Photo Book Review: Blurb & Artifact Uprising

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life64 Comments


Upon my return from Slovenia, I had three things: jet lag, awesome memories and 900+ photos. I knew I wanted to create a photo book of our vacation. I've done this once before, back in 2006 when my family went to Australia, but I did it for an assignment for a Simple Scrapbooks special issue. Not that I didn't love the results, but I remember thinking, "Why do I need a photo book and scrapbook pages?"

Of course, times have changed during the last six years. The sheer quanitity of photos I shoot—both with my DSLR and now, my iPhone—is staggering. I don't have space, nor would I want to find it, to do something with all of these digital images.

But photo book design has come a long way in this digital era. You can find very elegant, minimal designs (or create them yourself!) and produce lovely books to save your memories. I worked this both ways.


First up, my book from


I've used Blurb for nearly all the books I've created over the years, including my aforementioned Australia book, plus one of my Me: The Abridged Version books. I created my own 8 x 10 templates for this album, although Blurb does offer some very clean, simple page designs to choose from. I chose the Standard Portrait size and the Clean & Simple style, which would let me upload fully designed pages to print.

Once I created a page in Photoshop, I saved the files as individual JPEGs and uploaded using the Blurb Bookify software. Then, it was simply a matter of dragging and dropping images into place, being sure I used the full page image page design for each page.

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 11.14.55 AM

It took me about two hours to build the files, upload them, and create the book. 

I chose a wrapped-image hard cover finish. Of course,  you can choose different cover options as well.



Here is a preview of the entire book from Blurb.




I'm happy with the final printed book. There was a small scuff on the top of the cover, but otherwise, the print quality and the final trim job seemed well done. My final page count was 44 pages, but you can have as many pages as you like. Note: I did add some of my own text to the title page, and on some of the spreads.

Overall ratingA-

Reservations: I have extremely high expectations of printed material, but this goes back to the days when I would actually be at print shops, inspecting jobs as they came off the press. In this day and age of digital printing, there will be some tiny imperfections that show up from time to time. This would be my only reason for not giving the book an full A rating. Maybe it's me who needs to get on board with what digital printing on matte-coated book paper really is capable of. I would totally recommend Blurb and would use them again.

Next up, Artifact Uprising.


One word describes how I feel about my little 5.5-inch square soft cover book: infatuation. 

I am in love this book.


And yes, I would marry it.


Their book making process is simple and streamlined, much like Blurb. I used their pre-designed page templates to create this book in about a half an hour from start to finish. My book is 40 pages, their minimum page count.

Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 9.44.06 AM

Artifact Uprising offers several sizes in the soft cover, and they also make gorgeous hard cover books, too. (They also make other cool things: Sqaure Print Sets, Wood Blocks + Prints, just to name a few!)

Plus, they have a strong commitment to the environment, using only recycled paper for the interior pages of their books. You can read more about that here. (A side note: this graphic designer adores the paper used for these books. It's lush and smooth and not only that, it's manufactured with Wind Power. Kudos to Mohawk Paper!)

These books are also designed with Instagram users in mind. All of those little works of art deserve a home, right? Aidan was so geeked after seeing my book, she started creating three separate books, combining many of her digital photos and Instagram shots. One of her themes? All the selfies she's taken since getting her phone. We both agree, it's going to be the coolest book ever. I may even convince her to let me share some of them here.

Overall Rating: A

Reservations: Zero. In fact, I am planning to use this company for many upcoming projects. If you follow them on Twitter or Facebook, you'll see so many cool book projects. Totally inspiring.


CZ_ThePhotoBookPREV1 CZ_ThePhotoBookPREV2

CZ_ThePhotoBook7PREV1 CZ_ThePhotoBook7PREV2

I have two new photo album/book template sets: one is 8 x 10, the other is 7 x 7. To use either of these with Blurb or Artifact Uprising, you simply design your pages, save them as JPEGs, and then upload them, choosing the edge-to-edge, full page style for each of your album pages. Each album set comes with a PDF instruction sheet, showing how to use Blurb's Bookify process. You can use the 7×7 set for Artifact Uprising as well. Again, simply choose the full page design, and when you place your file, it sizes to the correct size for the 5.5-inch square book. Of course, if you want to make a larger square album, simply increase the template size before you begin places photos, and you're golden.

