© 2010 photobookgirl Wedding Table number layout Blurb

Q&A: How to Create Customizable Layouts in Blurb



Looking for the latest Blurb deals including the recent 67% off Blurb Groupon?


I like problem-solving. That’s actually what I spend most of my days doing, but on a topic that is not as fun as making photo books! I thought I’d share my response to one of my blog readers who asked a question about customizable layouts on Blurb which I had mentioned in an earlier post. Since I think it’s always helpful to have visuals, I have some screenshots that will make it easy to follow. (btw I’m on a MacBook Pro using Blurb BookSmart Version, but it should be similar for you.)

How to create customizable layouts in Blurb

1) If you’re in Blurb’s BookSmart program (download Blurb’s software for free here) and you’ve gone through the few steps to choose book size and basic theme, you’ll come to the main workspace.

Blurb BookSmart Layout

Blurb main workspace

To make it easier, I suggest selecting the pre-made layout that is closest to what you’re looking for and edit that layout instead of starting from scratch. Here I’ve selected this simple two photo layout to modify. I clicked on the layout at the top left of the page which you can see has a green checkmark to show that I’ve selected it.

2) Now click the first button at the top “Edit Layout” which takes you to the editing mode.

Edit Blurb Layout

Edit Layout Mode in Blurb

3) If you click on any “Image container” you can resize it, drag it, move it etc… Here I decided to turn this two photo layout to a three photo layout. Here’s what I did:

  • Clicked on the left image container
  • Dragged the bottom of the container and made it smaller, into a square
  • After making my square, I clicked on “Duplicate” to make another photo box exactly like the first
Creating Box #3

Duplicating the box

4) You can see above that the Duplicate function created a copy of the box, but it randomly placed it on the page. We need to line it up.

  • Drag the box into the general area where you want to line it up by eyeballing it first
  • But don’t trust your eyes! You’ll be pretty annoyed at yourself if your book comes back and it’s slightly off. Let the software do the work for you
  • Click on the new square box, hold shift and click on the original square box you want it to line up with (both boxes should be highlighted in yellow)
Align Horizontal Blurb

Lining up the two yellow boxes from left to right

  • Click “Align horizontal” to line up from left to right. Now your two square boxes should line up
  • Now if you want the square to line up from top to bottom with the longer vertical box, click on the new square box, hold shift and click on the long vertical box
  • Click “Align vertical”. Now your page has three photo boxes, all neatly lined up – yea!

Blurb 3 photo layout

5) Save your layout by clicking “Apply and Save to My Layouts” and you can give it any name that helps you identify it.

You’ll then be taken back to the main Blurb workspace. What’s great is that once you’ve created your own customized layout, you can use it over and over again whenever you make a book of this size.  The one I just created is marked with the green checkmark below. You can see that I’ve done a ton of my own custom layouts and I’ll be able to go back to them. They are under the drop down menu heading, “My Page Layouts” at the top left.

Photo Book Custom layout

My new layout in action showcasing yummy food.

Other Tips

1) Keep in mind that Blurb books do not lay flat, so you’re going to lose some of the image in the gutter (the spine of the book). To help guide you, turn on the “Trim Guidelines” under the “View” drop-down menu.

  • The dotted scissors line is a general guideline to where the book will be cut to size.
  • The pink shaded area is where you should not put any captions or photos that you don’t want to get cut off.
  • Blurb says it trims about 1/8″ off the edges of the book, but it can vary so keep that in mind.
  • When I create my own custom layouts, I make a left side version and right side version of the same layout.  With the left side version, I hold shift to select everything on the page then use the cursor keys to shift everything slightly to the left, then save. I pull up the same layout again and shift everything slightly to the right and rename it “CustomLayout#R”. I just want to be sure that my images aren’t too close to the center of the book so they don’t get swallowed up by the gutter/spine. The screenshot immediately below is what I would call a left sided version as there is more space on the right side to allow for the binding of the book.
View Guidelines

See the pink shading - stay out of that zone to be safe.

Well, that’s about it in a nutshell. Hmmm…the post is kind of long and detailed so I don’t know if I can call that a nutshell. Regardless if you found this helpful to you – please let me know.  If you’ve done your own customizable layouts before on Blurb or any other company’s program, feel free to post your tips.  I’m sure there are a lot more tips out there that everyone, including me, can benefit from.

Do you have a question about anything on this site and want to see it answered by a real person?  Post a comment or send me a direct message on my Contact page.  Happy weekend!




Be sure to check out my CANVAS DEALS!


  1. PM
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm | #

    Thank you very much for answering my question so promptly! I enjoyed that you gave enough detail and had pictures. I am a visual person so this helps a lot. As I was reading the post I felt my creative power increase. Yeah for customization!

    I appreciate that Blurb has this feature and it does put it ahead of MP (in my mind). But I still wish they had higher quality print outs…I wonder if MP will print something off of Blurb’s software? Or Costco?

