Lulu’s custom calendars and photo books are inexpensive and easy enough to make, you can get one (or a dozen!) for any holiday or event without breaking the bank! Everyone who receives one of these custom books will remember for years your creativity and generosity. In fact, scientists and researchers have studied our giving habits and discovered in multiple forms that personalized gifts are favored and that a gift buyer will even pay more for a gift if it is personalized to the recipient!
Giving personalized gifts tend to make the recipient happier. And crafting a personalized gift tends to make the giver feel more connected to the recipient. This year make your gifts something timeless and special – give a personalized gift.
Have I convinced you yet that a photo book or calendar will make the coolest and most original gift you can give this year? I’m going to assume I have and in that spirit, let’s take a quick look at Lulu’s Studio Wizard, the software we use to help you create those awesome personalized books!
If you’re familiar with Lulu, you’ve probably seen the Studio Wizard on our site. It’s not a new tool, and it’s not perfect, but it does offer everything you need to create a professional quality photo book or calendar. Making either type of product is done with the same Studio tool. Obviously, there are a few important differences such as creating a monthly date grid or adjusting the page layout to accommodate the images in the way you’d like.
Before you dive into making your awesome personalized gift, you should prepare all your images.
This is easy enough to do, as the only requirement for an image on our site is that it has the proper resolution for printing. We request 300 dots per inch (DPI, also referred to as pixels per inch or PPI) for all images. Any photo editing software (such as Photoshop) will allow you to inspect the resolution, and if the image was created with enough pixels, you can adjust the resolution to ensure it prints well. If an image was created with fewer than 300 pixels per inch, you might not be able to adjust the resolution enough to prevent the warning message.
One other factor can impact resolution – image size. For calendars and photo books, the size of the image will be based on the image frame, which can be changed with the layout options. You’ll want to attempt to size your image files close to the size of the image frame, but you do not need to edit each image to match perfectly. Lulu will resize the image to fit the frame, and give you some controls to adjust the size and position within the frame.
BUT, if your image is much bigger or smaller, or is set up in Landscape while the frame is Portrait, you will see the low-resolution warning. This can be frustrating, but remember that we do have to resize the image to fit the frame, and an image with a different aspect ratio or size will impact the resolution.
After you’ve got your images approximately sized correctly and all the images set to 300 DPI or higher resolution, you’re ready to start your project!
The last thing I recommend is to organize all your images into a file folder. I like to save each image I intend to use for a project like this (or any project really) in a unique folder. This creates a second copy of the file, allowing for any edits or changes that may be required without risking changing the original. This kind of file organization is entirely up to you, but I find it helpful just in case you need to roll back to earlier versions or if the edited files were to be damaged for any reason.
With your images reviewed and prepared, we’re ready to start making a photo book or calendar!
The Wizard displays with all your primary controls at the top of the screen, with the layout for the selected page on the left, images to add on the right, and a page by page view along the bottom.
When you begin a calendar project, you’ll be prompted to select a theme, pick your date range, and add images. All of these can be adjusted using the controls and menus at the top of the window. One thing to be careful about is the date range. Lulu rolls over calendars to default to the following year, but this rollover is automated and occurs on September 1st each year. If you’re ahead of the game and you’re working on holiday gifts before September, be certain you manually set the range for January – December 2018 (or a different range if you’re making an even more unique calendar!).
In terms of actually building the calendar, that part is easy! With the images uploaded, you’ll see page layout on the left and available images on the right. Set the layout, then drag and drop images. Don’t like an image in that frame? Drag and drop it off the frame to remove the image. Or just change the layout and start placing your images again.
The layout options have some designs that include text boxes as well so you can add captions as needed for your images.
The monthly grid allows you to edit daily events with the “Events” button. You’ll be able to create your own custom events, as well as grabbing holidays from national lists. One really cool element that many won’t notice while making their calendar is the option to add a photo to the grid! The image will replace a single day entirely, including any text and the date.
Because the calendar is built on a template, there are limits to the control you’ll have available. The grid itself cannot be edited, nor can the layouts we offer. While this will be a challenge for some of our most intrepid creators, most will find everything they need to make an awesome calendar in our Studio Wizard.
The basic layout of the Studio Wizard remains the same. The big differences you’ll see is in the preview, as you’ll be looking at a two-page preview of the photo book you’re building.
