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Mixbook review

One of the best photo book services with lovely products and reasonable prices

Mixbook photo book, photo calendar and photo card
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

You won’t go wrong with Mixbook. It has great software, reasonable prices, and produced a lovely book, calendar and card. However, Printique edged Mixbook out for the top prize as the best overall online print service. We recommend checking both company’s prices and styles before choosing the one you’ll use.

Pros

  • +

    Versatile, flexible, creative software

  • +

    Easy to use

  • +

    Attractive fully editable templates

  • +

    Generous searchable libraries of great backgrounds, templates, layouts and clip art

Cons

  • -

    No drop shadow for text

  • -

    Weak event management for calendars

In past years, Mixbook has often won the top ratings in our annual tests of online services. However, Mixbook was edged out by Printique this year, though it was by a very close margin. Both produce lovely products, and have software that’s powerful and versatile, providing just about all the tools necessary to enable users' creativity, while also being easy for novices to master. 

However, while our Mixbook  book, calendar and cards have bright, lively photos, and good print quality, Printique’s colors were more accurate with richer blacks. Another important differentiator are their prices, with the price advantage seesawing between the two, depending on the product and volume that you plan to purchase. Whatever photo product you’re planning to create and buy, you won’t go wrong with Mixbook, but check out Printique, too.

Mixbook review: Prices

Mixbook photo books
Mixbook charges $29.99 for an 8.5 x 8.5-inch hardcover book with a glossy cover. A matte cover costs $5.00 more, and a matte dust jacket costs $5.00. Other size hardcovers include 8.5 x 11 (from $39.99) 12 x 12 (from $69.99) and 14 x 11 inches (from $79.99). Softcover books start at 8 x 6 for $15.99, while layflat books start at $79 for an 8.5 x 8.5-inch book. Leather covered books with a matte dust jacket run from 8 x 8 inches for $44.99 to 14 x 11 for $114.99.

Mixbook calendars
A Mixbook calendar costs $24.99 for an 11 x 8.5-inch calendar. A 12 x 12-inch calendar costs $29.99, and a 14 x 11-inch calendar costs $34.99.

Mixbook photo cards
Mixbooks’s cards are priced on a sliding scale by volume, and vary depending on what cardstock you choose. A 5 x 7-inch card on its Signature Matte cardstock costs $2.39 each for up to 9 cards. 25 cards are $2.11 each, 50 cards $1.76 each, 100 cards $1.62 each, and so forth. Paper choices include Satin Finish (for 60 cents less per card for the lowest volume), Premium Matte (for 50 cents more per card) and Luxe Board (for $1.50 more per card).  All cards include blank envelopes. You’ll pay 25 cents each to have your return address printed on the envelopes.

Mixbook review: Software

Mixbook's software is powerful, versatile, and a delight to use, offering both a wide breadth and a depth of features. The easy-to-use interfaces for creating books, cards and calendars are essentially identical, with just a few project-specific differences, such as managing events for calendars.

Mixbook's attractive templates are fully editable, so I could manipulate all elements, as well as delete them and add others. As with Printique, you just click on a picture to access a whole slew of photo edit tools. Mixbook's extensive libraries of content are well-organized and searchable by keyword as they are in Printique, but Mixbooks’s clip art is more attractive and versatile. Also similar to Printique: any clip art and backgrounds that I tried in my book were saved in Project areas of the relevant sidebars. In fact, if I really liked a graphic in Mixbook, I could favorite it so I could use it in other projects. To unleash my creativity, I could have uploaded my own photos or other graphics to my background and clip art libraries – a feature unique to Mixbook. While the easy drop shadows for pictures and clip art may be any color, with icons for choosing the amount, Mixbook has no drop shadow for text.

(Image credit: Mixbook)

Unlike Costco's clumsy borders, Mixbook's compact but robust border tool has a 14-step slider for width. The two-windows of the 24-bit color picker included a hex value, a recently used section and an eyedropper to sample color from anywhere on my screen. This gave me full control over my color selection for borders, drop shadows, text and solid backgrounds.

For my calendar, I could use all of Mixbook’s features and tools not only on the top page, but also for the bottom date grid page. Therefore, like Printique and Shutterfly, in addition to changing backgrounds behind my calendar grid, I could add clip art and photos, behind or in front of the grid. 

(Image credit: Mixbook)

As with the cards and book interface, I could also enlarge my clip art and photos with one click so they became the background of a calendar page.

