Mixbook Photo Book Review

Mixbook Photo Book Review

mixbook photo book openthe first look

It’s so much fun to take a selection of nearly endless digital files, and print a few of those files up into an actual, physical, paper book! I say fun; but it can actually be quite a pain, too. Trying to deal with a confusing design interface can take me from excited to pull-my-hair-out-and-throw-the-laptop-out-the-window frustrated in just no time at all. I tend to want the impossible—an interface that’s fully customizable and completely flexible, but also intuitive and simple to use, allowing drag-and-drop and visual WYSIWYG interaction with the design editor. With high hopes, I registered with Mixbook. Here’s how it went:

First Impressions — Website

Right off the bat, I could see that the choices were nearly endless. And that is just in picking the style of the book: size, cover, paper, binding, themes, layouts… This is exactly what I tend to want—enough choice to do whatever I want. This is the advantage of a hugely flexible editor like Mixbook. It’s also a disadvantage, because with all those choices in front of me, my fear of commitment tends to come out. I decided to skip the temptation to look at every conceivable choice, and selected the Travel theme. I decided that a small, simple softcover book would be a good place to start. I elected to try the 8.5 inch-square softcover, at a very reasonable $19.95. There are also hardcover options, which range from basic to leather and lay-flat editions (fancy)! Having decided on that, I had one nagging worry. There is no option to have the printer adjust or color-correct the photos in any way. I daresay most of us do not have color calibration software, so if you fret about print quality, this could cause you some stress.

mixbook photo book spreadI worried about how some of my photo colors would turn out. 

Having had some bad experiences with print quality in the past, I logged onto the live chat, and was talking to Stephanie within a minute. She kindly directed me to some help pages which demonstrated Mixbook’s tutorials on photo editing. Mixbook does have some basic editing features: There are options to make adjustments to the photos, such as brightness and contrast. However, there is no color correction option once it goes to print. Onscreen editing does you no good if the problem is actually the way things look on your old laptop screen, and not the photos. Beware, if you fret about these details. On the other hand, if you don’t tend to try to edit, and make a few simple tweaks, you’ll probably have nothing to worry about. I decided just to brighten my photos a bit overall, and then not worry about it. With the preliminary steps out of the way, I selected my photos and moved onto the design interface—the fun part (I hoped) This is the central feature of Mixbook; the hugely powerful editor interface. It is amazingly flexible. You have your choice of having it automate everything for you to creating a fully-custom book, and of many points in between. There are layouts and choices galore. The “magic wand” icon, or “AutoMix” feature is a kick to use. It will format, lay out, crop, and add effects to your photos (such as black and white conversion, for example) at a single click. If you happen to like easy, and you are laid back about which photos go where, then give it a try. It makes things so easy, and you might be pleasantly surprised at the photo effects. For control freaks like me, however, the custom options are better. You can choose pre-formatted themes and layouts, which you can then adjust to your heart’s content. Or, you can begin with a completely blank book, and do all of the design work yourself. The drag-and-drop interface and the fully adjustable design tools really do make it simple.

mixbook photo book editor Screenshot: working in the Mixbook layout interface

The downside to the editor is the same as the upside: there are so many choices–they are effectively limitless. I tend to tinker under the hood with anything for a long time before I pull the trigger, and that can make it tough. Pick a theme and just go for it, is my advice. Don’t let all the choices give you analysis paralysis! The good news is, if you imagined something beforehand, odds are you’ll be able to create it in the Mixbook editor. It’s so disappointing to get excited about a project, dream up a look or a feature to be included, then start to order something and realize that you just can’t do that (size, font, text/photo layout, whatever). That won’t happen to you here. There are so many options that you are bound to find or be able to create what you need. I did have one issue with this interface. Supposedly, you can undo any action. However, certain actions that I tried, such as the AutoMix feature and some drag-and-drop attempts, did not allow me to undo them. A few times, new windows with no toolbar opened, and all I could do was close the window. The first time this happened, I lost all of my uploads and had to start over. After this frustrating hurdle, however, I quickly got a feel for the editor, which is completely visual. Once I got into the swing of things, the book progressed quite quickly. I skipped the icons, “stickers”, and other things in favor of a fully customized book with a little of my own text and all of my own photo designs. I had no trouble placing everything exactly where I wanted it, and the book rolled out with amazing smoothness. My order arrived a day sooner than I expected, to my excitement. Here are my notes on the book itself: Book-print and paper quality good-definitely comparable to others. Paper is not flimsy. Unfortunately, a few of the prints bore out my color correction forebodings–though this is not just Mixbook. However, most looked great-glossy print, and beautiful detail on the cover. Fidelity with the screen images is actually quite good; it’s just that print really exposes any flaws.

