Making a planner—a gift that will last all year

If you have fourteen or so photos you want to share with that special someone, you can create a one-of-a-kind planner in less than an hour. That’s one hour to create a present they’ll carry with them all year—a great return on investment (and a very thoughtful gift).

Before you begin, download BookSmart, our free book-making tool, and install it.

Ready? Let’s get started.


1. Download BookSmart

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If you haven’t downloaded BookSmart, our most popular book-making tool, do that now. Once it’s downloaded, open it, and then click the “Start a New Book” button. Please note that BookSmart lets you work on your book while you’re offline, so you won’t need an internet connection to get things done. We think that’s pretty smart. What’s even smarter? Having your photos selected, your files named, and some idea of how you want your planner laid out at this step.

If you don’t have your photos selected yet, that’s okay. You can add or delete photos at any time during the book-making process (we’ll get to that in a bit). But here are a few helpful tips for getting organized before you get too far down the road with your planner.

  • Consider a theme for the planner. You’re creating something that will be used all year, so you have the opportunity to be creative about what image kicks off each month. If you are making a personal planner (for yourself or someone else), consider using images that are relevant for each month. It is possible to create a planner for a shorter or longer period too, but a year is pretty standard.
  • Collect all of your assets in one place on your computer. Get all of your images and photos edited and sized in advance of making your planner, and name them so they’re easy to identify (e.g. Planner_image_01.jpg).

2. Pick a name for your planner

Choose a name for your planner that really resonates for the person you’re giving it to. We recommend you put the year in the title (if it’s a planner for the whole year) to make it even more meaningful. Then choose “Weekly Planner” from the menu on the left of the screen. This will automatically load our Planner templates for you to work with.

3. Select the date range and the size

Choose the span of dates you’d like your planner to include. For a holiday gift, the coming year is a logical choice (January 1 through December 31), but you can make it conform to an academic year, fiscal year, multiple years, or go totally custom. It’s up to you. Next choose whether you want your planner to be Pocket (5 x 8 inches) or Trade (6 x 9 inches). Pocket is a little more portable (pocket-sized, of course) but Trade is bigger.

Think about how you (or the recipient) is going to use the planner. Is this something that will be used to track personal information? Business activity? Or both? Deciding that will help you decide what the best date range and size should be.

4. Select the photos for your planner

Make your planner truly one-of-a-kind with photos that really mean something for you or the intended recipient (or recipients—planners make great group gifts). Pick photos that match the time of year—graduation photos for June, costume photos for October, etc.—or just pick images that you think they’ll love. You can even do this step later, if you wish.

You can source your images from just about anywhere—your computer’s hard drive, a cloud-based storage service, your iPhoto library, even online photo hosting services like, SmugMug, and others.

5. Choose your layouts

Use the default full-page photo template we’ve created for our planners or choose your own. For instance, you can opt for a layout with a landscape-oriented photo in the center of the page and add a colored background to highlight the shot. You can add large photos on the page facing the month page and small photos in the note space on weekly pages. Play around with it. See what works best for each individual photo and for the book as a whole.

Remember that tip in Step 1 about considering a theme for the planner? This is a great time to think about how that theme (if you have one) flows through your book.

6. Grab specific images for each page

Now take a look at the panel on the left side of the screen, the one called “My Photos.” This is where you’ll find all of the images you imported earlier, collected in one place for you to use throughout the planner. Simply drag the image files and drop them into the photo areas on the various pages in your layout. Worried the photo won’t fit? Not a problem; BookSmart will automatically re-size your photo to fit that area. If there is a problem with your image (for example, if the resolution is too low), BookSmart will notify you right away.

Once you’ve dropped your photo into your page layout, you’ll see a green checkmark in the corner of the thumbnail. Those checkmarks help you keep track of the photos you’ve already used (and the ones you haven’t). You can also click on the Get Photos button at any time to import more photos to use as you make your book. If you’d rather that BookSmart simply import all of the photos you have at once, click on the “Autoflow” button. You can then drag and drop them onto different pages at any time.

7. Highlight special dates on the calendar

If you’re choosing to highlight special dates in your planner, now is a great time to take care of that. Think: Birthdays, anniversaries, major events, (even date-specific inside jokes). Go to the formatting bar at the top of your screen and select your font, size, etc. Then just click on the date in question and start typing. You can add text to as many special dates as you want, but make sure you leave a little room for the recipient to write in those date boxes later.

Explore the font options as much as you want, but don’t go overboard. Too many fonts in one book is a little jarring—two or three different fonts (maybe one font for event notes, one for the cover, etc.) for a single planner should be plenty.

8. Add or delete pages

If you want to add more pages, it’s simple to do from the bar at the top of the screen. That handy Add Page button allows you to insert different kinds of pages: Notes pages, Year at a Glance pages, and image pages. Just select the location in the carousel at the bottom of the screen where you want to insert the new page, and then add the page. Think you’ve added too many pages to your planner? Don’t worry about it. You can easily remove as many pages as you like from the same bar at the top of the screen.

9. Design your cover

This part of your project is extremely important. Besides being the first thing someone sees, your cover should really speak to the person who will be using the planner for the next year. The actual process of laying out your cover is similar to designing your inside pages. You can choose to have an image, an image and text, or just text, but no matter what you decide, make sure it looks great. Here’s something we can’t stress strongly enough—check to see that you’ve spelled everything correctly, especially the recipient’s name if it’s going to appear on the cover. Typos and misspellings are easy to avoid (BookSmart has a spellcheck tool, too); just make sure it’s part of your review process.

10. Order your planner

So, do you think your planner is finished? Have you placed all of your images, added in all of your special dates, and arranged the pages exactly as you like them? Fantastic. Now simply click the “Preview” button and do one more comprehensive review of your planner. When you’re finished, click the “Order Book” button.

11. Run the final checklist

We admit it. We’re perfectionists, and we hope you are too. That’s why we created this handy final checklist to make sure you’ll be totally proud of your work.

First, check your spelling. Nobody wants a beautiful, custom-made planner with spelling mistakes in it. Our spellchecker can help you do this final proof. Then, check to make sure your content is within the print and trim boundaries. Our page templates make it clear where these boundaries are, so just check to see that every page is okay.

Preview one more time. Just one more time, we swear. Flip through each page and make sure it’s how you want it—our handy preview tool makes it easy to simulate the flow of the book from cover to cover.

12. Sign in to Blurb

Now you need to upload your planner so we can work our magic with our printers. Just sign in to your existing Blurb account—or register for one if you’re new to Blurb. It should only take a minute or two and your planner will be waiting for you right where you left it when you finish.

13. Upload your planner

You can watch its progress, page by page, if you wish. Or go explore other books. Whatever you do, it should only take a minute or two to upload.

14. Place your order

Congratulations! You’ve just made a one-of-a-kind planner. You should be proud. Now just choose your paper type and decide whether you want to go hardcover or soft. Hardcovers are more durable, but softcovers are easier to carry around everywhere you go, so keep in mind what the recipient will likely be doing with their incredible gift. Are they a meticulous, careful type who takes great care with every possession? Or will the planner live on a desk for most of its life? Softcover is probably fine in that case.

Or are you gifting the planner to someone who throws everything into a briefcase or backpack without worrying about the consequences? You guessed it—hardcover is probably the way to go.

Now it’s time to check out and pat yourself on the back. You did it!