Here's to making gorgeous photo books that make you happy.



Cathy ZielskePhoto Book Review: Blurb & Artifact Uprising

64 Comments on “Photo Book Review: Blurb & Artifact Uprising”

  1. #1
    Annet M

    Blurb also has a plug-in to use with Indesign, which adds all the page markings borders so you can know exactly how things will fit, lays out the pages so you can plan it all offline and then only upload one file. That way, it knows you can’t add one single page (so it tells you to get rid of a few pages or increase to the next quantity). I really liked that aspect of Blurb.

  2. #2
    mary e.

    Those are amazing books, Cathy. I’m glad I checked in on you today, as I was about to begin using Blurb. Still will, for some things, but will have to check out Artifact Uprising. The Instagram thing alone would be cool for gifts!

    You sure make the process sound easy.

    I’m goin down to my basement craft room tomorrow to tackle a bunch of photo stuff: uploading a new PS 10 version, reviewing your online class (which I joined ONCE during the process – my life got overrun), and making one of these books (just to get me geeked and more excited to tackle the 7 tupperware storage boxes FULL of photos, and my 5K images online). Think my family can make their own meals…. for the REST OF THE YEAR?


    Thanks for another great post!!

  3. #5

    Absolutely beautiful display in both books! Can I ask why you didn’t use Artifact Uprising for the 8 X 10 as well?

    Look forward to using your photo book templates….thanks for making it so easy.

  4. #9

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful Blurb book. I really enjoyed your photos and love your style. Lots of inspiration! I plan to make a Blurb book when my family and I return from our summer holiday in Greece.

    I have a bit of a silly question, if you don’t mind, in the image of your luggage all packed and ready to go in the Blurb book, there is a quilted/padded shoulder bag leaning against your suitcase, can I ask what brand it is??

  5. #11

    Wow, you work so fast!! It takes me about 2 hours to create one spread. Haha. Choosing what photos to use consumes a lot of my time…..i cant decide quickly hehe. Love your photobooks! !

  6. #12

    I’ve been using blurb’s booksmart software for the last few years – I’ve made over 30 books. I do a 7×7″ year in review book to give as Xmas gifts to friends and family, as well as making books for trips. I have been feeling limited by the clunkiness of their software lately – it’s great for beginners, but it can’t do a lot of the most basic things that PSE can do (like adding a ghosted background shape behind journaling, which I learned how to do from you) so I have to keep switching between programs. So thank you for offering an alternative way of designing pages – I think I might try bookify with your templates next time. Thanks!
    I noticed your templates are all centered. When I edited/created my own templates in booksmart I had to create left side pages and right side pages to avoid having issues with the center gutter (is that the right word?) swallowing my pictures, or having uneven margins. Did you have that problem at all?

  7. #13

    Great compare and contrast of the two companies. My question…what is the difference cost wise? shipping? time turn over? Just basic questions.

  8. #15

    Angie, yes… its buy Lug Travel. My favorite bag company. I have had their bags for years! I use them and replace them when they wear out. Great travel products. I love the Moped Day Pack. I use that as my purse, have for years. : ) Ive had three: black, green and brown!

  9. #17

    So cool to learn about Artifact Uprising. I’m a book scrapper so this is up my alley. I’ve been in a love affair with Adoramapix books lately. Have you tried? yummy, I tell you.

  10. #18

    I’m an avid Lightroom user and love that I can create Blurb books directly from Lightroom. But now I’m tempted to give Artifact Uprising a try.

  11. #19

    Oh Cathy…two hours to make a book? How are you so efficient? I have at least 3 books I need to make (Yellowstone, California, Okoboji. I’m sure there are more!) and part of what holds me back is knowing it’s going to take me forever to do it. I know, I know, I should just START. I think those lovely templates are going to make it easier!

  12. #21
    Jenny B.

    I too am jealous of your quick book-making skillz! 😉 I love both books. I have to agree with you on the A- for Blurb. I did a 7×7 book with them last year, and I love it, but it’s not quite as nice as my 8×8 books from Shutterfly.

  13. #22

    Beautiful books. I made a purely picture book after we visited Old Montreal, so many amazing old buildings but I had no desire to scrapbook them.

    On an ad on Facebook I just discovered Artisan State and their books and want to try them out. It says “every page is mounted on rigid substrate core”. Looks interesting.

