How-To Guide: Printing PhotoBooks and Albums for Digital Scrapbookers

This is the second post in the series about creating photobooks and albums. The first post was all about planning photobooks and albums by Liz and Audrey. Still to come, we will have indepth reviews about different printing services (for both albums and individual layouts).

Today’s post is by Wendyzine @Scrapbookgraphics. Wendy is my go-to-girl for any actions and anything printing related. I have always been impressed by how much she knows! I asked her to share her history in this industry with us and this is what she said:

After college, I landed my first job at an advertising agency. I learned hands-on graphic design under a talented art director. From there, I went on to work as a graphic designer for a corporation with an in-house print shop. Several years later, I moved to a prepress shop where I have spent the last 13 years preparing files for printing presses in addition to my graphic design tasks. When I fell in love with digital scrapbooking, photobooks were a natural fit for me!

If there is one thing Wendy knows, it is printing! So enjoy this resource and bookmark it for later reference when you are ready to upload a photobook of your own!


Photobooks are perfect for those who want a finished product in their hands without needing to lift a pair of scissors or open a 3-ring binder. For many digital scrappers, especially those without paper scrapping experience, this is an attractive option. For others, it’s simply a really nice way to gift a scrapbook. Photobooks are truly a stunning product and nothing gives quite the sense of satisfaction as finally touching your scrapbook pages in your hands. If you’re leaning toward photobooks but are a little intimidated about the terminology or process, I’m here to help! Let’s unbind the photobook process and discover how fun creating a photobook can be!

Choosing A Printer

There are a multitude of printers online who offer photobook printing. As with any product, quality and price vary considerably from printer to printer. So, how do you choose? First, I recommend reading some reviews.
Make Your Own Photobooks

Pay attention to quality, ease of use and turnaround time. Take a look at their prices. Cheaper is not always better. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good deal either! Search for coupons or other specials.

Once you narrow the list down, take a look at the book sizes offered. As a digital scrapbooker, you are likely to scrap in traditional scrapper sizes (8×8 or 12×12) or letter/A4. So, you will want to choose a printer that will allow you to print your layouts without having to rework the pages too much. If you scrap square, look for printers that offer true square sizes. And, pay careful attention, just because a printer calls their book a 12×12, doesn’t mean that is the actual book dimensions. One printer, for example, actually has a finished size of 11.75×11.7 while another is 13×12. If you want an unusual book size, this may narrow down your printer choices considerably. For example, very few printers offer tabloid (11×17) or portrait size book. Brag books can come in many different sizes.

Now that you’ve read the reviews and narrowed down the book sizes, check out the cover options. The basic cover options include standard hard cover (usually leatherette or linen, though leather and suede can be optional, with or without window), custom hard cover (cardboard covers wrapped with your printed image, also know as case-wrapped, with or without dust jacket), wirebound, softcover (also known as perfect bound).

Finally, consider the software you will be using to assemble your book pages. Although you may create your digital scrapbooking pages in software like Photoshop, Elements, Paint Shop Pro or even Creative Memories, you will need to save or export your pages as a JPG or PDF and import them into the printer’s software. There are 2 basic types of software: online and downloaded. Online options don’t install any software on your computer, but require that you be connected to the internet to work on your book. Your projects are stored online. Downloaded software allows you to work on your books from your computer and stores the books on your hard drive. There is no right or wrong software, but you might find yourself more comfortable with one over another.

Once you’ve considered all the reviews, chosen a book size, cover type and examined the software, you are probably ready to choose a printer! Now what?

Printer Specs

The next step is to look at your printer’s specifications. Most will have specific size requirements for your pages. And, if you do not size your layouts ahead of time, their software will enlarge your pages to fit, which can result in some unwanted trimming on one or more sides of your layout. Unfortunately, finding specifications on the printer’s site may not be the easiest thing in the world. If you cannot find the specs, try a web search, email the printer, or contact me and I’m happy to assist if I can. There are 3 things you want to pay attention to when looking at specifications:

BLEED SIZE: This is the actual size of the file you should upload. The bleed size includes extra background that will be trimmed off when the book is cut and bound.

TRIM SIZE: This is the size of the page once the book is trimmed.

