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Last year my family went on a much-anticipated summer trip to South Dakota. My older son who is now six, has been obsessed with U.S. presidents and the founding fathers since he was three. (I have also made sure to include books on the first ladies and other famous women in our reading list as well.) We have so much president related stuff around the house: books; flash cards; rulers; figurines; pens; bobble heads, t-shirts; placemats, even stuffed president dolls. Who knew there was so much presidential paraphernalia? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that our younger son who is now 2.5 years old followed in his older brother’s footsteps and is into everything president as well. So you could imagine how much fun they had on this trip!
South Dakota’s most famous landmark is Mt. Rushmore but have you ever heard of the self-proclaimed “City of Presidents”? Nearby Rapid City, South Dakota has the distinction of hosting life-sized bronze statues of every U.S. president on its downtown streets. At the time of our visit, all the presidents through George W. Bush were on display. President Obama’s statue was yet to be completed but should make its way to a Rapid City block very soon. My two little historians loved posing with EVERY STATUE on display and it was so much fun capturing these photos for posterity. I’m thinking about making a collage of all the photos to print on a canvas to hang in our art gallery.
Now with that background, how about we get to the book review?
Because this was a big trip for us, I made not one, but TWO photo books of our South Dakota trip. One I geared more towards my kids and the other was more for me. I also wanted to give you a comparison of two different book types and different papers. One book is printed on standard Mixbook paper and the other is printed on a newer offering – Pearl Finish. Please note the book with the pearlescent paper was complimentary, provided by Mixbook for purposes of review. The other book I purchased on my own. Regardless of compensation or sponsorship my honest opinion is always given.
Here’s the stats on my Mixbook photo books:
|Book size:||8.5 x 11″ (width x height) medium portrait|
|Cover:||Imagewrap (full photo on the front and back) Hardcover with Soft-Touch Matte upgrade|
|Paper Type:||Semi-Gloss (standard)|
|Book size:||11 x 8.5″ (width x height) landscape|
|Cover:||Imagewrap (full photo on the front and back) Hardcover with Soft-Touch Matte upgrade|
|Paper Type:||Pearl Finish (upgrade)|
|Price:||$194.40 + $12.99 (priority shipping) (complimentary for purposes of review)|
Mixbook’s software is one of the most user friendly and feature-filled software I’ve come across. That’s one big reason why I’ve chosen Mixbook for my calendar projects every year for the last seven years and counting. The software resides online so you need to be connected to the Internet to be able to work on your book. I like that once I load my photos to the Mixbook program from my desktop computer, I can carry my laptop around and still work on my book anywhere in the house.
Recently Mixbook made an update to their software. It sports a streamlined, more sleek look. The menus function a bit more cleanly, with the editing options for example requiring less clicks to get to the option you’re seeking. Additionally adding titles to accompany the icons makes it more clear what each tool does.
The one thing I couldn’t find in the new software was the duplicate or copy function. Depending on how you put together your photo book layouts you may not miss it, but since I do a lot of copying of prior layouts and in fact whole spreads to speed up my workflow, a copy function is pretty essential for me. Luckily I saw a link at the bottom right of the workspace which said “Here to Switch to Mixbook Classic”. It’s a little small but you can see it in the screenshot of the workspace above. It’s on the bottom right hand corner.) Clicking on that took me back to the software I had become accustomed to and that version allowed me to right click to bring up a menu with the copy function. If you don’t normally use or need to copy a current photo box or text then you won’t miss it. Hopefully it gets added to the newer software as well.
Some of the design tools you may not normally see in other company’s software include:
- Adjusting the opacity of photos and backgrounds (great for layering);
- Adding shadows to photo boxes;
- Embellishments, photos, and other elements can cross the center of the spread (especially good for lay flat designs);
- Automatic and intuitive alignment tools tell you whether your element is centered.
Sizes and Book Types
Mixbook offers books in landscape, square and portrait orientations. Landscape books come in three sizes: 8 x 6″; 11 x 8.5″ and 14 x 11″. Square books come in 6 x 6″; 8.5 x 8.5″; 10 x 10″ and 12 x 12″. Portrait books come in 8.5 x 11″. Portrait books are one of my favorites because of the types of layouts I can make with them. I try to make portrait books whenever the opportunity arises.
Mixbook books come with two main paper choices: Semi-Gloss which is described as a “classic, smooth paper with a subtle gloss” and Pearl Finish described as a “pearlescent lustre” which “adds a touch of sheen and silky feel”. If you upgrade to Mixbook’s Premium Lay Flat photo book, the paper is described as an “ultra-thick premium paper” with “luxe matte finish”. Note that not all sizes and book types can be upgraded. All square books in all sizes can be upgraded to the Premium Lay Flat. The 11 x 8.5″ landscape is the only size that can be upgraded to lay flat. Portrait books are not available in the layflat configuration. Additionally, most but not all books can be upgraded to the Pearl Finish paper. So, before you make any final decisions on size and style, be sure to check out the available options as you make your basic selections before starting the book. When you find a theme you like, click on the “view full product info” link at the bottom. This takes you to a pricing and style selection page. I like how you can see the cost and options upfront before you begin your book (see above). Some sites really bury this information. With Mixbook you see clearly how changing the options changes the price so there are no surprises.
