My Photobook from Scribus to Blurb via The Gimp

I have just printed my first photobook[i] entirely made with Open Source software, that is, without easy off-the-shelf templates and long-established work-flow (e.g. Adobe/Mac duopoly). The software I have used are Scribus, for the pagination and the final PDF conversion, and The Gimp, for the picture editing (a little bit of Open Office to bring the text together, too). I have been using The Gimp for a while now (moving from 10 years and more of Photoshop addiction) and, apart for the limitation of not providing 16bit editing as yet (hopefully the new version will address this once and for all), it is absolutely fine, highly customizable as you might expect, and relatively easy to use with loads of plug-ins and tips available on line. Scribus is a really stable (I have used the 1.3.3 version which is provided in the Ubuntu repository, but things move fast there too), user friendly, professional software, and it comes with a very handy manual written in human terms (no jargon and endless explanation with 20 different ways on how to do the same thing).

So, how do you make your Blurb-ready pdf? Well, as you might already know there is a possibility to upload your own pfd to blurb website and there are plenty of FAQ, guides, tips, forums, etc. there already. Above all, when you know what you want to make, there is a very useful calculator which will tell you the exact measures of your template, both for the cover and for the main pages of your book. When you have created in Scribus your two templates according to those specifications, you are almost done! Insert all the measurements in the Doc Properties, and start making bit by bit your book, almost like an artisan: it is your book, after all, the thing you care of most, at that moment! Soon, after the first few pages, you will get much better at it, and use all the handy keyboard short cuts and appreciate the full Gimp integration. For more technical guys, there is also a full integrated colour management, preflight and PDF/X-3 conversion for soft-proofing.

Who needs heavy, expensive, and hard-to-use proprietary software, any more?

A low resolution full preview of my ‘home-brewed’ photobook can be seen below or you might want to download it from here (it is 14.3 mb pdf file, but it is a 80 pp photobook!). Obviously, it is distributed under Creative Commons 3.0 Unported License.

Last minute update:

  • review of the book in this article by Luigi Manzione on Archphoto, online magazine of architecture and visual culture (ISSN 1971-0739), in Italian.
  • the book arrived on Christmas Eve, before I expected it, and it is above my expectations. The issue of a green and cyan hue, which seriously worried me as it was all too evident in the Adobe Reader preview with PDF/X-3 proofreading enabled, did not materialized: this must be a bug in Adobe Reader, as it did not appear in any other PDF readers (e.g. XPDF or Firefox own plugin). The book, as I said, is wonderful and made me really proud for the overall achievement. Big thanks to Blurb people for their excellent work: a truly amazing Xmas present!


Important: My photobook is dedicated to 31-year-old Adrianna Skrzypiec, from Rotherhithe. “A supervisor for fashion website Net-A-Porter, she moved to London from Szczecin, northern Poland, six years ago, and was planning to buy a house and start a family with her boyfriend…”[ii] .
The yellow police board went long ago, and nobody has yet been arrested in connection with Adrianna’s death.
The ghost bike memorial, placed there by members of Greenwich Cyclists has (incredibly!) been moved only a few meters away as a second ghost bike was unfortunately needed this year (December 2009)….

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  1. Cardullo, P. 2010 Walking on the Rim: a Tale of Abjection, London: Blurb. []
  2. The Evening Standard, May 2009 []

About Paolo Cardullo

I am behind kiddingthecity. Check ThatKindofDoctor page and my Photoblog
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