(PLEASE NOTE: This post has been updated November 2016. Feel free to comment if you have any questions.)
From all of the messages I’ve received recently on my Facebook fan page and comments on the website, plus not to mention all the e-mail messages, you really want to know about Blurb’s ProLine papers and how they compare! It’s been one of the top questions I’ve received since Blurb announced their new paper offerings this past May. I couldn’t get this post up fast enough! You asked and I’m answering. Here’s everything you want to know…
I mentioned earlier that I decided to try Blurb’s ProLine papers for a special photo book I made for Mother’s Day and because I wanted it to be special it took me longer than I anticipated to gather all the photos I wanted to use, and yes, it ended up being late, but my mom still loved it. Like many of you, I couldn’t decide which ProLine paper to try. There are two choices: ProLine Uncoated and ProLine Pearl Photo.
So, which to choose? I decided to use the method I normally use when I go shoe shopping – when in doubt, buy both! I intended to keep one book for myself and let my mother pick which one she preferred, so win-win situation either way, plus there was no other way to do it for review purposes except to go for it. Blurb’s photo books are also very affordable compared to other photo book companies, so ordering two doesn’t break the bank. Read on to find out which book PhotoBookGirl’s Mom picked!
To start, here’s a chart comparing the basics specifications on Blurb papers:
||Weight||Company’s Description||Paper Manufacture/Name||Cost for 20-page Hardcover 10×8 ImageWrap|
||80# (118 gsm)||Smooth, semi-matte finish||NewPage||$36.99 (Max pages: 440) Addtl pgs. $0.25|
|Premium Lustre||100# (148 gsm)||Hint of gloss, 35% heavier and more opaque than Standard||NewPage||$39.99 (Max pages: 240) Addtl pgs. $0.30|
|Premium Matte||100# (148 gsm)||35% heavier and more opaque than Standard; Slight sheen||NewPage||$39.99 (Max pages: 240) Addtl pgs. $0.30|
|ProLine Uncoated||100# (148 gsm)||Eggshell texture (very matte)||Mohawk Superfine Uncoated||$47.99 (Max pages: 240) Addtl pgs. $0.35|
|ProLine Pearl Photo||140# (190 gsm)||Semi-gloss; Slightly glossier than Premium Lustre and slightly heavier than other papers; pearlescent finish||Mohawk Photo Gloss||$52.99 (Max. pages 240) Addtl pgs. $0.40|
Upgrading to the new ProLine endpapers will add an additional $3.00 per book. Prices and specs are accurate as of November 2016 in USD and does not include shipping or taxes if applicable. Please confirm book costs with Blurb before checkout. For more details on pricing for other size books check out Blurb’s pricing page.
The Cover and Spine
The books are identical on the outside. You can customize your Blurb cover and spine and what’s great is that you can use any font you have on your computer. Here I used Century Gothic – one of my favorites and Dartangnon (I’m on a Mac b/t/w). With Blurb’s free BookSmart software, you can fully customize the interior layouts as well by toggling between the “Editing layout” mode and the standard layout mode. If you want to make an easy book, you can use Blurb’s ready-made templates or Blurb’s auto-placement tool which will automatically populate your book with the photos you’ve uploaded. I personally like being able to alter the templates to suit my layout. The bonus is that I can save the templates under “My Page Layouts” and reuse them for later books. If you’re new to Blurb’s software, check out my step-by-step tutorial on how to make customizable layouts in Blurb.
Additionally, Blurb has recently introduced new endsheet options. I decided to go with the standard endsheet in grey (before they only offered white.) Choosing one of the Pro options will add $3.00 to the cost of your book.
Logo or No Logo?
Another option to choose is whether or not you want to have Blurb’s logo printed in the book. This may be important to you if you’re selling your books or if you’re a pro and are making books for a client, but I usually don’t mind the logo. In Blurb’s books the logos appear on the title/copyright page towards the front and on the final page before the back endsheet. The logos are not too large and it’s a tasteful logo, so I don’t think it detracts from the book. You can pay to remove the logo, which I assumed was the same fixed cost no matter how many pages you have in your book, but puzzlingly, it can cost anywhere from about $8.00 to about $24.00 depending on the page count or size of your book. (I was looking at the standard paper, 10×8 hardcover ImageWrap books. It varies with other sizes and page counts, but the cost does go up the more pages you have. For the 7 x 7 size for 20 pages the cost is about $3.50.) (2016 UPDATE: Blurb now charges 25% of the total book cost to remove the logo.)
