© 2012 photobookgirl Blurb paper review 2012

How to Choose the Best Paper for Your Photo Book – Part 1 of 2



There are so many paper options out there in Photobookland when deciding to make your photo book.  On the one hand, it’s great – the more options the better right?  But on the other hand more options can lead to more confusion.  So, what factors should you take into consideration when deciding on what paper to choose?

First off let’s look at the typical paper options a photo book company may offer:

  • 100 lb. paper (the standard)
  • “upgraded” standard paper
  • photo paper
  • photo paper mounted on heavy card stock (flush mounts)
  • matte paper
  • glossy paper
In Part 1 of this two-part series I’ll talk about the first two options.  Part 2 (coming tomorrow) will cover photo paper options and down.

100 lb. paper

This is the most typical standard paper offered by the vast majority of photo book companies.  Earlier, I conducted an extensive “feel test” review of 12 different photo book companies’ basic papers to compare them in thickness and glossiness.  The standard papers offered are all approximately 100 lb. in weight.  (You can find more detail on what that means in my earlier review linked above and see how I ranked the companies on paper quality.)


Mixbook photo paper review

Mixbook offers 100 lb. archival-quality silk, semi-gloss paper. This was a group collaborative cookbook project.

Since the time I posted my super duper paper overview, one company – MyPublisher changed their paper, and started offering more options, but at initial glance the paper does not feel much different from the prior one offered (the standard paper weight went up from 115 lb. to 120 lb.  I’ll be writing a separate update on that later.)

Typically the standard 100 lb. paper works just fine for most projects – that’s why it’s the most common paper offered by the companies.  The paper is not matte, but gives off more of a satiny finish and is slightly reflective. It’s probably most similar to the average (non-novel) hardcover book (basically any type of book with photos) that you’d find in the bookstore.  There will likely be some bleed through (where you can see the images and text from the other side showing through if you hold up the page to the light), but not so much so that it’s distracting.  If bleed through is a big concern for you because you have a lot of bold graphic elements or dark photos you may want to upgrade to a thicker paper if available.  Another option is to do black backgrounds for your photos (something I like to do myself).  It reduces any bleed through greatly.
Some companies such as Mixbook, Shutterfly, Snapfish only offer one paper option and this one is it.  In short, it’s a good overall paper for general photo book purposes so that’s why everyone offers it.

“Upgraded” standard paper

I have this type of paper in quotes because obviously we’re discussing many companies here – it’s not going to be possible to standardize them.  But here I mean paper similar to the standard 100 lb. paper but thicker and heavier in weight.


Photobook America paper upgrade

Photobook America offers a few upgraded paper options. This is the 216gsm (approx. 146 lb. ) premium silk paper. It feels very thick. I shot these photos from a helicopter with no doors - yes it was insane. (But hey, it was better than any roller coaster ride I've ever been on!)

As mentioned above, not all companies give more than one paper option, but many do. MyPublisher now offers their heavier 170 lb. paper which was once only available in the larger Deluxe sized books (15 x 11.5 inches), in their standard sized books too (11.25 x 8.75 inches).


MyPublisher paper review 2012

MyPublisher Deluxe size, 182 lb. satin paper (printed prior to updated papers, now 170 lb.) This is my honeymoon book. Awww...

In contrast, Blurb’s standard is 80 lb. paper and 100 lb. (or higher) is an upgrade.  The cost to upgrade is pretty cheap however, so I’d recommend spending the few dollars more to upgrade.  You can read more on Blurb’s paper options (including Pro Line options) here.


Photo Book paper review 2012

This is Blurb's 80 lb. standard paper. You can some bleed through.

Blurb paper review 2012

This is Blurb's 100 lb. premium lustre paper. The paper has good opacity.

Some companies’ upgraded paper offerings come in the form of different products and are not offered as an add on to the standard book.  One such company is Picaboo (i.e. the company’s Classic line versus higher priced books like the Regency or Cape Cod).

So that’s it for Part 1, we’ll continue reviewing the rest of the paper options in Part 2 tomorrow and discuss why you may choose one option over another.  Stay tuned!




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  1. Joe Savage
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 8:33 am | #

    All of these sites are for vanity books only, and there is nothing wrong with that. But the illusion that you can “self-publish” is a non-truth, in the actual sense of the words. A photo book costs around $200.00 to “self-publish”. What would my mark-up be? $275 per book? That’s insanely stupid. How in the world are you supposed to sell books? Basically the game these sites are in is publishing novel style tomes. Cheap, newsprint paper, fonts, no photographs, that they can bang out for a few bucks. For authors in the paperback world, these sites are fabulous. Just so you know, I’m in the publishing business for 20 plus years. So I know what I’m talking about. As an aside, an overseas printing company can print a large format coffee table style full color book for around $15-$20 each, minus the shipping. So if you’re a vanity publisher, knock yourself out! But if you really want to publish books, stay far, far away from these rip-offs.

  2. Carla
    Posted August 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm | #

    Hello! Thank you for the wonderful info across your site! I am a little confused though – I am looking for the best quality album to make my long overdue wedding album. If you had to do your wedding album all over again, which company would you use and which option would you go for? Budget up to $400. I have a lot of photos so will need an album on the bigger side and also great quality pictures (I have super HI-RES photos from my photographer!)

    Any advice/ help is much appreciated!

    Thanks again!!! 🙂

    • photobookgirl
      Posted August 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm | #

      Hi Carla,

      I loved my Anza wedding album and my Lake engagement album that I did with MyPhotoCreations/BrideBox. So I didn’t have to do it all over again! 🙂

      Check out those reviews on wedding albums here. It’s never too late to make a wedding album!

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