With standard semi-gloss or pearl finish paper the page maximums are a whopping 399! With lay flat the limit is 99 pages. With most companies topping out at 100 for standard pages, Mixbook maximums are well above the norm. It’s nice to not have to worry about going over the standard 100 pages. Extra pages range from $0.65 per page to $2.29 per page for the largest size in standard paper. In the upgraded Pearl Finish extra pages run – $1.79 to $2.69 per page.
Cover options are also dependent on the other features you choose so not all styles will be available for all books. Softcover, Hardcover – Glossy; Hardcover – Soft Touch Matte; Hardcover – Soft Touch Matte with matte dust jacket and Leather with matte dust jacket are the possible configurations. Personally I’m partial to the hardcover soft touch books and I chose it for both my books. It adds an interesting smooth finish to the cover, kind of a velvety feel. This upgrade adds $5.00 to the total cost.
Book Quality and Construction
I was impressed with how both books turned out. The colors were vivid and accurate. The text was crisp and clear. The binding was tight and neat and the hardcover soft touch matte lends a high quality feel to it. I think it makes the book look more refined and more expensive and well worth the $5.00 upgrade.
In terms of the papers, the standard paper had a nice weight to it and bleedthrough (the ability to see the other side’s image come through) was minimal. The pearl paper book also produced accurate colors and clarity. While it did add a pretty iridescence to my images, it probably was not as suited to my subject matter. The following photos I tried to give you a idea of the reflective quality of the paper. I think you can see the iridescence pretty well in the middle of the sky and just to the left of the prairie dog.
Perhaps it would lend itself to a more glamorous subject such as a wedding and was less compatible with our rustic trip to South Dakota. It’s subjective though and my point was to give you a look at two different paper options, so I hope having the comparison here can help you make a decision based on your particular project and personal style. If budget is a factor, then the standard paper makes a great choice. (For the photos you see in this post, the portrait oriented book is on standard semi-gloss paper. The horizontal book is printed on the Pearl Finish paper.)
Design Tips – Make It Yours!
The portrait book I did was intended to be more fun – geared towards my six-year-old. I really like a lot of Mixbook’s ready made themes. They are well-designed, professional looking and with more contemporary options to suit a more modern look. Classic options are available too and you’ll find lots of options for your projects. I found this one called Hand Lettered Travel and used a lot of the pre-designed layouts as is, with some tweaks here and there to fit the orientation of my pictures. What is so great about Mixbook’s software is that you can use a designer theme as a foundation and then make tweaks to suit your needs. Many times with other companies I love the theme but then you’re locked into the size or orientation that just doesn’t fit with the photo you want to use. That doesn’t happen with Mixbook. Tweak to your heart’s content, or leave as is.
What appealed to me with this theme was the pre-designed word art and the travel related quotes. The travel quotes inspired me to add a few of my own that were appropriate to our trip. I have three other tips I wanted to share that I used in this book and that I use in many of my other photo books as well to add some fun and custom design elements.
Tip #1: One was the “Rapid City, SD” graphic. It’s super easy. It’s just a red circle and then two different fonts. I used this here and there throughout my book. Not only does it lend some continuity, but I also used it as a filler when I had an odd balance of photos. I created it once and then used the copy/paste function to add it to other pages. I resized it when necessary. Easy!
Tip #2: The second design tip I have is also another graphic element. I’m not one to add a caption to every photo, but I do like to title a location so the person viewing the book has a reference point for where the photo was taken. (Plus I’m sure years down the line my memory will need some jogging!) I used one of the pre-designed layouts but then picked a graphic bar made up of vertical lines and then added a title for the location at the bottom. I carried this throughout several pages to tie them all together. I changed up backgrounds here and there and it came out pretty nicely I think. The second one with Mt. Rushmore is more subtle but it is there!
Tip #3: Use your own photo as a background. When I’m taking photos, I’m always thinking ahead to my photo book layouts. I keep an eye out for images I can use as interesting backdrops. For this one I took a close up photo of a replica of the Declaration of Independence. This made for a relevant and unique backdrop for one of my presidential statue layouts. In particular I love to keep an eye out for themed wallpaper. For example I took a photo of the cool antique looking map wallpaper in Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge which I know will make an awesome backdrop for my photo book of that trip. I also captured a few shots of the really quirky president wallpaper at the Hotel Monaco in Washington D.C. which also makes for a cool backdrop for that trip’s photo book. The ability to be really creative is what makes photobooking fun! As for backdrops Mixbook has a ton of ones that match your chosen theme and I used several of those in my books as well.
I was very impressed with how quickly my photo books arrived. The portrait book I ordered with standard shipping and it only took 4 business days to turn around. The landscape book I ordered with priority shipping and I received it within 2 business days from when I placed my order. I’m sure that turnaround time will depend on their volume of orders and might take longer around the holidays, but I was pleasantly surprised to see my books come so fast!
How to Save on a Mixbook Photo Book
Check out my special deal for PBG readers! You can get 40% off any Mixbook photo book through the end of March! Just enter coupon code: PBG2018. Mixbook also runs new deals every week. Be sure to check my deals page for the latest promotions and discounts.