ProLine Uncoated and ProLine Pearl Photo Compared
Both papers are high quality papers and therefore have a more substantial feel to them than Blurb’s standard paper and Blurb’s Premium papers. The paper feels thicker and there’s less bleed through (being able to see the image that’s printed on the reverse). I ordered the Premium upgrade two years back before there were two premium options (now premium lustre and premium matte are available). I also managed to find a Blurb book printed on standard paper for purposes of this review which was graciously lent to me by my friend CL! (Thanks!) So, I can give a more thorough comparison.
Below are some photos of the two ProLine books and a comparison of the finishes. The uncoated one is matte with an eggshell finish, and the pearl one has a slight gloss to it. The papers are very different in texture, but there’s no right or wrong necessarily – just preference. I found that colors were slightly more intense with the pearl than with the uncoated.
Similarly, blacks printed were deeper on the pearl than on the uncoated and the contrast was slightly higher than on the uncoated. However, because of the lesser contrast, subtle details came through slightly better on the uncoated. It’s very hard to tell here, but I know you all like thorough reviews so for whatever it’s worth, I noticed a slight difference.
Bleedthrough refers to the ability to see the image that’s on the reverse side of the page. Excessive bleedthrough is obviously not desirable as you don’t want to be distracted by another photo. You would expect that a thicker paper (which the ProLine papers are) would have less bleedthrough than the standard or premium papers and I found very little to no bleedthrough on the ProLine papers. This is where comparing the ProLine to Blurb’s standard paper and premium paper is helpful.
Here are some photos of my friend’s standard book printed in 2006. I don’t even know if upgraded paper was even an option at that time. Also making for a nice comparison, this book has a customizable dust jacket in contrast to the ImageWrap books I normally print with Blurb. Although I didn’t take a photo of it, the hardcover book is a plain black linen and there’s no titling on the inside spine.
The standard paper is 80 pounds in weight and is therefore less heavy and less opaque than the upgraded papers. There’s nothing wrong with standard paper, it depends on the nature of your project and your budget, but you should expect more bleedthrough. If your Blurb book exceeds
160 240 pages, then standard paper is your only option due to how the book is bound. Thicker papers put more strain on the binding.
Bleedthrough is evident with the standard paper.
As you can see, I didn’t have any bleedthrough with this premium upgrade. In this book, most of my backgrounds were black or of another image, so I don’t know that I would get much bleedthrough anyway. I was pleased with this upgraded paper and I still think it’s a good choice. Going from this upgraded paper to the even more upgraded ProLine for my 80-page 7×7 hardcover ImageWrap book would cost about $10.00 more (not much dollar-wise, but it does reflect a 30% increase in price) – so if your budget is tight, the mid level upgrade is still very nice and and I wouldn’t be disappointed with the quality.
So, I don’t know what else to say about Blurb’s new papers! I think I covered it in classic ad nauseam PhotoBookGirl style. The only other thing I can do is invite you over to see for yourself (just joking…) or order Blurb’s swatch kit for $7.95. You’ll get all the paper samples, endpapers and linen cover samples in the kit. You will also receive a credit in that amount to put towards your future order, so there’s no risk, unless you don’t end up ordering a book with them. There’s no shipping fee (I’m in the U.S. so I don’t know if international charges will apply.) For those ordering a special event book, or for large orders, it’s a good idea to check out the goods first!
If price were not a consideration, I prefer the ProLine Pearl over the ProLine Uncoated, but I could see applications where the uncoated would make for a beautiful book. Perhaps if you were going for a more classic look, or were printing a portfolio the texture of the uncoated paper can enhance your project. The Pearl is more modern in my opinion.
So, which one did PhotoBookGirl’s Mom like? After getting the books, I knew she would like the Pearl Photo more and I was right! She’s a modern woman, much more stylish and chic than me and has expensive taste! (ha ha…) No worries folks, if your mom has expensive taste (and she’s worth it!), check out the Blurb promo at the top of the post or the Blurb Groupon at 56% off. The best way not to miss any deals is to stay in touch:
Check out this page for my past Blurb reviews. I do have a Blurb Premium Lustre book on its way, so if I feel there’s anything to add, I’ll do another post. Also on the horizon is a post on how to upload a PDF to Blurb, a Q&A on my pro photographer friend’s experience selling a book on Blurb and review on Blurb’s softcover photo books so stay tuned!
I’d love to hear about your experience with Blurb or any other questions you may have – please post your questions/comments below!
Note: I am an affiliate of Blurb, but did not receive any compensation for my review and was not asked to do this review by the company. My opinions are entirely my own. I purchased these books myself.