Building your photo book works exactly like the calendar. Select a layout, then drag and drop images into the frames. The photo book tool will offer a lot of variety for the individual pages, so be extra careful to check that your images are not displaying the low-resolution warning. You’ll also see layout options including text boxes, allowing you to add text to your photo book!
All that remains is to add the rest of your photos, organize the pages using the “Arrange” button, and add any text. Be sure to adjust the title, as it will default to “My Photo Book.” The title is edited through the “File” menu, under “edit title and author(s)” to adjust the text on the cover and title page. You won’t be able to edit the title page in any other ways; this page will always feature just the title and author(s) of your photo book.
Lulu Studio Tips
Okay, you’re well on your way to having the coolest holiday gifts ready to order! But before you finish up and review those print-ready files, here are a few tips to cover those little hang-ups that might slow you down.
Progressive JPG Files
Progressive JPGs are image files specifically formatted to load on a screen. Remember years ago when the Internet was new and images would load in a “top-down” fashion? You’d see the top of the image, with a little bit loading below until the entire image appeared. Now you are more likely to see a lower resolution image that will clarify as the page finishes loading.
These images are Progressive JPGs and they are designed to load quickly for Internet viewing. Progressive JPGs are a huge step up in online image sharing, but sadly our Studio Wizard doesn’t really like them.
If you see the icon pictured below after uploading your image, you’ll know that the file is a Progressive JPG. Resaving the image as a JPG or PNG file will correct the issue and allow you to upload your image successfully.
There are two markers you might see in the Project Images panel on the right. The Blue & White Check Mark indicates that the image is already in use in this project and the Green “$” Mark indicates the image is licensed and likely has a fee associated with using the image. Be very cautious if you see the Green “$” mark, as using a licensed image without permission infringes on the image owner’s copyright.
Lulu can only accept image files of 10MB or less when uploading. This might prevent ultra-high resolution images from uploading, but that shouldn’t be a concern. If you upload your image and the file is rejected for being too large, you should be able to compress the image down to 300dpi resolution, reducing the file size in the process and allowing you to upload! You’ll need to open the image file in your preferred image editing software and reduce the image resolution (or other settings) to bring down the file size.
Print Ready Files
If you’ve used Lulu before to create and publish a regular book, you’re familiar with how our system works. If this is your first book creation adventure, this is new to you! What we do is take your contents (the photo book or calendar you created) and make a PDF file our printers are ready to use. For a photo book, you’ll see a file for the cover (just the front, back, and spine of the book) and a file for the interior. When you look at this file, remember that the first file page is going to be on the right side of the book so the two-page layout of the file will be inaccurate.
I know this can be tricky to keep straight, but a PDF viewed in Adobe’s two-page view shows the odd pages (1, 3, 5, 7, etc.) on the left, while a book will always show the odd pages on the right.
For the calendar, the print-ready PDF will include 22 “pages” for the interior PDF and will start with the January month grid and end on the image for December (assuming you’ve done a January – December calendar). Where is the January image and December grid? They’re in the cover file, which will include 4 “pages” in the print-ready PDF (front cover, January’s image, December’s grid, back cover). This can be very confusing when viewing the files, but this file organization is necessary to ensure our printers can produce the calendar correctly.
Review these files carefully before completing your project and placing an order. These PDFs will be the files our printer use to make your book, so it is critical that they meet your approval before your order.
Make it Personal
Above anything else, your photo book or calendar is YOURS. A personalized gift may not be flashy or trendy, but it does contain the unique quality of your design and direction. Just like Lulu’s mission to help the world share their stories, a photo book or calendar is more than just a collection of images. Its a product of the images you selected, the order you place them in, the way you arrange images and text on the pages; this book is a singular thing, something made from your own personality.
I’ve given photo books as gifts multiple times over the last few years, and every time I’ve been rewarded with thanks and happiness you cannot achieve with a mass-produced product made to look like a million other versions of the same thing. Books are unique, and a self-published book filled with pictures of your loved ones is even more unique.
Not only does Lulu’s photo book and calendar tool make gifting easy, but it also makes it personal. Inscribe the calendar with personalized messages and images. Make a unique version of your photo book for each member of your family with a special image on the cover or unique text. The options are nearly unlimited!
Get the holidays under control early this year and give the perfect personalized gift to your loved ones.
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, responsible for all the words you see on our site (misspellings included). He also manages the community site – http://connect.lulu.com/en/ – and in his free time, he’s an avid reader and short story writer.