Printing a Moleskine book with Paper for iOS

7 min read

About a month ago FiftyThree added a highly requested feature to their award winning app Paper — the ability to print a book. Being a graphic designer I was curious to see the quality of these custom printed Moleskine books first hand. Using a small sampling of my PaperFaces portraits I ordered1 my first book two weeks ago along with a Mastering Paper book I’m still waiting on.

Journal to custom printed book

Before I get into my impressions of the physical books, I wanted to quickly discuss the book making process. As expected it was utilitarian in design and fully integrated into the iOS app. The only problem I had was whittling down hundreds of PaperFaces portraits into a collection of 15 favorites to make up my book.

Screenshot of PaperFaces journal pages
A few pages from my PaperFaces journal.

If you haven’t watched any of the Book videos or seen this lovely set of drawings describing how to make a Book in 5 steps, then here’s how the process unfolds — pun intended.

Select your journal

Taking a few of my favorite PaperFaces portraits and consolidating them down into a smaller journal became the basis of my first Paper book. I’m still waiting on the second book to arrive that features some unpublished Mastering Paper cheat sheets from upcoming tutorials…

Screenshot of my journals in Paper
Deciding which journal to print was a huge challenge for me. I’m so indecisive.

Choose fifteen pages

As noted earlier, I struggled with selecting 15 pages to turn into a book. I suppose when you have over 550 pages of portraits, narrowing them down to 15 is no easy feat. Maybe next time I’ll organize them all into 40 volumes2 and print my own encyclopedia set of PaperFaces to line a bookshelf.

Screenshot of selecting 15 Book pages
Selecting your pages is as easy as tapping on them.

Maximum page count

It’s worth noting that if you select less than 15 pages for your book, you’ll receive blanks filling the balance. Something I’d like to eventually see would be the option to create books with a higher page count. Maybe at larger predefined increments to keep the spine size fixed as not to mess with the cover’s alignment and wrap. Printing pages ala cart would be nice as well.

Cover image

I think the best option is to go fully custom with a cover. What I did was create a sketch for each of my books, and then assign them as journal covers. When you choose to Print a Book from the share button, Paper pulls in this cover by default. You also have the option of selecting a black leather texture that mimics the Classic Moleskine notebook.

Screenshot of selecting a cover image
Swatches saved in any of your palettes are available for use as a back cover and spine color.

ProTip: custom colored cover wraps

The custom option affords you the opportunity of selecting a color for the back cover and spine. As far as I can tell you can’t use the color mixer here to pick a color, so be sure to save one in your custom palettes if you don’t like the defaults.

Order the book

If you don’t have an account you’ll be prompted to create one and then verify via a link sent to your email. The ordering process is what you’d expect if you’ve ever shopped online before — enter your name, shipping and billing addresses, and payment information.

After ordering you can easily check a book’s status by tapping Order Status from within the Print a Book option. Doing so opens a tab in Safari displaying your order number, status, and shipping method. I would assume selecting one of the expedited options provides you with a tracking number for the package, but I went with Standard Shipping so I can’t verify that.

Printed book and packaging

Two weeks later your book(s) will arrive in a small cardboard parcel with a pull tab. Tugging on this rips through the protective packaging to reveal a book wrapped in a protective sheet of paper.

If you’ve ever owned a Classic Moleskine notebook a few of the details printed on the inside front cover and first page should be familiar.

Color faithfulness

So the real question is how well have my Paper drawings been reproduced in printed form? Pretty damn good if you ask me. To my eye the color is almost an exact match to what I see on the iPad’s screen. It’s not as bright because the paper stock printed on is warmer, but for the most part it’s faithful.

Photograph of a PaperFaces drawing
Prints are not as crisp as what you see on screen, but I like that. Makes my drawings look more watercolory.
Photograph of a Star Wars drawing
I really like how the pencil work printed — drawings look super professional.

Paper quality

The paper stock printed on is thinner than what I was expecting, which is a slight bummer. I suppose it’s hard to gauge from the promotional videos alone just how thick they’d be. By no means a deal breaker, but something to be aware of if you were expecting something more.

Photograph of a paper bleed-through
Some bleed-through is present when viewing the pages from behind — who’s really going to do that though?

Accordion fold

I personally like the accordion fold and how each of the pages are glued together into one continuous strip. If you’re using a Book to tell a story in 15 pages, this style of binding helps enhance that. It also mimics the way you interact with pages from within Paper, which is a nice touch.

Photograph of the accordion fold
Some may prefer a perfect bound or saddle-stitched book, but I like the story-telling nature of an accordion fold.