    Thank you for such a thorough and detailed post! Much appreciated Photobookgirl!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted April 16, 2010 at 10:08 pm | #

      You’re very welcome! I think both of them have good quality so you really can’t go wrong with either. As far as I know, you can’t interchange one company’s software or proprietary format with another company’s, so it wouldn’t be possible to upload a Blurb layout into MyPublisher. I’ve never tried Costco before, so I wouldn’t know for sure. But I know what you mean by wanting to mix and match features of one company with another, to come up with an interface that’s just right for your project. For me, I like different companies for different projects. I figure out what kind of book I want to do and then weigh my options from there. In terms of complete customization, nothing beats a full featured program like Adobe Photoshop or other photo editing programs, but doing that for every page of say a 100 page photo book would take a huge investment of time. Sometimes, I just want to quickly put together a nice looking book for the fun of it, and there are companies that are good for that. For something like a wedding photo book or a book for a special occasion like an anniversary or baby book, you obviously want to spend more time. New companies and new features are popping up every day, so I’ll be sure to post the latest info. Likewise we’re working on adding new features for our site so, stay tuned and thanks for your comment!

  2. PM
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm | #

    So how far should I keep my pictures from the left and right when making my book in order for me to not loose the picture. Should I keep it out of the purple shaded sections??

    • photobookgirl
      Posted July 1, 2010 at 8:26 pm | #

      If you’re talking about Blurb, and you want to do a full page bleed (where the photo fills the entire page without any borders) you will need to fill up the entire page, including the purple/pink shaded areas. Anything that would be crucial such as text captions, though should not be in that area. If you don’t want to lose any of the image, then you would have to create a smaller box on the page that doesn’t extend across the whole page. I found a helpful link on Blurb trim guides. Hope that helps!

  3. Chantelle
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 7:06 am | #

    I am planning on making my first photobook from pictures I took during my 4 months of travel. I need a high capacity book, so I chose a Blurb 8×10 book (leaning towards landscape). I am narrowing down the number of photos (hoping to finish this week, but I think it will still be more than 1,300; I took more than 6,000). Since I am new at this, I wanted to pick your brain… hope it’s okay.
    1. How do you decide what pictures make it into the book? I know it depends on personal taste, but I’m having a hard time narrowing it down.
    2. How do you usually decide between portrait versus landscape style books? I take more horizontal pictures than vertical.
    3. If I make 1 big book, it probably will be more than 160 pages, which means I can’t get the premium paper. Have you ordered a book from them with standard paper? Is a photbook that large even too much to handle? I could split it into 2 books and use the premium paper. I know I don’t have to decide this now in terms of creating the book, but I bought one groupon and could buy another if I decide now. Since I am using groupon, do you think the Feb. 22 deadline is do-able to make a high capacity book? I know you are a seasoned pro at this, but how long does it usually take you to create a photobook?
    Any other hints or suggestions will be appreciated… thanks!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted November 20, 2010 at 2:51 am | #

      Hi Chantelle!

      I think you may find some good information in my how to make your own photo book series. I go through things step by step from picture editing to selection and then get into design – if this is the first time you’re making a book you’ll probably find it helpful. 1300 is a lot for a single book. I’d say I normally have about 500 photos in a 100 page book. I say a range of 1 to 5 photos per page is what I normally do for that size book. You can definitely do a 200 page book, but I hear that sometimes that can be hard on the binding. You could split the book into a two volume set, buy another Blurb Groupon and then take advantage of the savings on each book, using one Groupon per book (note that you’d just enter the orders separately since it’s one Groupon per order). I divided up my honeymoon before into two books. I have only gotten the premium paper cause I heard from others that the normal 80# paper is thin and if I take the time to make a book, I’d rather spend a little more to get better quality especially on an epic project like yours. I think that you could easily make the book before Feb 22nd, but I guess it just depends on how much time you can spend on it. I can get a 100 page book normally done in a weekend to 4 days if I work on it for several hours each day, but I am kind of picky! Hope you find the post useful and feel free to ask if you need help!

  4. Christine
    Posted September 8, 2011 at 4:36 pm | #

    Hi, I am wanting to publish a high quality family cookbook. Right now I have about 200 recipes, some photos and comments to add to most recipes. Both color and old B/W. Do you have any guidelines or to- dos I should be considering like paper type, size either landscape or portrait etc? I have only ever completed a Shutterfly book. An amateur book maker but willing to give it my best. Thank you.

  5. Jodie
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 12:06 pm | #

    I’m so happy I found your site. You did all the work that I thought I would have to do to compare web sites. Thank you! One site I didn’t see on your list of reviews is Smile Books. Have you ever used them? You mentioned that you like different companies for different projects. Do you have that listed anywhere? It would be a nice comparison for those of use new to photo books. Right now I’m working on a heritage album which will include old black and whites as well as sepia photos that I’ve scanned. Which company have you found does the best work for this type of project? Thank you for all your reviews.

  6. ACK
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:36 am | #

    I just found your site through a search engine looking for posts about converting a blog to a book. I just used Blurb to print a book of one year of my blog posts from WordPress. It was a very labor intensive process. Blurb imported all of my text, which was good. But it imported everything into one format, with small photos that were not sufficient pixels to be enlarged. I had to go page by page (240 pages!) to re-do formats, change font, and re-import photos and insert them. Are you aware of another software that imports blogs in a better format? Thank you!

    • photobookgirl
      Posted June 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm | #

      Hi ACK,

      Blurb is the one I’ve heard most about, but there is blog2print and also blogbooker. I don’t know anything about them unfortunately. If one of them works for you, would love to hear what you find out. When I go to slurp my blog, I will do a post about it, but I don’t have any immediate plans to do so at this point. Best of luck!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *