Blurb Photo Book/Trade Book/Magazine Paper Types – Swatch Kit Review

Blurb doesn’t need much introduction, it’s one of the biggest companies in the commercial photo book industry. I reviewed two of their books in the past, the standard hardcover and the new lay flat. They offer a lot of paper options, which can be confusing just to read about, so I ordered their swatch kit to share with you my thoughts.

Writing about paper finishes and quality is very difficult, even photographs struggle to capture the reality, but I will try my best to make sense here. I am attaching a number of photos below but if you want to see more, watch my Blurb Paper Types video and that might give you a better idea. You can order a swatch kit from it costs £6 and you can get the £6 off your next order. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo Book papers:

  1. Standard:
    118 gsm (80lb) Semi-matte photo paper. This is their most basic photo paper, it looks like an average silk paper to me, although much thinner. Most books (even the cheaper ones) start at 148 gsm so 118 will feel much more fragile. The only advantage of this paper is the high page count, you can go up to 440 pages. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Premium Lustre
    148 gsm (100lb) Gloss photo paper. Well don’t be fooled by the name, there is nothing premium in this paper. It is indeed thicker than the standard but that’s where it ends. It is perhaps a tiny bit shinier than the standard but certainly not gloss in the photographic term. It’s a nice, basic paper stock, the max page count is 220.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3. Premium Matte
    148 gsm (100lb) Matte photo paper. Not much to say, identical to the Premium Lustre but a lot less shine. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. ProLine Pearl Photo
    190 gsm (140lb) Mohawk proPhoto Gloss Paper. Despite being my favourite Blurb paper type, I don’t like their terminology. This paper is not gloss! It is lustre at most. It has a decent thickness, doesn’t bend so easily, much nicer tones/contrast on it and it has a beautiful lustrous texture. Nr 1 for me. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  5. ProLine Uncoated
    148 gsm (100lb) Mohawk Superfine Uncoated photo paper. I am not going to lie, it is a nice paper stock, but I would rather call it invitation paper than photo paper. I don’t think uncoated papers are suitable for dynamic photographs. The only reason why someone would choose this paper is for the artistic look (I assume). The problem is that this is the ONLY paper type available for the new lay flat books, which is disappointing. I hate when companies give you less options with more expensive products than with cheaper ones. You pay a premium for the lay flat books and you get the least suitable paper without a choice. Again, I am not saying it’s a low quality paper, but it has no dynamics and makes everything look dull. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAphoto proline

The bottom line: 

  • if you want a very long 220+ page book, go for standard
  • if you are on a budget, go for the Premium Lustre
  • if you want the very best, go for the ProLine Pearl
  • if you want that artsy look, go for the Uncoated

    Starting from top left – Standard, Premium Lustre, Premium Matte, ProLine Pearl & Uncoated
Starting from top left – Standard, Premium Lustre, Premium Matte, ProLine Pearl & Uncoated

Magazine Papers:

  1. Economy Magazine
    89 gsm (60lb) gloss. This is the paper you find in Hello! magazine etc… It is very basic and very, very thin. It is suitable for magazines which are not to be read multiple times. Has a nice gloss and a smooth finish, but colours and print quality are not so great.
  2. Premium Magazine
    118 gsm (80lb) Matte. Identical to the matte photo paper but thinner. Colours look much better on this, it’s definitely an upgrade. It’s thick enough to survive for longer. Suitable for archives too and artsy magazines. magazine papersmagazine papers bw

Trade Book papers (briefly):

  1. Economy BW (cream)
    80gsm (50lb) cream uncoated text paper. Not suitable for photos, mostly a Harry Potter book type of paper. Good for dry text.
  2. Economy BW (white)
    75gsm (50lb) white uncoated text paper. Same as above, but white. Also, dynamics much better on this.
  3. Standard BW
    75gsm (50lb) white uncoated text paper. It’s supposed to be identical to the Economy White but strangely enough, it retained a lot less detail in the photo than the economy.
  4. Economy Colour
    105 gsm (70lb) white uncoated text paper. If it wasn’t obvious until now, the above papers were only available for black and white printing. This is the cheaper colour version. It is okay for novels and stuff like that, but not photo books or picture books.
  5. Standard Colour
    105 gsm (70lb) white uncoated text paper. The same as above but slightly better print quality.

    MAG - 1 (1).jpg
    Economy BW Cream (Top left) – Economy BW White (middle) – Economy Colour (Top right) – Standard BW (bottom left) – Standard Colour (bottom right)

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