Cover and spine

As noted before, the cover isn’t as thick as I had hoped for, but it’s not super thin either. To further protect it from scratches and stains, I’ll be leaving it in the paper sleeve it shipped with. I’m crazy like that…

Photograph of the book cover
Custom cover option.

Justifying the price

Yes, $40 for a 15 page book3 is bit on the expensive side. Especially when you can easily print a book from any local drugstore for half the price. But what you won’t be getting for that price is a custom, handmade, accordion folded book, all within two weeks time.

Not to mention the finished books share the same 4:3 proportion as your Paper creations so there won’t be any funny bleeds or crops. What you see in Paper is what you get in real life, straight down to the elastic band and rounded edges. The fact that these little books come baring the Moleskine name, instantly adds +100 hipster cred points to your work.

Photograph comparing a classic Moleskine Notebook to a Paper Book
Size comparison between a Classic Moleskine notebook and a Paper Book.
Photograph comparing a digital journal to a Paper Book
Digital journal compared to the printed version — same accordion fold, same rounded corners, same elastic band cover.

If you’ve been holding out printing a book with Paper, I’d encourage you to give it a try at least once. I believe they’re most effective as gifts to share with friends and family. Why not get a jump on the upcoming holiday season and create a book now. If they’re as popular as I predict them to be, it might be a good idea to get an order in early to beat the rush.

Flipping through a book of PaperFaces

Mastering Paper reference book

When my second book didn’t show up at the same time as the PaperFaces one, I started to worry that it was lost in the mail. I had ordered them at the same time and received shipping notices within seconds of each other notifying me they were on the way. But all is well and the other book finally showed up.

For this book I took a few of my Paper “cheat sheets” and adapted drawings from my Mastering Paper series to fill all 15 pages. If you look closely you’ll notice a few teases from upcoming tutorials I’m in the process of writing now. I’ve also embedded a video flip-through for your viewing pleasure.

Flipping through another book
  1. In the spirit of full disclosure — I was reimbursed the cost of two Books (plus shipping) created with Paper in exchange for sharing them through a short video and photographs. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions and bad grammar are my own. 

  2. I better start saving my pennies because it would cost me around $1,600 to produce 40 Books with Paper. 

  3. Not including shipping costs a Paper Book ends up costing about $2.67 per page. 

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CarminaSimdesigner on

Hey Michael, this is a fantastic example of how awesome creating a Book with Paper is and also how your amazing artistic skills are. Thank you for sharing your process in such a beautifully crafted blog page. I appreciate every detail.

Thanks for the encouraging words and for reading. I appreciate it!

This is beautiful. Wish the app was available for androids. I would love to be able to sketch my own lookbooks for jewelry design, and have them printed immediately, without having to go to a printing place. :(

Peter Bryenton on

I read a lot of user guides and watch some videos. Your skills as a graphic designer and your experience as a digital artist really shine through this series. I am looking forward to seeing the rest of this series as it ‘unfolds’ (your pun I believe).

I’m still new to guide writing and reviews, so I’m glad to hear they’re coming off well. Thanks for reading, I appreciate it.

Brilliant and thorough article. Many thanks for this. I was wondering, do you know if image quality if Paper is enough to send off to be printed on T-shirts or CD covers? (Or does one have to go through this custom print process in order to see images of decent quality happen outside of the digital world?)

Thanks. You should be fairly safe printing outside of Paper’s “book” feature. I’ve printed 8x10” images just fine and I know others have blown them up 18x24 as canvas prints. There will probably be some artifacts and noise when you enlarge past 8x10, but depending on the drawing it might look just fine.

If you have an iPad with retina screen, images output to your camera roll at 2048×1536 pixels. On an iPad mini it’s half that.

Hi there. Can the books be ordered from outside the US?

As far as I know yes they can be ordered and shipped internationally. Don’t know if every country is supported but a good majority of them are.


I am thinking on get a paper book as gift to my boyfriend. If you leave blank pages can you write on them later with a pen, for example or is photographic paper?

Thank you!

You can write on the blank pages. They aren’t glossy and have a matte finish like a normal piece of paper so they should hold ink just fine.

Thank you very much from Granada, Spain.

Thank you Michael! Xavier, From Spain

Gary Birtles on

There is some great are on here. I love the color choices and the style overall. I’d love to have something like this. I really enjoyed looking at your work.

Jean Newman on

I am an ancient person familiar with file and image saving in MS Office and Photoshop. Can I save Paper images in the same way or send them to my camera roll? Thanks.

Yes you can save your Paper pages to the Camera Roll. You have to pinch the page you want to export so it zooms out some. Then 3 buttons should appear below it, the middle one with the Share icon is what you want. Tap that and swipe over to the right one screen to reveal the “Save to Camera Roll” button.

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