  14. #24
    Sarah M

    Cathy – I think I’m in love…. wow, Artifact Uprising is awesome. I read your review and took a look on their site and am so excited to make a couple of book – been trying to figure out what to do with the backlog of photos I haven’t been dealing with or scrapbooking. Love the look of the square prints too. Thanks for sharing!

  15. #26
    Angela NJ

    As a rookie iPhone user with a limited knowledge of iPhoto, all I can say is WOW! I know virtually nothing about digital creation and as a result, I’m intimidated by all of the online book-making options. Perhaps you can tell me, could I simply upload photos from iPhoto to Artifact and create a little book using their page templates? Their site says something about sRGB file format, and of course, I have no clue what that means. I would love to try a book based on the high grade you gave them…thank you for sharing your experience with both sites!

  16. #27

    Love these books! I’m in the process of making an 8×10 photobook with blurb as well, but I’m nowhere near as speedy as you are! I started it a few months ago now! LOL! I’m sure you’re templates will help with it though… Templates make it much easier, but I still end up tweeking them constantly!

  17. #28

    Angela, you may have to create a folder on your hard drive, drag your photos into that folder, and upload from there. Your photos are already in the sRGB format (very likely) so dont worry about that! : ) Super simple. Does this help?

  18. #30
    Patti T

    So cool that Aiden is so interested in photography and documentation as well. I just took my niece on a whirlwind college tour and I thing a small book 5.5 book would be great for her as a token of the trip. She’s from Miami, I live in NJ so we did a tour encompassing schools Philly to Boston, 8 schools in 5 days including ivies, mini-ivies and the like. It was a great way for us to bond since we only see each other once a year. I thought about documenting the trip but wasn’t sure of the right way to do it. Thanks so much for the ideas!!!

  19. #32

    And it took me several dans to upload my pictures! Internet is so slow in this area… But love photo books too. I do at least one album per year with my vacation pics.

  20. #33

    I adore both books but bought the 8×10 template cause it seems perfect for a trip we took in 2011.
    one question: what font did you use for the titles? free by any chance?

  21. #34

    so sorry to be asking so many questions but I am starting to work with the templates and just noticed that you modified them to fit the text. I took your clean&simple class so I should be able to do it but could you tell me the distance from the top border and the distance from the picture to the text…and the text size?
    sorry again 🙂 I just really love how yours turned out

  22. #35

    Rosa, no problem. Turn on the visible grid, remember that awesome tool? Now, I have my grid set to be 8 squares per inch, so all you do is count how many you see. I think its 5 grid squares in on each side. Then you can drag a guide down to mark it off. I would do the text size for journaling at 10 or so. For a title, try 20 to start and be sure to send a test print to plain paper to see if you like it! Dont ever hesitate to ask more questions!

  23. #36

    Cathy I was about to buy your templates as I thought they were the ones you used for your book but on checking closer there are quite a few page layouts which are not in the template designs for purchase. Is this correct?

    I especially like the double page layout with the pizza on the top left corner and also the 6 rectangle photos of dan’s doors. Oh and thanks Rosa for asking for dimensions I was thinking about that myself.

    Absolutely lovely album.

  24. #37

    This has inspired me to do our holiday album as a photobook this year. I am struggling to find a good font for the title, though. Which did you use? It looks as if the character spacing is expanded, but I can’t work out how to do that in PSE9…

  25. #38

    I used Avenir Book. And yes, I spaced it out in PS. In PSE, the only way to do that is to add one space between each letter. Then, go up to the Asian Text Option and condense the space to get the look you like!

  26. #40
    Mike Lao

    Artisan State

    You guys are extremely un professional. If you guys want to be a “big company” you guys need to work on customer service. 6 Days to reply to email, no attempt on communication about delays, ignored customer concern. Not even a hint of concern that they had screwed up someone’s time line on a deadline. At this point i don’t recommend them to anyone. Extremely disappointed with this company. Take note people.

  27. #41

    Artisan State has the worst customer service ever! I called them 10 times a day for 7 straight days. I left a voice message every time I called (about 10 a day). I also sent out emails to them 5-6 times a day. Never one reply from customer service.

