Mixbook review

Mixbook offers great features at a good overall value, but there are some variations in product quality

Mixbook calendar and book samples
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Mixbook is a great overall value. Many aspects of the service are very appealing, such as its fun-to-use software with a wealth of customization options to bring out your creativity. And its live tech support could be a lifeline for frustrated first time creators. Image quality is in the upper tier for photo books and calendars, but middling on cards.

Pros

  • +

    Top cover quality for book and nearly top for calendar

  • +

    Second-best color quality for calendar

  • +

    Thick, quality book and calendar pages

  • +

    Plethora of layout options

  • +

    Live chat support right in the design software

Cons

  • -

    Dull finish on photo book pages hurts color, contrast, and detail

  • -

    Book spreads lose a lot of the photo in the crease

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Designing a photo book, calendar, or card can take a lot of work, but Mixbook makes it as pleasant as possible, with a crisp layout and great help functions, including live chat. Its photo book and photo calendar prices are reasonable, but its cards are pricey. The construction of its products is quite good, but there are some things that could be improved. Make sure to read the rest of our Mixbook review to see if our quibbles are small enough to be overlooked, or if you should go with another service.

Mixbook review: Prices

Mixbook photo books
Mixbook charges $36.78 for an 8.5 x 8.5-inch 20-page hardcover book with a glossy cover and semi-gloss pages. A matte cover costs $5.00 more. Matte pages cost $5.10 more, and low-glare "Premium Lustre" costs $10.40 extra. A softcover starts at $21.38, and lay flat binding starts at $82.48. Other size hardcovers include 6 x 6 (from $21.18) 10 x 10 (from $57.48) and 12 x 13 inches (from $77.98). 

Mixbook calendars
A Mixbook calendar costs $28.99 for an 11 x 8.5-inch design. A 14 x 11-inch calendar costs $39.99.

Mixbook photo cards
Mixbook offers considerable discounts the more cards you purchase. Flat 5x7 cards start at $1.19 [83 cents] for an order of 250 or more and going up to $2.39 [$1.67] for five or fewer. Other sizes include 4x8 and 5x5 (at the same price range). Folded cards start at $1.59 [$1.11]. Mixbook also cards with metal foil (like the holiday card we created) starting at $1.69 [$1.18] for a 5x7 flat. Like several other companies, Mixbook seems to always be offering sales. At the time of order, for instance, the basic 5x7 flat cards started at 83 cents, and the foil version began at $1.18. One caveat to get the best price: Mixbook cards default to the rounded-corner design. You can save a few cents per card (like 21 cents on the basic 5x7 flat) if you switch to square corners

Mixbook review: Software

Mixbook provides a mind-blowing assortment of 644 book templates, grouped into a still-daunting list of 21 categories, such as Travel Photos, Adoption, Holiday, Recipe/Cookbooks, and Yearbooks. It's a lot to get through: Travel alone has 91 options. Meanwhile the calendar section presents 139 options, which you can sort by color theme. Our advice: Just jump on whatever design preview catches your eye after a few minutes, since you'll have lots of customization options once you get in. (We created all our books and calendars from blank slates, so they would roughly match across companies.)

Mixbook has the best-looking project editing software of the services we reviewed, edging out Printique, which is slick but overwhelming. It isn't cluttered and makes good use of space to provide a roomy preview of your project (especially if you use the full-screen option). If you do get stuck, Mixbook has both popup tips and access to live chat support.

(Image credit: Mixbook)

You can open a panel on the right to scroll through thumbnail previews of all the pages in your project. On the left are pop out menus of all the tools you'll use to make the project: Photos, (page) Layouts, Backgrounds, Stickers, and Text. Mixbook offers fine control of photos, via a floating toolbar with such options as zoom in and out, rotate, fill page, and flip. There's also an edit button that provides access to adjustable borders, drop shadows, and image opacity. You can apply effects (filters) and even make basic image edits (brightness, saturation, contrast) - the latter a rare offering with these services. You can select shapes, such as a heart, to place your photo into, as well.

(Image credit: Mixbook)

Layouts allow you to select preconfigured page designs, if you don't want to place photos (and sometimes text) manually. Mixbook's selection of backgrounds is minimal with just 100 patterns: That's in line with Costco and Mimeo, but dwarfed by Printique's 2,020 options and Shutterfly's 4751. Pre-set solid-color choices are also quite limited. You can create custom colors by dragging a picker through color gradient swatches, but this is clumsy for non-experts and often results in unappetizing hues. If you don't like any of Mixbook's background offerings, you can also upload your own image. It's the only service we've tested to allow that. You can also upload your own images to supplement Mixbook's rich supply of cartoony stickers (clip art).

(Image credit: Mixbook)

For text, Mixbook provides a small assortment of font styles, font sizes, and preset colors (with the option to customize). Two nice features are the ability to place a custom (color and width) border around text boxes and to fill the interior with any color.

