Review: Making a Blurb Photo Book

Blurb Photo Books - a comprehensive review

Blurb is a little different from the standard photo book companies. It has free book-making tools for everyone from the beginner to the pro level. You can make one book for your own use or self-publish and sell it on their bookseller platform. You can either create it using their online editor or download their Bookwright software (PC or Mac) to your own computer. There are several other book-creation options that I’ll get into a bit later.

What I like about Blurb is the flexibility it offers, from the range of tools to cover styles and paper choices. The quality is very nice and you can create your own personal coffee table book for a reasonable price. Blurb books can be made for all occasions from chronicling the family vacation, to creating an elegant, professional quality wedding album portfolio or publishing and selling your own book. Instead of relying on lots of fancy backgrounds and embellishments, template designs focus on photos and text.

What Makes Blurb Unique

  • You can create and save your own custom templates for future use.
  • Books can have as many as 400 pages! Other companies usual max out at 100-200 pages.
  • You can import photos from Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Smugmug as well as from your computer.
  • There are choices of standard, premium and pro-level papers in a variety of finishes.
  • The company used 4-color printing like books in bookstores.
  • There are self-publishing tools – You can sell your creation online via their online bookstore or Amazon.
  • Blurb’s design interface is embedded in Adobe Lightroom Classic and there’s an Adobe Indesign plugin for pros.
  • Books can be converted to ebooks for iPad.
  • You can hire an expert for editing, design and illustration.

Photo Software Options – From Instant Books to Full Creative Control

There are six different ways to create your book depending on your experience level and your needs:

Bookify™ Online – This online design tool is great for beginners because you just need to choose from one of four pre-designed templates (just as a starting point to customize) and upload your photos. You can have the software place your photos and create your book automatically or else drag and drop your images as you like. Either way, you’re free to rearrange and resize them.

Blurb's online photo editor makes creating books fast and easy.
With Blurb’s online photo editor you can have your pages auto-filled, change the layout and number and size of photos and add text in a huge array of fonts and color. It’s a fast way of creating a photo book.

Blurb Bookwright® – This is my favorite option. It’s a free software download that gives you full control over customizing your book and it’s very easy to use. You can either use the provided layouts or create your own custom layouts that you can save for future projects. The software is well laid out with lots of page layout options and there are trim and safe guidelines so you can make sure nothing important will get cropped off when printing. There’s also optional, automatic image enhancement that will brighten and sharpen your photos. You can download Bookwright here.

BLurb's Bookwright is desttop software you can use to create your book
You can download Blurb’s free Bookwright desktop app to design your photo book, trade book, magazine, layflat book or notebook.

The software allows you to create two-page spreads and to use a photo as a background, but surprisingly, there is no capability for changing the opacity of an image. You would need to do this in other software such as Photoshop before you import the image. One nice feature is that if you change your mind, you can change to a different book size after you started. The the software will copy your pages into a new layout.

Blurb for iPhone and iPad – A welcome new addition is Blurb’s free mobile app. You can use it to automatically flow your selected phone and Facebook photos into pre-designed templates. There are three layout options for portrait, landscape, and square photos. You can add captions and then share your book from inside the app. Unfortunately, at this time the app only works for Apple products. Books are available in 5×5 or 5×7 only.

Adobe Indesign Plug-in – There is a free Adobe Indesign plugin that you can install that will give you blank templates plus full typographical and layout control using your Indesign software and CMYK color space. You can upload your page layouts from within Indesign.

Adobe Lightroom – Blurb’s book creation software is embedded in Lightroom Classic so you can build and upload without ever leaving the program. Access it from the Book Module.

PDF to Book – If you already have a book in pDF format, you can adjust it to any of Blurb’s book sizes using their PDF calculator and upload them for ordering.

Themes

Unlike companies such as Snapfish or Mixbook, Blurb does not have a giant collection of themed templates and embellishments for events or holidays. From the Blurb website, you can choose a general photo book theme including travel, baby, cookbook, portfolio, and family. These are very basic theme layouts of image boxes and text areas. The idea with Blurb is that you are in full control of your book layout and design. You can apply an unlimited range of background colors to the page and choose from a huge array of fonts and unlimited font colors. If you’re looking for a full array of digital scrapbooking embellishments and backgrounds, this is probably not the photo service for you; Mixbook or Shutterfly would be a better choice. However, Blurb offers superb creative control for layout and fonts and you can create complex designs.

The Bookwright app offers complete control of image size, placement, borders, and shape.

You can also make planners and notebooks and convert your book to an ebook for your iPad.

Paper

There are lots of options here:

  • Standard 80# paper (118 GSM) – with a smooth semi-matte finish.
  • Premium Lustre 100# (148 GSM) – has a very faint gloss and is 35% heavier than standard paper.
  • Premium Matte 100# (148 GSM) – no gloss, 35% heavier than standard paper.
  • ProLine Pearl Photo 140# (190 GSM) – slightly more gloss than Premium Lustre with pearlescent finish and a nice weight to it. This paper renders contrast well in color and B&W and is of high quality.
  • ProLine Uncoated 100# (148 GSM) – Mohawk superfine matte with low contrast and probably not the best choice for color.
  • Standard Layflat 100# Double Thick (432 GSM) – This is a heavyweight paper that will make your layflat book layout luxurious looking. Layflat is lovely for travel and wedding photos as well as portfolios.

If you are unsure about which paper to use or you are printing a fine art book, you can order a paper swatch kit. It includes endpapers and sample color and b&w prints on each type of paper so you can compare weight, finish, color, and saturation.

Book Sizes and Cover Styles

There are numerous sizes, but I find some of them are rather odd. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a 11×8.5 landscape like most other companies; you have 10×8 or have to jump to 13×11 large landscape. They have a 7×7 square book instead of the typical 8×8 and having made numerous 8×8 books in the past, that’s as small as I want to get.

The softcover has a glossy finish, as does the dust jacket. The imagewrap hardcover has a matte finish. If you go with the dust jacket, there is also an option for a linen cover underneath the jacket.

Style Size Cover Style
Mini Square 5×5 Soft cover or hardcover.
Only available thru mobile app
Small Square 5×7 Softcover or hardcover:
dust jacket or image wrap
Standard landscape 10×8 Softcover or hardcover:
dust jacket or image wrap
Standard portrait 8×10 Softcover or hardcover:
dust jacket or image wrap
Large square 12×12 Hardcover: dust jacket
or image wrap
Large landscape 13×11 Hardcover: dust jacket
or image wrap

Prices

Prices are quite reasonable if you are using the standard paper. A Mini Square 5×5 softcover book starts at $12.99 (20-80 pages). The popular 20-page 8×10/10×8 hardcover image wrap book would cost $36.99; additional pages are only 25 cents each, so a 40-page book is only $5 more – that’s a great deal! Upgrading to Premium paper costs about $4 more for the above 20-page book. Upgrading to ProLine Coated paper adds $11 (20 pages). If you want the Blurb logo removed from your book or replaced with your own, add a whopping 25% to the total price. That can really add up to a lot if you’re making a big book, but it’s a feature pros will appreciate.

Blurb book example
This is an example of a Blurb book “Vietnam” by Istvan Kadar Photography

Print Quality

Blurb uses HP Indigo digital offset presses and claims “bookstore quality.” This proves to be accurate. The color is right on, the finish is beautiful and the dots aren’t really visible to the naked eye.

Final Verdict

Blurb is a very good choice and well priced for the average person wanting to document their vacation or family events, as well as for the pro making a wedding album or high-end coffee table book. It’s best for people that want photo-focused books without a lot of embellishments and fancy backgrounds. If you prefer a more scrapbook-like design, you might be happier with a different photo book company. On the other hand, it’s ideal for graphic designers and Indesign users that want to create complex layouts. Go to Blurb now.

To help defray my website operating costs I belong to several affiliate programs.  In some instances, I may receive a  small commission for products viewed or purchased via my referral. Opinions are solely my own and I try my best to write honest reviews and only recommend products I would use myself.  

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