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Turn digital photos into printed memories with these online photo books

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If you want to do something special with those hundreds of snapshots wasting away on your phone or digital camera, you need the best photo books for the job. Whether you want to create your own design, follow a pre-made template or make a professional design it for you, we have several options that should fulfill your needs. We suggest starting your search with Mixbook for its affordability and designer tools.

Best Overall: Mixbook

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Mixbook currently offers over 500 starting templates with which you can build your photo book, each of which can be followed for simplicity’s sake or freely customized to your heart’s content. From there, you can upload photos from popular sites like Facebook, Google Photos or Instagram, or directly from your PC or phone, and begin dragging and dropping them into the template. Once a photo or free sticker is inserted, a pop-up menu appears with Photoshop-esque editing tools that make any necessary tweaks fast and easy, such as zooming in on a particular person within a frame.

What we particularly like about Mixbook is that you can upload your own backgrounds and PNG symbols to insert into your photo books, provided they’re high-resolution enough to be printed. That means you can insert your favorite copyrighted content, artwork, or basically whatever you can think up to go alongside your photos. We also appreciate that instead of surfing through tons of layout templates, you can narrow down your choices first based on how many photos you want to appear on a given page. Once you’ve plotted out your portrait, landscape or square-shaped book, you can choose how large you want it, then select between four paper quality options and five cover options to nail down a price.

Other photo book sites have their comparative perks over Mixbook. For instance, it lacks Shutterfly’s dedicated app, Printique’s default lay-flat binding, and has a limited selection of products besides books, calendars and cards. Yet Mixbook does provide affordable pricing, a straightforward editing interface and a consistent level of printing quality, which is what will matter most to many shoppers. It also offers occasional discounts on both the flat fee for a book — relatively common for photo book companies — and the extra surcharge per page after the first 20, which is much less common and adds up if you want to create a book over 100 pages.

Pros:

  • 500+ design templates
  • Option to add custom content
  • Quality photo book editor
  • Affordable book pricing
  • Page and cover upgrades

Cons:

  • No mobile app

Best Overall

Mixbook

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  • Softcovers starting at $12
  • Hardcovers starting at $25

A pre-made design for everyone

Choose between 521 Mixbook designs and counting, making it easy to plug in photos quickly and end with a stylish photo book.

Best Premium Photo Books: Printique

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We would choose Printique as our best photo book option in a second if price and lack of mobile app weren’t an object, and you certainly should choose it if you’re looking for something you want to last, like a wedding album. The online brand for acclaimed Brooklyn print shop Adorama, Printique sells leather and fabric cover books in addition to hardcovers (which are layflats by default) and softcovers.

Designed with photographers in mind, Printique’s photo books come with more paper options than any competitor: luster, glossy, silk, matte, deep matte, metallic, linen and pebble. The basic luster option looks beautiful compared to other standard photo book options, but slightly pricier paper quality like deep matte is a favorite of pro photoraphers, while silk is popular for wedding albums and glossy is best for contrast and preventing fingerprints.

Creating a Printique photo book is also very easy thanks to its excellent browser software. Tools like sample backgrounds, stickers, frames and layouts all appear in a simple sidebar on the left. Once you drop an object or text, an instant pop-up window gives you editing options like drop shadow, opacity, font size and much more, so you don’t need to search through menus to make changes. Printique saves your previous text settings so you can use the same consistent text throughout the book, unlike most editors that literally make you re-edit the settings every time. It also saves any custom content you’ve used in a “In This Book” tab, so you can quickly re-use your favorite backgrounds.

As we’ve said, the main negative with Printique is that it doesn’t offer bargain-priced, lower-quality photo books, so its only “cheap” printings are the small 4″ x 4″ or 5″ x 7″ mini-books that are still premium lay-flats. For thick paper quality, color accuracy and headache-free design software, however, Printique justifies the price. In fact, past the high upfront cost, Printique only charges $2 for every two extra pages, while many competitors charge closer to $q.50 for one — making it a good choice if you have a lot of photos to squeeze into one book.

Pros:

  • Multiple cover and paper options
  • Printique Books Wizard Software
  • Thorough list of photo upload options
  • Final print quality is excellent
  • Default lay-flat binding

Cons:

  • Even its softcover books are expensive
  • No mobile app

Best Premium Photo Books

Printique

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  • Hardcovers starting at $39
  • Softcovers starting at $10
  • Leather photo books starting at $84

Laying flat its books and its competitors

For turning your favorite photos into true coffee table book quality, Printique provides elite paper and cover quality.

Best for Free Design Help and Photo Storage: Shutterfly

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Making a stylish photo book is a serious time commitment, particularly with sites that offer more embellishments and customization features. Perfectionists and designers will love professional tools, but most people want a professional-looking photo book without putting in the work. That’s one reason Shutterfly will be appealing to many: you can upload your photos with time/date data, choose a design, and then let a Shutterfly designer lay out the photo book for you in just a few days. Then you can look through their work and make any tweaks you want before buying it.

At the moment, Shutterfly is offering this service for free, because the company absolutely loves its sales. Whatever you need — and Shutterfly sells a ridiculous amount of merch plastered with your photos besides books, including wall and desk calendars, mugs, wedding invitations, planners, ornaments and puzzles — Shutterfly is typically offering a “limited time only” discount for it.

Focusing specifically on photo books, Shutterfly varies its pricing based on whether you choose a standard or “designer” style template, as well as between its seven sizing options, dozen cover variations, and whether or not you choose a layflat design. With all the trimmings, the “sale” pricing won’t save you from a premium bill. You’ll also add $1.59 for every extra page past the standard 20.

Our colleagues at iMore named Shutterfly their best photo book pick, thanks to its free unlimited photo storage, convenient Shutterfly app and quality of printings. While we agree with their positives, we’ll note that Shutterfly’s forty photo book styles pale in comparison to Mixbook’s 500+ templates, that it has fewer upgrade options than Printique, and that Shutterfly gave us a bit more trouble with its online software tools for building a book than other sites.

Pros:

  • Unlimited, permanent photo storage
  • Frequent discounts and freebies
  • Good printing quality
  • “Make My Book” service will spare you time
  • Mobile app for book-making on the go

Cons:

  • Online tools have some unintuitive features
  • Books still be pricey even when on sale

Best for Free Design Help and Photo Storage

Shutterfly

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  • From $14 at Shutterfly

Make someone else organize your memories

Shutterfly provides good printing quality, sells a ton of fun gifts beyond photo books, and offers sale prices year round.

Best for Google Photos users: Google Photo Books

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The most inconvenient part of making an online photo book is transporting your photos to a website, then picking out the best photos amidst your entire library. Since most Android users keep their photos backed up on Google Photos, they have the option to rapidbly build a book with Google Photo Books, using Google’s AI and keywords to track down all of your wedding photos, or photos of a particular person, or any other theme you care to make.

Convenience, speed and affordable pricing are the primary perks with Google Photo Books, which we must stress is an extremely barebones service compared to our other favorite services. You can buy a hardcover 9″ x 9″ or softcover 7″ by 7″. Once you add a group of photos (you must have 20 pages’ worth minimum), you can drag and drop to immediately change the order of the book. Photos default to one centered per page, but you can make them full-page, zoom in (assuming the photo quality is good enough), or add a collage of a few photos. Pricing varies by page count and will vary from $10 for a 20-page softcover to $98 for the maximum 140 pages of hardcover, which sounds expensive but is actually far cheaper than most competitors at that quantity.

What’s missing compared to other services? It doesn’t have any custom themes to insert your photos into; you can’t customize the cover or upgrade the semi-glossy paper; there’s no portrait or landscape books, and no custom backgrounds, so expect white space surrounding most of your photos; and while you can add captions, you can’t move the text around or even change the font typeface, weight or size. Also, if you want to move beyond photo books to other gifts like calendars or cards, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Don’t pick Google Photo Books if you want to get creative with the layout. But we appreciate that the software is so simple that you can build a book from your phone or PC very quickly, and that it tells you immediately which photos are too low-resolution to print well. Plus, you can get same-day photos from Walgreens with the same service.

Pros:

  • Lay out your photo book in mere minutes
  • Works natively with your Google Photo library
  • Better-than-market pricing for smaller books
  • Good print page quality

Cons:

  • No custom templates
  • Only a few options for placing photos
  • Only sells square photo books
  • Limited discounts or non-photo book products

Best for Google Photos users

Google Photo Books

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  • From $9.99 at Google

Keep things simple

Have years of Google Photos you want to share? Pick and choose between them, then arrange them to your liking in mere minutes.

Best for Free Photo Books and Mobile Users: FreePrints Photobooks

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FreePrints Photobooks is the kind of service that sounds like a scam but is actually a good deal for you. The gist of the program is that you download the Android or iOS app, upload your photos, design a photobook in-app, and then have it shipped to you. You pay $8 for shipping, but the actual 20-page softcover photobook is free every month. You only pay for the book itself if you decide to upgrade it to hardcover or lay-flat, or add more pages.

The company makes its money from upselling customers, but if you stick to the standard layout, you could receive twelve 5″ x 7″ or 6″ x 6″ photo books in a year and only spend about $100 total — about what you might spend for one high-quality photo book from another service. FreePrints pulls your photos from your phone, Google Photos, or a wider range of other photo apps than most other services.

