I'm hoping our holiday cards have made it to everyone on our list so that I can share them here. I got them out a bit late! I just wanted to share the design I went with and who I printed them with in case you're looking for a printer to use next year (or for other holiday cards throughout the year).
I think I've mentioned that I've used Mpix for years and that is who I used this year. I love how these press printed cards came out. The colors look so nice. I have to admit, it took me a while to get used to press printing as opposed to photographic prints. With press printing, you can of course see the dots from the printing, so the images never feel as sharp as they do with photographic prints which gives you a continuous tone, not dots - but that said, it's like that with any press printing.
For the design, I added these chalk ornaments from Katie Pertiet's kit here, and used the Merry & Bright on the back of the card from her kit here. I used the striped pink paper from this kit from paislee press.
I also had our "photo booth strips" from our party printed at Mpix, but with their regular photographic process. I set them up on an 8x10 canvas in Photoshop and once I received the prints, I cut them out with my craft knife. I sent them to our party guests along with our holiday card. I had to use a #10 envelope for the longer photo strips so they'd fit. Here they are printed as 8x10 prints, and then afterwards after I cut them out.
Here are a few phone pics below that I took of one of the photo books I had printed at Mixbook. I mentioned that I used them for the first time this year and I was SO happy with their service! The bookmaking software is the most advanced I've seen and the quality of the printing is wonderful! Again, the books are press-printed, so if you look closely, you can see the "dots", but again - that is how any photo book will be no matter where you have it printed.
I also had a Shutterfly book printed this season and I do feel that Mixbook is better. The images seemed dark in the Shutterfly book, but I've used Shutterfly before and the books aren't bad. I think it was always the book-making software that I didn't love at Shutterfly.
The only complaint I had with the Mixbook book is that the printed cover image seemed a little blurry. Not as crisp as it could be.
I thought I'd share some of the features of the Mixbook software with you. Now, there may be another photo book service that has similar features with their bookmaking software - this is just me speaking from experience. I do not recall Shutterfly having this many features, but who knows, I might have missed them. One thing I've always hated with most bookmaking software is the clunky and unintuitive interface.
If you're like me, I do not print a lot of photo books. I usually make them as gifts at the end of the year for relatives. The one I usually make for my own family (although I missed 2012) is one photo book highlighting our ENTIRE year. That might seem crazy to many folks that make books throughout the year. A lot of you that digital scrapbook, might make small books throughout the year for different events, etc.
For me personally, I only get around to doing the one book a year and I like having the entire year in one book. We don't have a lot of space around here and I feel that it's very doable to do one book a year, even with all of the photos I take. The book I made for 2013 is 87 pages with 626 photos. You might be thinking "well I bet that was a really expensive book"... it wasn't! I had a coupon code and they actually have another coupon code offer on their home page as we speak. It was around $44 plus shipping. That might seem like a lot, but since these books are my only hard copy for any photos I take, the cost is well worth it. Even though I keep all of our photos archived at Carbonite, it makes me feel better knowing that I have hard copies of each photo all in one book. And really, I don't think our grandkids will be searching through online archives to see photos of their parents. I will want to have these books available for generations to come so that they can easily pick them up and browse through. These books are priceless really for documenting our family history.
Here are some features of their software that I thought were worth mentioning:
1. There are A LOT of photo layout options. I personally stick to a few simple ones to keep the focus on the photos, but it's good to know they have a lot to offer. What I LOVED? Even if you start with one of their pre-made layouts, you can easily move photos around, resize and snap-to-guides even pop up to easily align things just as you have in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign etc. The guides are crazy helpful.
2. Backgrounds: As you know, if you've made a photo book anywhere, background patterns can get pretty cheesy. I was surprised that I ended up liking quite a few of theirs. I used around 15 or so repeatedly throughout my book. If you don't like any of them, no worries, they also have a button where you can upload your own background patterns. But it's nice to know if you're in a hurry to get a book done, you have some options that aren't totally gross.
3. Opacity/Transparency: I was surprised that you can adjust the opacity of many things, including the background patterns, your photos, embellishments, etc. It reminded me of Photoshop in that way.
4. Embellishments: They also offer embellishments or "stickers" as they call them that you can add to your pages, just like you would in Photoshop if you were creating a digital scrapbook page. Now, of course a lot of them are cheesy. But a lot are not! I used their simple ones sporadically and they even have some floral elements that look to be from a well-loved stationery artist well-known in the design community - who's name is escaping me! I'm assuming these elements were licensed. Anyway, again, it's nice to know there are some decent embellishments to add if you are in a hurry to make a book. Of course, the control freaks (me included) might still prefer to create their own page layouts in Photoshop first and then upload, but it's nice to know you have options. You can also upload your own embellishment files into the program and create your layouts right inside their software instead of doing it in Photoshop first.
5. Photo Editing: You can also adjust the brightness, contrast and saturation of your photos which I haven't seen before. Again, something you'd normally do in Photoshop first, but it's nice to have the option of doing it inside the bookmaker software. You can also convert your photo to black & white, or sepia (which is common in most programs, but I find it even more helpful that you can adjust the brightness and contrast after you convert them.)
6. Drop Shadows: You can add drop shadows to your elements! I haven't seen these one. The nice thing? You can adjust the blur, distance, angle, opacity and color of the shadow! Hello? Amazing. Sometimes drop shadows can be so harsh, so it's nice that you can adjust it to your liking. I'm happy to report that the drop shadows in my printed book came out really nice and look very natural looking.
7. You can add a reflection to your photo! Not something I would use, but it's kind of an interesting feature. You can also adjust the opacity, distance and blur of the reflection.
8. Photo Borders - you can choose the thickness and color.
9. Photo Shape: You can put your photos inside shapes such as a circle, star, triangle and heart.
10. Text: I didn't add hardly any text to my book (I'm sure I'll regret that, but I just didn't have time). The text feature seemed pretty basic but good.
I'll try and take some photos of my book some time, but if I don't get around to it, I thought I'd share a few spreads from the book. These are screenshots from their preview mode. The spread below is one of my faves. All of the elements and photo editing done throughout my book were done right within the bookmaking software. I love the negative space of their heart "sticker" that I added on this spread.
A nice chalkboard background below and the floral elements I mentioned. Can any of you share the artist's name? Her name totally escapes me!
I used this spread layout sporadically throughout my book just for phone pics. I love being able to showcase my phone pics in some way because they capture some of the most important, everyday moments. I love that they are small and like thumbprints in a way.
Below is a close-up of a screenshot of one page (cropped) where I used the drop shadows. Of course it doesn't duplicate what you see in person with a printed piece, but it's pretty close. The shadows look pretty nice and natural.
My layouts are simple, but you can do even more with the Mixbook software - it's really up to you and what you like.
I know I'll never abandon creating layouts in Photoshop for other smaller, themed books and other projects, but I loved being able to knock out this GIANT book without having to create everything in Photoshop first. Photo books can be a real pain to make, and honestly not very fun if the software sucks. I have to admit I'm kind of itching to make our 2012 book since I skipped it last year!
NOTE: This post was NOT sponsored. I just wanted to pass on my own experience with these printing services in case it's of use to someone else. I'd love to hear your own experiences with other printing services... who you like, etc. in the comments!