Paper Coterie – a review

It’s here, it’s here!  The album that I ordered from Paper Coterie arrived yesterday, and I excitedly tore open the box… 

I love pictures – taking them (although I am by no means a professional, usually taking lots of pictures and narrowing them down to a few favorites), organizing them, putting them into albums.  I decided that instead of developing the marjority of my digital pictures and later deciding how to organize them, I would start making a digital album for each of the kiddos every year. 

I currently upload my pictures to Shutterfly, where I arrange them into files, share them with friends and family members through one of their Share Sites, and use them for a variety of projects (mainly albums and cards, but there are other offerings).

When I heard about the Paper Coterie Beta discount, during which you can get any of their products at 50% off with free shipping during their trial period, I decided I had to make something.  

Browsing their book section, I immediately took to the idea of their alphabet books.  Gwendolyn is a pro at her ABCs (singing them, anyway), and is beginning to recognize letters everywhere.  What a great way to incorporate favorite pictures and familiar words to help her recognize letters!  I liked the look of their Book of ABC, but didn’t like that I couldn’t change the predetermined words for each letter of the alphabet.  Instead, I went with About a Boy, which basically has a more neutral color scheme than the girl version.

The process of uploading pictures and creating pages is easy enough, though I found myself comparing it to Shutterfly’s interface, since that’s what I’m used to.  Initially, I thought I had to stick to one of a few different page layouts, though I soon discovered I could drag a picture or text box and drop it wherever I pleased.  This is where I was able to get most creative.  Editing the photos and changing the text was a breeze, but I soon realized I would have to make sure I had a good idea how I wanted to lay the pictures out on the pages because there is no way to rearrange the pages (other than to add or delete a set).  I rarely know how I want every single page to look, sometimes moving pages around until I’m happy with the result; this is definitely something that would influence my making another album.  I contacted customer service about this but haven’t received a reply.

The selection for backgrounds and graphics is limited to the specific product you’re personalizing, unlike the variety of backgrounds you see on Shutterfly – but I like this, it’s more focused and removes a lot of the guesswork.  I hit one snag when, while trying to add one of the letter graphics, I found it had somehow disappeared from the list of options and I had to start fresh with a new album. 

It took a while picking photos from my extensive database, trying to match elements to all the letters of the alphabet.  There doesn’t seem to be a way to delete photos once you’ve uploaded them, so even if you don’t end up using them, they just take up space.  The program seems slower the more pictures you load, which is problematic when there’s no way to get rid of the unused ones.  

When I was finally happy with the result, and had proofed it a hundred times, I ordered it.  Woo-hoo!  Then came the option to share the album – a different kind of preview, during which I noticed a piece of text stuck at the bottom of one of the pages that wasn’t visible during any of the other previews.  Arrrgh!  I always have at least one trademark mistake.

I immediately e-mailed customer service about the error, and they were quick to respond, and very gracious – assuring me it would be taken care of.  I was relieved that the mistake wouldn’t be in the final product.  Other than a couple of my questions remaining unanswered, I’ve been very happy with the level of customer service. 

And the packaging… what a beautiful presentation!  This little vellum envelope lay atop the box’s contents, welcoming me as a new member.  What a thoughtful, whimsical extra!  Wonder what the guys get…


Simple, clean, elegant, crisp.  And I love the color combination.  Warm and cool. 


The envelope has four flaps that unfold to reveal the treasure inside…

I love it!  No need for extra wrapping if giving this as a gift.  The unexpected green inside is a nice touch.  Great quality, beautiful paper, and a vellum page with the company’s name at the back of the book.  I will note that the text seems darker in person than it did during the design process, but it’s not a big deal to me.  There were a couple spots where it looks like not all of a letter printed smoothly, but it’s very minor.  My only complaint with the album itself is that there’s a small barcode on the last photo page that covers some text – and it just so happens to read “the end,” which is very important in a book!  The design/preview process doesn’t make mention of this margin, so it’s a tad disappointing.

All in all, I’m happy with the results, and already contemplating making one of their recipe books.  Just as with Shutterfly, though, at full-price I would wait for a promotion or discount code before ordering.  Take advantage of their discount while it’s still available!  The swatchbooks are adorable – think, Mother’s Day gift. 

Here’s a peek at Gwendolyn and Josiah’s ABC Picture Book.

May 5, 2011 EDIT: Now that Paper Coterie has officially launched their website, I find the prices a bit, well… pricey.  Yesterday, they had a little “launch party,” including a code for $40 off an order, shipping not included.  I thought, for the measly price of shipping, I could get a couple lovely gifts.  After putting the items in my cart, I was shocked that shipping was over 20 dollars!  At the very least, they could do flat rate for less.  It bugs me when companies over-charge for shipping, especially when it looks like they’re trying to give you a discount.


3 thoughts on “Paper Coterie – a review

  1. Leah says:

    Wow, I LOVE this! I’m going to head over there and make a book myself. I love photos too and I currently upload all my photos on Shutterfly and I also order hard copies for albums. But I love this idea! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Lisa Garner Winn says:

    Thanks for your Very Detailed review of Paper Coterie! I saw some horrible reviews for and even with the cool deals on groupon i don’t want to waste my time for something that isn’t perfect.
    I made some photo projects with Paper Coterie, and I cannot wait to see how they actually turn out. Once again, good detailed reviews help others trying to make quality projects, and save money! Thank you!

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