    After 15 days of my books and product not being shipped I had my bank issue a dispute on the charges. This finally got the company to wake up and ship the items to me but there were major quality issues. Books were over-saturated in printing. The text on the spine on some books was centered in my design but when it arrived it was way off center and the cover was wrapped wrong. (If I can attach video and pictures I would).

    The company does not list their physical address on their website or anywhere online. NEVER DO BUSINESS WITH A COMPANY THAT DOES NOT HAVE A PHYSICAL ADDRESS. It appears they are a china based company with a facade that US photographers and designers founded the company and run. Don’t let that fool you. It is all run out of China. The Chinese culture is known for not holding up to committed dates and not caring about good customer service.

    I did some research and found some of their company email address outside of the one listed on the website. When you have problems contacting the company be persistent and send emails to all these addresses. (Noticed that my DHL Tracking info for my first order came from this email address) When the company would not reply to me I decided to try mail2, mail 3, mail 4 and so on. Emails successfully went through to mail1 – mail4.

    My last order will be just that. I ordered a total of $2,200 for clients to give as Christmas gifts. The charge to my card was from Hong Kong. My bank gave me the number that the company lists with the transaction. It was an international 852 area code number. I tried calling and it was a non existent number.

    Tried filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. They have no record of this company existing in the U.S.

    Beware of this company!

  28. #46

    Late commenter here! I’ve been a fan since Simple Scrapbooks magazine. Thanks for your reviews. I’m looking forward to seeing your new AU book on the blog tomorrow. I’ve been doing Project Life recently, planning to switch from 12×12 to Handbook sized 6×8. But in packing up our house for a move, and looking at all my old HUGE Creative Memories scrapbooks, I was thinking how nice it would be to have small photo books for each year. Which brings me (finally!) to my question. I take mostly vertical photos. Which of your book templates would work the best for that? Looks like the 8 x 10, but that doesn’t look to be a size on AU? Will it work for the 8.25 x 11 books? Thanks much for your help.

  29. #47

    Hmmm. Good question. The problem is that you should have the right size book for your intended end size product. I dont have anything set up in 8.25 x 11, presently. Its kind of a non-traditional size. But I hear you: if youre taking mostly portrait oriented shots, what to do? I wish I had a solution for you! The only way you could use the 8 x 10s is to resize each templates canvas to 8.25 x 11. This would give you a bump of white space and could look really lovely! : ) Hope that helps.

  30. #51

    I realize this is an old thread, so I take that in to consideration. But with that said, I have had zero issues in the 8 months and dozens of albums that I’ve purchased with Artisan State. I’ve only had a need to contact Customer Service once, and that was because of a change I wished to make. Email works perfect for me, and I had a reply within a couple hours. Non-issue. If the product did have a PVC core, it doesn’t now. I’ve personally peeled-back the back page of a sample, just to see. Doing business with a company overseas does not qualify as blasphemy. In fact, much of our industry product starts there, unbeknownst to most. I’m sorry that Brandon had a bad experience. But I’m confident that most of us eventually have a turn with ‘bad luck’ eventually. My turn, a while back, happened to be with a company based within the same state I live. Artisan State has been a consistent quality product, and a non-issue with overseas purchasing. PayPal provides a seamless, dependable, and insured experience there. 🙂

  31. #52

    I used Artifact Uprising to create my Wedding album/book and it turned out absolutely beautiful. My photographer left me with over 4,000 photographs of the day, and I was VERY particular to make sure that the book turned out flawlessly as I plan to look at it for years, show it to my kids, grandchildren and great grandchildren in the many years to come (I admit the book became an obsession).
    It took my a week to create it (again, I had a lot of photos and was VERY picky about choosing exactly the right ones and placing them in exactly the right spot). The book ended up being ~105 pages in a hardcover book and cost ~$100.
    I received it about 10-14 days after completed and I was floored with the image and paper quality. I did a lot of research before choosing Artifact Uprising and I am extremely happy with the final product.
    The ONLY hesitation I had before choosing AU was that they do not have an option for lay flat pages. I have never seen a book like this in person, but I thought it sounded nice.
    Others might be hesitant because they do not have leather bindings (I am vegan, so that is a huge plus for me) and they do not offer a 12×12 book size.

