Runner-up: Mixbook

The interface for creating Mixbook's calendar (11 x 8.5 inches for $24.99) is our favorite among the services we tested. It has the most intelligent creation software, with great, easy-to-use, accessible editing tools, as well as creative flexibility. But Mixbook's print quality comes in second to Shutterfly's, as the Mixbook calendar doesn't have Shutterfly's consistently bright, lively and attractive photo reproduction.
Creating your calendar

Mixbook's interface makes it easy and fun to create a custom calendar based on your personal vision. The sizable libraries of templates, layouts and clip art are quite attractive, though Shutterfly's clip art is more versatile. Not only are the layouts fully editable, but you don't even need a picture placeholder to simply drag, drop, size and rotate a photo on a page. Very nice photo and text effects — such as drop shadow, transparency, reflection and shape cutouts — are immediately accessible, and they're simple to create and edit. Photo filters are limited to black-and-white and sepia, but there are also sliders to adjust brightness, contrast and sepia.

Backgrounds and clip art are well organized and easy to search, and they can be added to the date grid page as well as the upper photo page. You can also upload your own backgrounds. We were able to easily drag and drop pictures of children onto the date box to commemorate their birthdays. One unique feature is that the Mixbook calendar can have a layout of photos and custom text on the back cover.

The printed calendar

Given our previous very positive experience with Mixbook, we were surprised by the inconsistency of the photos in our printed calendar, especially when compared to the same photos in the Shutterfly calendar, which printed quite well, with very good to great color, saturation and dynamic range.

When we complained to Mixbook, the company produced a reprint that was subtly better, with warmer, richer and more vibrant midtones and skin tones, and better dynamic range. In fact, our jury rated most of the photo pages between an 8 and 9.5 (on a scale of 1 to 10).

Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's GuideHowever, in the September double-photo layout (rated a 7.5), the right picture was yellowish, with reduced saturation and a loss of shadow detail. On the October page (rated a 4.5), the right picture was dark and cyanic, with a loss of detail in the shadows; the left picture was warmer but yellowish, with no deep blacks. The November picture (rated a 5) had some loss of shadow detail and an unappealing cyanic shift.

Calendar options and other products offered

Mixbook doesn't have specialty calendars as Shutterfly does, offering only traditional wall calendars in three sizes: 12 x 12 inches for $29.99, 11 x 14 inches for $29.99 and 11 x 8.5 inches for $24.99. Its only other photo products are photo books (which earned our Editors' Choice award for the past two years), prints and cards.

Bottom line

We expected far better print quality from Mixbook because we had been very impressed with its photo books in the past. Unfortunately, its calendar was not as attractive as Shutterfly's. However, Mixbook's interface remains the best: It's easy to use and powerful, and offers creative flexibility.

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  • PhodogCO
    Ugh, read reviews on Shutterfy before using. Their customer service has gone way downhill. They charge $40 for "guaranteed delivery date," which turns out only means your order is scheduled to be delivered on that date, but will likely not arrive in time. Customer service is not helpful, I called several times the day before a very important guaranteed delivery was scheduled to arrive and each time customer service gave me a different answer as to when the order would arrive at its destination; responses varied from 1-7 days. The guaranteed delivery order finally arrived 6 days after it was supposed to arrive. Customer service (via phone) has apparently been outsourced to a foreign country and you can expect to be disconnected at least once (though they will call you back). I believe live chat is now conducted via a programmed robot. Customer service can only follow a script; if your situation falls outside of a script you are out of luck. Very impersonal.