(Image credit: Mixbook)

Any picture I dropped onto the calendar grid automatically resized to fit the date box, and I had access to all of Mixbook's photo editing tools for the picture in that date box. But the convenience ended there. To add text to a date box, I had to go into the Events Manager window, where all I could do was create or edit an event name for a specific date, and I had no control over the text font, color or size, nor could I handle the date photos in that window. 

(Image credit: Mixbook)

The one advantage of the Events Manager is that it holds onto my important events for use in future calendars.

Mixbook review: Print Quality

Mixbook book sample

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Mixbook photo books
Mixbook produced a lovely book with a velvety matte cover that has a pleasant feel. The good quality semi-gloss paper has a nice weight (though not as thick as Shutterfly). The attractive end papers have a good weight and the feel of velum. The binding is solid and well-done.

Mixbook book sample

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Overall the photos were very appealing with good midtone density and balance between the various skintones, but the pictures weren’t as lively as in the Printique book. The interior photos had a rich, lush color due to the strong midtones. They display a warm color shift that’s pleasant. 

Mixbook book sample

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The cover photos were also attractive but with a slight blue shift. The cover’s matte finish caused a suppression of midtones, though the shadows and highlights had plenty of detail and balance. The interior photos were very nicely exposed with excellent details through the dynamic range, though they didn’t have Printique’s bright midtones. Focus was sharp and clear, and the type was clean, crisp and well-formed.

Mixbook calendar sample

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Mixbook calendar
The lovely photos on the Mixbook calendar were well-balanced between the dark and light skintones. However, the colors were slightly warmer than Printique, and though they are attractive, Printique’s calendar photos had more accurate color. The exposure was very good, with a nice density throughout the highlights, midtones and shadows. But, it didn’t have the rich blacks of Printique, which reduces the contrast. 

Mixbook calendar sample

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Images were sharp, but not quite as sharp as Printiique. Type was only okay, with no full crispness. The lovely paper was smooth, and had a good weight.

Mixbook card sample

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Mixbook photo cards
The Mixbook card was attractive, with a nice quality feel. The appealing colors were very close to Printique’s. However, the front of the card had an exposure balance problem between the dark and light complexions, with good details in the shadows and highlights, but overexposed midtones. 

Mixbook card sample

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The type had clean edges and was well formed. The card stock is a good weight with a nice tactile feel, similar to Printique’s.

Mixbook review: Verdict

While Printique got our nod for the best print service (beating out Mixbook by a narrow margin), you can’t go wrong with Mixbook. You’ll be proud of the quality of your printed Mixbook book, calendar or card, and you’ll enjoy making it because the software gives you all the tools you’ll want without bogging you down. The difference between the two came down to print quality. Generally speaking, in books and calendars, Printique’s print quality is excellent; Mixbook’s is merely quite beautiful. In photo cards, they were in a dead heat, with very good but not top-notch print quality.

The other significant difference is pricing, depending on the product and volume you order. Printique’s least expensive hardcover books are considerably pricier than Mixbook’s. That’s because the only hardcovers that Prinque offers are layflats which cost more to produce than Mixbook’s traditional stitched hardcover books. On the other hand, Mixbook’s layflat and softcover books are more expensive than Printique’s. 

Their calendars are priced quite similarly, when you take into account the variation in sizes between the two. Comparing prices is more complicated. For a small number of cards, Printique has the better price and it’s the same regardless of what paper stock you choose, but there’s no discount for volume. Mixbook’s cards are more expensive for a small volume purchase, with different prices depending on the paper stock. But when you get above 50 to 100 cards (depending on the stock), Mixbook’s prices tend to be lower.

So, when choosing between the two, if absolute photo excellence is your only criteria, go with Printique for your book or calendar. If you’ll be happy with beautiful rather than excellent photos in your book or calendar, go with the company that has the best prices for the book or calendar and volume you want. 

Sally Wiener Grotta is the president and lead analyst of DigitalBenchmarks test lab (www.DigitalBenchmarks.com). The scripts she created for various tech publications for testing and evaluating digital cameras, image quality, software and related technologies have become industry standards. Among her numerous books is the first major volume on image processing “Digital Imaging for Visual Artists” (McGraw-Hill), co-authored with Daniel Grotta. Her hundreds of reviews, stories and columns have appeared in scores of magazines, journals and online publications.