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Take A Look Inside My MILKBook Portfolio

A couple of months ago, while deeply immersed in designing the layout of my 2015 Literary Cats calendar project, I had a spare thought to imagine what a book of my artwork might look like. A couple of customers had suggested I publish my art as either a portfolio-style coffee table book, or as illustrative accompaniment to a story.

I had to confess that the idea had occurred to me several times; in fact, I had planned to adapt Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” into a narrative told by cats.

In the summer of 2009, I spoke with author Pamela Jane about a possible collaboration ~ she’d re-write Austen, and I’d provide the images ~ but while her publisher liked the Pride and Prejudice/Cats mash-up, they decided to use LOLCatz style photographs instead.

My ambitious project never gained momentum, but I haven’t officially taken it off the table, either. I still plan to write or adapt a cat story and illustrate it… someday. ;)

A portfolio book of my past and current work seems like an easier task, relatively speaking, as it wouldn’t require the huge investment of time to develop new material.

As with calendars, the hardest part is finding a book publisher who could produce a quality photo book… at a price that makes re-sale possible.

There are a ton of Print-on-Demand photo book publishers out there (Blurb, Adoramapix, and Shutterfly to name three), but I am extremely picky about how my artwork is reproduced, and most of these books looked cheap (even if the prices weren’t!) LOL

While reading comparison reviews, written by Mom-bloggers and professional photographers alike, I stumbled across PhotoBookGirl’s review of MILKBooks, with a giveaway to win a free 60 page album (with a retail value of $195.00).

On a whim, I entered the sweepstakes… two hours before the contest ended. And I won! :)

Now obviously, MILKBook’s 13″x11″ Photo Album isn’t priced for mass-production and re-sale, so this was more of a curious experiment.

These albums are meant to be one-of-a-kind heirlooms for special moments (weddings, most likely) or to chronicle your family history in pictures. This is the type of book I would recommend keeping safe on your bookshelf, to bring out and share at family reunions and anniversaries.

If you have an immaculate living space, worthy of a Better Homes and Garden feature, you may be inclined to display your MILK album on your coffee table.

My living-room table attracts crayons, cookie crumbs, and cat hair… no surprise there, eh? So this book will remain in its box for now.

My holiday season was so busy, I didn’t get a chance to design my MILKBook until after Christmas. The giveaway coupon expired on January 1st, 2015; I just managed to complete my album layout and hit the “Submit” button late on December 30th. LOL

The book arrived a whopping 8 days later… shipped all the way from Hong Kong! I felt a tad bit guilty that it was rushed International Priority, when it cost me nothing.

MILKBook Photo Album inside Shipping Box

It was beautifully packaged inside a thick cardboard box. They must have upgraded their packaging since PhotoBookGirl’s review; mine was carefully cushioned with cardboard blocks.

MILKBook packaging and album case

The lovely linen covered album box with signature MILKBook button.

MILKBook Signature Button

My husband liked the irony of a company called “MILK” publishing a portfolio of CAT ART. :)

MILKBook Photo Album created for my art portfolio

Inside the Album box…

The keepsake box which holds the album is absolutely gorgeous! It is evident that the company puts a great deal of care into the presentation and display of their albums.

MILKBook album thickness and linen keepsake cover box.

The thickness of the album itself, and its linen keepsake box.

MILKBook cover cat art by Tara Fly.

I did notice immediately that my collage of images on the cover printed darker than I expected, and the colors were a bit dull. Since I am accustomed to seeing variations in print quality when I place orders through outside companies, it didn’t really surprise me, but it was a slight disappointment.

One of the main reasons why I own my own Epson archival printer (my model is the R2880) is to have complete control over print quality, and I’ve yet to find a professional lab that exceeded my expectations and delivered prints that were better quality than my own.
As this album has a high-end retail value, I was hoping they would prove me wrong. :P

For anyone considering a MILKBook, I should mention that I designed the cover photo collage myself in Photoshop, as my album had only one cover template for a single image.
(The DOUBLE WHITE 13″x11″ album, $195 for 20-26 pages, has a 12-photo grid cover. The 8″x8″ DOUBLE WHITE album, $95 for 12-24 pages, has a 16-photo grid cover)

In fact, I designed the layout for all of my pages in Photoshop first, using a textured paper background, and uploaded them to MILK using their full-bleed page layout. Their default layout options left too much white space around the images. Depending on your style, you might like small images centered on a white page, but I wanted to showcase my paintings in greater detail.

The Title Page for MILKBook Photo Album

The Title Page

Deciding which pieces to include in the 60-page album was difficult. Although I have well over a hundred paintings, I wound up choosing only 59 images, and paired some of the smaller pieces together on a single page. Therefore, I had a few pages “to spare”, and used them for informative text.

Intro page artist statement

My attempt at writing an “artist statement”….

Dorothy Cat and Tin Cat, Wizard of Oz Cats

Dorothy and the Tin Cat from The Wizard of Oz Cat Collection.

My Tudor Cats Collection as a group; each Queen also has her own separate page.

My Tudor Cats Collection as a group; each Queen also has her own separate page.

One thing that never fails to amuse me is that the “high quality matte art paper” this album is printed upon, although very nice paper, still has a noticeable sheen. The paper has been coated with a sealer which reflects light, as evident when looking at the photo above of King Henry VIII.
However, it’s something I’ve experienced with other printing companies selling “matte photo prints”, so it appears to be fairly common.

This distinction matters to me because I print all of my artwork on archival Cold Press fine art paper, and there is absolutely no sheen whatsoever. ;)
It is personal preference, of course, but I prefer solid matte papers over papers with sheen ~ and I especially loathe glossy paper, which tends to distort my colors and loses the subtle details in my paintings.

Jay Gatsby Cat and Daisy Buchanan Cat Art by Tara Fly

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan Cat

Photographs, on the other hand, look beautiful printed in a satin finish, and MILK undoubtedly makes gorgeous wedding albums. They have two additional, even fancier album choices: CREAM Albums feature “fine bright white silk paper with a refined satin finish, or art card”… (what is art card?)… and the DOUBLE WHITE Album “printed on superior art board”. The CREAM Album retails at $595.00 (as of 1/11/2015).

78Tarot 5 of Pentacles Art by Tara Fly

I decided to dress up a couple of the pages by using my artwork as the background. Again, I created these pages in Photoshop, and uploaded them as image files using their full-bleed page layout.

Red Dragon Kimono Cat Art by Tara Fly

The images on page right were printed at full size!

Overall, I was impressed by the quality of MILKBook’s presentation and the craftmanship of the photo album.
Would I recommend them? Absolutely… for the right project, i.e. a wedding or heirloom family album.


I will continue looking for an ideal portfolio printer, but I have a feeling that it will be a long, exhausting search to find a company that meets my expectations both in print quality and availability for bulk wholesale printing. MILKBooks will be a hard act to follow! :)

MILK Photo Book Album

Tara Fly

About Tara Fly

A Crazy Cat Lady … who divides her time between painting portraits of cats dressed in period costumes, watching BBC mini-series, growing weeds and wildflowers, and baking pumpkin pies seasoned with cat hair.
Would you like some fur-flavoured coffee?

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