How a non-creative type can make a really cool-looking book with Blurb

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Today’s guest post is written by Stephanie, a product manager and self-described “non-creative type” at Blurb (though frankly we think she writes and takes pictures pretty well).

image04 How a non creative type can make a really cool looking book with Blurb

(* Note – the black line on the right hand side of the book is a result of my cat trying to join in on the photoshoot, not a result of the printing process. Books and cats don’t mix…)

I come from a family of photographers, illustrators and painters, and have always been keenly aware that I am not one of them. I’m terrible with color matching, have no idea what layouts or styles look good, and can’t do more in a graphics program than cut and resize images.

I can, however, take fairly decent pictures with a point-and-shoot camera when I have good source material. And lucky for me, I had great source material at the Fanime convention in San Jose, California. Brightly colored costumes and a sunny day make for great pictures that even I can’t mess up.

I’ve used Flickr to store my photos for years, so all I had to do was connect Blurb BookSmart® to my Flickr account and tell it which folder to use. Once I had my pictures, adding them to the book was simple. ↓

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I selected a book size, had BookSmart place my pictures for me, and I was on my way. Once I saw the book all laid out in front of me, I picked a preset design theme (since I am not capable of designing things pretty), then started playing with layouts and combining pictures on pages. Since this is to be a physical book, it was important to think about how pages will look when the book is open (this may be a no-brainer to a lot of people but it was news to me).

However, as I started flipping through layouts, I began encountering warnings like this:

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Remember the “I’m not a photographer” part I mentioned before? This was happening because my pictures weren’t at a high enough resolution to be that large on the page. Fortunately, clicking the on “Image Warning” gave me an option for to resize my images for me so they would fit. I edited the layout for each page to accommodate the pictures as large as they would fit, basically zooming in until I got the image warning, and then backing out until it disappeared. The result: The page above turned into this. ↓

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And as BookSmart promised, it really did print well. ↓

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As much as I liked jumbling a bunch of pictures on one page, I think some of the best pages are those where I actually put some thought into which image would be on the left and right page. For example, this page is supposed to be a “before and after” type shot – the squad hanging out having fun on the left, the squad after the party on the right. ↓

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I think it worked very well in print, although it probably could have used a little text from me explaining the meaning of the pictures.

Speaking of text, it’s very easy to add text wherever you want, including on the front and back covers. I decided every book needs some kind of explanatory blurb on its back cover, so that’s what I put on mine. ↓

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I’m a little torn on whether or not this looks too much like a front cover when it’s actually printed. The great thing about Blurb books is that since it’s print-on-demand, I can change the book however much I want every single time I get another copy printed! So, for my next copy, I may flip around the front and back covers to see what that looks like.

I’m very proud of the results. With a minimal amount of effort, I ended up with what really does look like a professional, printed book.

Once I published my book, I clicked the share button on the book page to share it with everyone I knew on Facebook and Twitter (because what fun is publishing a book without anyone looking at it to ooh and aah over it?). Facebook also let me tag the people who are in my book in the post about the book so they can share it with their own network. I love that the entire book is embedded on my Facebook page. ↓

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Of course, if you don’t want your entire book out there for the world to see, you can change that — your book profile page allows you to customize how much of your book is visible in Blurb BookShow™.

So if you are like me, and consider yourself artistically challenged, now you know that you too can make a really gorgeous book. Just keep these things in mind:

  • The larger (i.e. the greater the resolution) the original picture the better. There is no such thing as “too big” when it comes to printing, the software will help you resize. Just start with the biggest, highest quality image you have.
  • Think about what pages will look like when the book is open. The left and right pages should work together in a photo book.
  • Use a built-in theme. The theme will include a color palette – stick to it.
  • Add text. This was my mistake, I didn’t provide enough context for my pictures.
  • Print a test copy of your book on your own printer before sending it to be printed.
  • Share your hard work with your friends once you’re done!
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