The editing software is basic but efficient. You select a group of photos and import them chronologically or by selection order. Each photo will take up a page, but you can tap any page and select Layout to add up to six photos to a page, letting you pick from different templates based on the number. You can also change the background, add captions with varied font types and sizes, crop your photos into specific shapes like hearts or circles, enlarge the photo to be full-page, and other standard options.

Why skip FreePrints? If you’re looking to build photo books that are longer than 20 pages at a time, or want better design templates to drag and drop your photos into, then there are better choices out there for you. But we see very little harm in using the service at least once or twice to see how your amateur designs look in print for dirt cheap. Then, you can always progress to fancier photo book services down the road with your free ones for reference.

Pros:

  • It’s (sort of) free!
  • Easy-to-use app
  • Less overwhelming with choices
  • Month-to-month, no subscription

Cons:

  • You only get a small, short softcover
  • Shipping can take up to two weeks

Best for Free Photo Books and Mobile Users

FreePrints Photobooks

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  • Free (+ Shipping) on Android
  • Free (+ Shipping) on iOS

Super simple for Android users

FreePrints gives you one free photo book a month, plus lots of free standalone photos with its other app.

Best DIY Album for Scrapbooking: Pioneer Photo Albums Magnetic Self-Stick 3-Ring Photo Album

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Our best photo books are primarily online print-on-demand services, but some of you may prefer taking your old family photos, printing some more using your Android photo printer, and making a photo book the old-fashioned way. This will save you money, as individual high-quality photos are much cheaper than a printed book, and you can pick them up the same day from a drug store without paying for shipping.

You’ll find a bevy of photo albums and scrapbooks online, but the Pioneer Photo Album is our favorite. With it, you can arrange photos of varying sizes, as small as wallet size up to 5 x 7 inches, any which way you like to personalize the look. There’s no limit to how many photos you can fit on a page, nor whether you want to include portrait or landscape prints.

It’s secured by three rings, which isn’t quite as nice as a fully bound book but also makes it easy to expand with more pages and photos. It has 50 8.25 x 10.5-inch sheets that equate to 100 pages, but it can fit up to 20 additional pages. However, keep in mind that you’ll need special refill sheets that are a bit more expensive than standard ones. The pages are fast stick magnetic style, so you can easily insert the photos you want, arrange and re-arrange, using the clear plastic overlay to secure them. Photos self-adhere to the page, so it’s super easy to move things around if you want. But while inside, the photos are safe and secure.

It looks great, finished in a leatherette cover with gold stamping, and comes in 13 color/pattern options. Measuring 11.5 x 10 x 2.5 inches in size, the photo book is acid and PVC emission-free and has a look of elegance that makes it equally fitting to be kept on a bookshelf as it would be placed on a coffee table.

Pros:

  • High-quality design, different colors
  • Easy to add more photos, move things around
  • Can accommodate different-sized photos

Cons:

  • Can’t fit 8.5 x 11-inch photos
  • Not nicely bound
  • Not as stylish as a proper photo book

Best DIY Album for Scrapbooking

Pioneer Photo Albums Magnetic Self-Stick 3-Ring Photo Album

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  • $12 from Amazon
  • $12 from Walmart
  • $14 from B&H Photo

Make your own book of photos

Organize every photo you own, from wallet-sized pics to 4×6 and 5x7s, in this elegant-looking, expandable book.

Bottom line

Your first step for making a quality photo book is having quality photos worth printing. Even smartphones can take print-worthy photos, but Android users will want to use Google Photos’ new editing features to optimize them first. The best photo book makers have great layout tools, but very rarely do anything transformative to the photos themselves except to zoom in.

Once your photos are ready, then you’ll want to pick a theme — wedding, vacation, family, baby, vacation or last year’s photos, to name a few — and then design a book that will make those photos pop. But if you don’t have the time or inclination for that, Mixbook has the most pre-made, high-quality designs that will make your photo book look semi-professional even if you just drag and drop your photos. Yet it also gives you tools to adjust those designs freely and add your own personal touch to pages with custom art and backgrounds, so you can make it feel like a photo book just for you and your family or friends.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

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Michael Hicks got his tech start in 2016, covering emerging tech like VR and self-driving cars before expanding to all things tech. When he’s not gaming or reading SFF novels, he writes freelance for Android Central on everything from laptops to soundbars, home security to fitness watches.

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Christine Persaud resides in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and was a shutterbug long before the days of digital. She still has a collection of physical photo albums in her home alongside her massive online digital library.

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