  32. #54

    Hey Cathy! Great post. I made a Father’s Day book for my husband with photographs of him and our daughter. I used Artifact Uprising because I wanted to try it out but I didn’t love the print quality…the contrast and exposure was a bit off. Did you have any trouble with that aspect? I do agree that it is a beautifully made book with the packaging as well but as a photographer, the print quality peeved me a little bit. Would love to hear your thoughts on it!

  33. #55

    Po, I was pretty happy with the book. I think because it is digital printing on the books, not offset, so the photo quality, I know what you are saying. I will tell you this: if you are not happy with your book, they will make it right, whether they reprint, or refund. The are really passionate about what they do. I really love the books for the complete experience and the price. Does that make sense? I really do cherish the ones Ive made (and there are several now!) hope this helps!

  34. #56

    I contacted AU just this past week to ask some questions about printing and how much sharpening, etc. because I wasn’t sure based on what I was seeing in the preview. They told me that they use a press printing technique – so does that mean it is digital rather than offset? They did tell me their images are slightly softer because they use press printing technique. Now I’m confused. I do find their color in the preview is much softer than the same photo in Blurb’s BookSmart software but for some photos the softer color is really nice.

    1. #56.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Now I’m not sure. I assumed it was digital printing, not CMYK offset, but maybe check with them on that? 🙂

  35. #57

    Thanks for the review! I was torn on which to go with, Blurb or AU. I have used Blurb before but not AU.

    My question is that I noticed that AU is a sponsor on your site. Did that influence your glowing review of their product??

    1. #57.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Hey Alex, yes, I have an affiliate relationship with AU. I get a small percentage each month of the total sales I drive. That said, I adore their products. I have ordered 7 book to date. Each one is a book I love. I do not promote companies whose products I don’t support. Nor do I accept paid sponsorships (those are fewer these days!) from companies I would not support.

      One thing I will say is this: it is digital printing. Offset (traditional printing) versus digital printing… you’ll always have an occasional issue but AU supports their products and wants their customers to be happy. 🙂

  36. #58

    Hi Alex,

    I have posted previously. The first time I had not used either service but was exploring the idea. The project for which I was interested in creating a book was of photos from a Flickr project. The photos were already cropped, sharpened, etc. That meant I had a set format making setting up my pages a little more difficult because often I had to make changes to the existing template to accommodate my photos. I began working in Blurb and then had so many questions about their process and the way things were appearing in the Blurb software that I decide to print a small test book using the paper that I wanted to use. I fortunately had some coupons and also they had an offer for first time users so it wasn’t terribly expensive. The book was okay but had some problems and I wasn’t really thrilled. It just didn’t seem to suit my style or my photos. For my photos there was something funny that happened with sharpening in the software and I know from talking with others online that I wasn’t alone. To make my photos work with Blurb’s printing I would have had to reprocess all of them and I was unwilling to do it. That said, I know people who print with Blurb and are very happy with their books so this is just my experience based on this particular set of photos.

    I sat down with the AU software and using the 60 pages I had already worked out in Blurb as an outline I completed the entire book in one sitting. Then I ran into a problem. In AU if you choose a book with 200 pages because you are unsure how many pages you might need it is absolutely the wrong way to go unless you are positive you are going to 200 pages or over. You can not remove the extra pages after the fact. In AU you can only add pages. The only pages you can remove are extra pages that you added yourself (hope that makes sense). So I started over with smaller size book and added pages as I needed them. Because I had so much practice working with the software I knocked that book out in one evening. I double checked, then tripled checked everything to make sure their were no errors. I ordered, the book arrived very quickly even though it was during the start of the holiday season. I am totally thrilled with the book and everyone who sees it absolutely loves it. So please consider this as a not sponsored glowing review 🙂

  37. #59

    Hi, I really want to buy your templates for the 8 by 10 in Blurb book, however on the preview the templates seem to be all centered. I think the center gutter might eat the edge of the layout closest to the book spine or I’d end with uneven margins if the layout is centered. Did you encounter this issue when you printed your book with Blurb?

    1. #59.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Hey Claudia, the book sample I did with the templates (which you can see one of the actual images from the finished book, ended up looking acceptable to me, in terms of margin space. But that said, I cannot guarantee that your book will print as you hope it will. Sorry!

      1. #59.1.1

        Thanks a lot for your response Cathy! I think I’m going to purchase the templates and dive head first in my project.

  38. #60
    Lorraine T



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