SAFE MARGINS: Keep your journaling and photos within the safe margins to avoid accidental trimming if the books shifts during trimming. In addition, on the inside fold of the book, there is often 1/4″ of the page that is hidden due to the gluing and stitching process. (The new lay-flat book option avoids this problem, but this is a very new option and may not be available from many printers yet.)

Saving Your Pages

Now that you are armed with your specifications, it’s time to take a critical eye at your layouts and save them for uploading. Almost all printers accept JPGs, and most recommend sRGB color profile. If you cannot generate a JPG with your software, see if the printer can accept a PDF. Before your eyes glaze over and you admit defeat in the wake of dozens or hundreds of layouts that might need to be resized, let me make life a little easier for you! I have created actions for Photoshop and Elements that allow you to check for bleed, resize your layouts or even add textured borders. If you want to do it all on your own, without the help of actions, the following steps are what you would need to do:

You want to check your layouts to see if they have enough margins for bleed to avoid resizing your layouts. That’s a simple process if you are armed with the above specifications.
1. Open your JPG.
2. Make your IMAGE SIZE the BLEED SIZE.
3. Make your CANVAS SIZE the TRIM SIZE. (This is what your book will look like once it is trimmed.)
4. Make your CANVAS SIZE the SAFE MARGIN SIZE. (This will show what might get cut off and hidden in the book.)

If your layout looks good after Step 3, and nothing is trimmed off after Step 4, you can upload your JPG as is without any additional work. Most printer software that accepts JPGs will automatically size the page for you.

If during step 3 or 4, you find that important photos are being trimmed or cut off, you should consider adding bleed to your layout.

Adding bleed is as easy as the steps above if you have your layered files.
1. Open your layered file.
2. Make your CANVAS SIZE the BLEED SIZE.
3. Select any background paper layers, and resize them slightly (usually adding about 5-6%) so that they complete cover the canvas to the edge.
4. Drag guide rules in to the safe margins (in most cases, this amounts to 3/8″ from the canvas edge, but check your specs).
5. Make sure any photos and journaling are inside this area. If not, select all the non-background layers at once, group them and reduce them slightly.
6. Save your JPG!

If you do not have your layered file, consider placing your layout on a coordinating background paper or nice textured black background. Simply size your background paper to the Bleed Size, drag your layout on top and size it down to the Safe Margins.

Assembling The Photobook

Now that you have your pages saved in JPG format, it’s time to download the software, or create your online account and assemble your book. For online software, you will be prompted to upload your pages to an “album.” After you do, you can start your “project.” Simply add the pages to your project from your album. Drag and drop your pages onto the interface and reorder them if necessary. Downloaded software works in a similar way. Simply import the JPGs to the software, drag and drop them on the pages. Once you are done, you can submit your book to the printer at which point the book will be compressed and uploaded to the printer’s website. At this point, you can choose any options related to your order and process your payment.

1. Turn off COLOR CORRECTION. Most printers offer automatic color correction in their software. This option works wonderfully on photographs, but not so well on scrapbook pages. The reason is that your scrapbook pages often have a wide range of colors throughout. Sometimes they may convey a color cast (if you scrap a pink page for example). The algorithm that the automatic color correction uses do not understand the difference between a scrap page and a layout. So, it’s best to turn it off.

2. What does 20 pages mean? 20 pages is 20 layouts, or 10 sheets of paper, front and back. Pages must be added in sets of two (a front and a back). If you only add one page, an extra blank page will be added to make up the difference.

3. Can I use my layouts from my web gallery? Web-ready layouts are not recommended for printing. You should go back to your original layered Photoshop files, created at 300 ppi for best quality. If you do not have a full-size original file to work with, consider a small brag book size as a compromise.



Wendy’s “Toolkits” are available by book size and for many popular photobook printers including Shutterfly, MyPicTales, InkuBook and Winkflash.

Not only has she done the specifications research for you, but the actions will make very quick work of processing your layouts. Tutorials on using the actions are included. For non-Photoshop users, she offers template only toolkits that will help you easily match the specifications for your chosen printer. (Her toolkits also come with cover templates which are often the most challenging part of creating books.)

P.S. Vickie was randomly selected from those that left comments on SuzyQ’s post yesterday and won a $10 GC to SuzyQ Scraps store! Congratulations and check your inbox! 🙂 – Steph