Many of the same editing options apply to photo books and calendars. For calendars, you can apply backgrounds and stickers to both the upper image pages and the lower month grid pages. But text options are limited. Only the month on each calendar page can be customized, not the days of the week or the numbers or names of holidays/events in each square. Nor can you change the design of the calendar grid, other than by switching to a different template for the whole project. This is a bit disappointing. Several rivals allow you to configure text, and Printique has options for changing the grid. At least you can drag a photo into any day box, and make the usual edits to it.

If you are stuck on a design, or want to show off what you have created, you can invite others to connect online. Mixbook allows you to share a link so that others can view a preview, make edits, or order copies of your projects. Here are the book (opens in new tab) and calendar (opens in new tab) that I designed for this review.

Mixbook offers a large number of card types: with more than 3000 templates for many occasions including Mother's and Father's Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, 4th of July, Rosh Hashana, Halloween, New Year's, Chinese New Year's, Diwali, and Eid. Mixbook also offers a Martha Stewart collection for weddings and births. Mixbook does offer a blank template that you can use to create your own design, but it's not easy to find. Follow this link (opens in new tab) to get to it.

Mixbook sticks its company logo on all your projects and doesn't technically allow you to remove it. However, you can change the color of the logo to match the background, causing it to disappear.

In addition to its great online software, Mixbook offers a slick mobile app that lets you manage your projects on the site or even create directly from the photos on your phone. Mixbook offers handy 24/7 chat support right in the design interface. They were courteous and quick to answer our questions and even taught us a handy hack.

Mixbook review: Print Quality

Mixbook photo books
Mixbook is firmly in the middle of the pack for quality, with a few scores above and a few below. Mixbook's cover tied Printique's for the best of the bunch and beat all the others by a large margin. The matte-finished cover captured a variety of skin tones well in a photo of a family in the autumn leaves, and it didn't produce an overly warm look, as some other books did. The back cover — featuring a pale woman at a Day of the Dead parade — has a dull, chalky look.

On the inside, Mixbook's default Everyday Semi-Gloss finish produced solid, pleasing contrast. It helped, for instance, to show detail in subjects' hair; but overall, detail was a bit weak. For example: In one photo, a woman wears a white shirt with a pattern of minute pink dots that completely disappear in the Mixbook photo. (In fairness, this was a hard one for any product to capture.) Meanwhile, color and skin tone quality were about average. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Editor's note: In our original review, we accidentally selected the Signature Matte page finish (a slight upgrade), instead of the default Everyday Semi-Gloss. The matte finish made colors appear a little washed out, and weakened contrast a bit. We evaluated a new version of the book with the default finish and adjusted several quality scores up slightly.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A final glitch appeared in the two-page spreads. In a photo of a family of four, the poor youngest child's face is completely lost in the fold. Parts of other heads are also missing. Mixbook does offer a lay flat binding option. It would add $42.10 to this book's price.

Mixbook calendars
The outlook is better for Mixbook's calendar, which finished in the middle of the pack in our quality evaluation. Judges liked its cover quality, which was just 0.1 point behind Costco's. And in a real reversal, judges gave high marks for color quality. You can see it, for instance, in the purples, reds, and oranges of a mountaintop sunset in winter.

Somehow, the flat finish on the calendar pages didn't hurt image quality quite as much as in the book pages. Or perhaps expectations are different for a calendar. Pen and marker writing on the calendar grid take very well to the more porous finish, with no smudging.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Mixbook's calendar is a bit expensive for what you get, however. At $28.99 it's the second-priciest offering — much less than Shutterfly's poor-quality calendar ($34.99) but a tad more than the category-winning Printique model ($25.99). What's more: equal-quality calendars from Mimeo and Costco are both larger and cheaper.

Mixbook photo cards

Mixbook had mixed results in our evaluation. Our judges gave very low marks to the wedding invitation (opens in new tab): In fact, it was the second-lowest ranked of all cards, ahead of Costco only. Judges used terms including "muddy," "plain," and "dull" to describe the overall look. Contrast was some of the lowest we've seen, and skin tones had a grayish cast (similar to what we saw from Costco). We went with the default Signature Matte finish for our order (in fact we chose matte for all the wedding cards to even the playing field). Mixbook does offer Satin and Pearl finishes that might add a little more shine and perhaps help with contrast. 

The holiday card (opens in new tab)was much nicer, although all of the quality scores were below the median. We chose one with gold metal foil lettering and switched from Matte to the Pearl finish (which is actually a few cents cheaper). Judges liked the finish, but felt that it obscured details a bit. (In fact, it had one of the lowest ratings of all for sharpness/detail.)

Mixbook review: Verdict

Given the quality of its software, I wanted to like the Mixbook photo book and cards I created more than I did after seeing the results. The quality isn't bad, per se, but it doesn't distinguish itself from rivals in the same price category. However, the calendar offers quite nice quality. But, what elevates Mixbook above its rivals is its software, which is both powerful and easy to use — not to mention its excellent customer service. The relative ease of creating and customizing the company's book, calendar, and cards increases the chances that you will actually get them, rather than abandoning half-finished products.

Sean Captain is a freelance technology and science writer, editor and photographer. At Tom's Guide, he has reviewed cameras, including most of Sony's Alpha A6000-series mirrorless cameras, as well as other photography-related content. He has also written for Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired.