- the problems you're having might be something you are doing wrong. Do you really want to put a designer's reputation at risk because of a little problem YOU had?