Turnaround time—excellent.

Well-packaged in stiff cardboard that opens easily, plus bubble wrap.

mixbook photo book brown boxSecure packaging-how will the book look?

Impressions — The Print Book

Fine detail rendered well in print. This includes the cover:

photo book cover close up

Detail of cover image Cropped from The book cover

mixbook photo book cover

As well as the inside photos:

closeup shot

Detail from inside photo Cropped from:

photo book spread 2 The full page

The editor layout

Yes, the book really looks like it did there-no layout design “surprises”. Just a few tweaks plus sharpening gives best results. Heavily processed photos that looked fine on my computer looked weird in print. (This is not an issue confined to Mixbook.) Overall, though, color rendition and detail are very nice. With a careful look at the print color compared to my computer, the fidelity was actually quite high. Color was particularly important given that the majority of my photos were trying to capture the dramatic natural colors of different travel destinations. Therefore, I was very happy to see faithful replications of colors in photos like this:

mixbook photo book color fidelityDetail of one photo to show color fidelity

And this:

photo book print qualityDetail of a photo where I wanted to show the intense landscape colors. These rendered well in print as long as I did not over process before uploading them.

Construction:

The binding is even and appears strong and likely to last. The paper quality is also good, with no flimsy “magazine-page” feel. It feels like real “book” paper.

mixbook photo book bindingBinding and paper.

The main issue I had with the print was a slight issue on my full bleed pages. Many show a slight, sometimes uneven edge. Unfortunately, this has been a problem mentioned by many others with Mixbook—one which other users note is corrected by Mixbook with a free reprint, shipped right away.

photo book white edge

Many pages showed a white edge, when they should look like this:

photo book clean edge

My final verdict

Overall, I was extremely pleased with Mixbook. I am a very picky, tire-kicker type, so I was prepared for some disappointment with my printed photos. However, I’m happy with the book overall. Many of the issues that I had were not really “Mixbook” issues at all; for example, I found flaws that were not actually printing issues, but issues with me over processing my photos in my own editing software. A tip: less is more. Flaws that don’t really show up on a glowing computer screen will be obvious on a printed page. Mixbook’s flexible and easy editor, quick shipping, price, processing and shipping time, and the overall quality of the book all get my recommendation. Register with Mixbook to get your photo books made for the holidays!

Step One: Click here to register a free account now

Step Two: Choose your theme and size

Step Three: Personalize with Mixbook Editor

Step Four: Order you photo book

Disclaimer/Editor’s Note: This review describes a product sold through an affiliate website. I was made aware of this affiliate relationship when I was asked to write the review, and I did not have to pay for the book myself. However, I made every effort to write an unbiased review. I also did not receive any payment for this article specifically (over and above my salary), either for writing the article or in the form of any percentage of resulting sales.   -Heather Nilson

About The Author

Heather Nilson was editor of PhotographyTricks.com from August 2012 until November 2014. She has a background as an academic geek, with a degree in biology and work history in biology research. This was followed in 2010 by a complete career switch from laboratory research to writing, photography, and travel. She specializes in travel and fine art photography, and loves spending her computer time continually learning more about photography and creativity. Heather lives in Denver, Colorado, when she is not traveling. Like her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/LightAdventurePhotography

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  • Meagan

    I used Mixbook last year after using Shutterfly for years- the reason for the switch? Mixbook allows more than 110 pages which is shutterfly’s max.

    I really liked Mixbook’s fexibility but my main issue with it is that it does not have (that I could find) any kind of storyboard feature similar to Shutterfly that allows you to designate which pictures should go on which page before you do any customizing. This was a huge disadvantage as I put over 800 pics in a book and Mixbook makes you manually add one by one and you have to change pages while trying to do it.

    Is there an easier way to do this that lets you do this organization on the front end like Shutterfly does?