In the past week, we’ve covered a lot of ground on how to make a homemade cookbook to help you turn your heirloom family recipe cards into amazing and functional heirloom cookbooks.

In part one and two, we got you started on:

In part three, we cover the actual design and creation of your heirloom cookbook, including our recommendations on the best cookbook printers we know, advanced DIY cookbook creation in programs like Adobe InDesign and more. We even have a cookbook layout template for Adobe InDesign!

Our Full Heirloom CookBook in 30 Seconds

Let’s get started! In our experience, there are three main ways to have a family heirloom cookbook made:

1. Use an online cookbook making platform.

2. Take the complete DIY method with a design program and have it professionally printed by another vendor. (SKIP TO THIS SECTION)

3. Work with a professional service from start to finish for the design & printing. (SKIP TO THIS SECTION)

1. DIY: Cookbook Design with Online Creators

There are two ways that stand out as extremely popular to both build and print a cookbook online that serve different skill levels – a Blurb cookbook and using Cookbook Create.

I researched and tried both Blurb and Cookbook Creator platforms for building and designing cookbooks and compiled my notes on each service. From my perspective as a professional designer, the family historian, and holder of the recipe cards, I’ve outlined the pros and cons of each, so anyone at any skill level can find the method that would best suit them.


Cookbook Create is a stand-alone service that specializes in the creation of a cookbook through their online software, and they also do the printing.

When I started this project, it felt like a personal passion project that I would struggle to find a community for, but that isn’t the case. Cookbook Create is more than just a platform for printing DIY Cookbooks – it was a whole community on its own! As you add your family recipes for inclusion in your cookbook, you have the option to make them public and share with everyone on that platform for inclusion in their own books. It felt like a Pinterest for just recipes, (a personal dream of mine!)

Cookbook Create Pros:

  • Creating an account is very simple and once you’ve logged in, you can add all your family recipes at once, and then create a cookbook from them.
  • You can make your recipes visible to the whole cookbook create community, but it’s optional, not mandatory.
  • As you’re creating a cookbook, they give you a variety of fonts, themes, and background photos to suit the theme of your family or recipes and it takes a lot of the work out of the process for you. Many of the photos they gave you to choose from were beautiful!
  • When you’re creating a book, you can upload one primary image, or switch to a group of four images to go with the recipe.

Cookbook Create Cons:

  • The photo you upload for the recipe is restricted to horizontal, but think of it more as a thumbnail then the main image for that recipe.
  • When adding a recipe, not only were the ingredients and instructions marked as mandatory but so were the prep time, cook time and serving size. Because I was working from old recipe cards, this information would not have been readily available to me for most recipes and I would either have to guess or follow the recipe myself for that information.
  • The photo additions were also not customizable. Many of the food photos I took on my own were meant to be horizontal or vertical, but the image pages to go with each recipe was either one square image or four square images so no matter what photo I uploaded, I had to crop to a square.

As a whole, Cookbook Create was incredibly user-friendly. If you don’t have a lot of design experience and you want to be guided through the entire process of making your cookbook from your old family recipe cards, this is a good service for you! Even if you do have some experience, but are just looking for something quick and simple, this is a good option for that as well.

In case you missed parts one and two and want to read those first (or after)


For Blurb, a company well known for being a go-to for self-publishers of not only photo books but trade books and magazines as well, printing a cookbook was on display on the homepage as its own category. This was a great indicator to me that their reputation among self-publishers, food bloggers and more was well earned. They even have an InDesign plug-in to upload custom designed pages directly to their printers.

Getting started with the cookbook templates in Bookwright

For me, their Bookwright software meets somewhere in the middle and even offers templates to start from for their most popular book themes – including cookbooks. Having only ever used their Adobe InDesign plugin, I was hopeful that their Bookwright software cookbook templates were similar to what I was looking and the program was easy to use.

A layout inside their cookbook template

How Bookwright Works:

  • Set up a Blurb account and download Bookwright from their website
  • Install on your computer and create a new project
  • Choose your preferred cookbook template
  • Upload your photos into the software
  • Pick and choose your page layouts for each recipe
  • Drag and drop the photos you want for each recipe
  • Input your recipes. You can either type them out into a word document for copying and pasting or type them directly into the book. Make sure someone proofreads!
  • Preview the book and check for errors
  • Upload to Blurb and order!
Bookwright has a full range of paragraph and text options

Blurb Bookwright Pros:

  • The software is incredibly easy to install and set-up.
  • There are TONS of premade layouts by page and spread so you can choose how you want the photos to match up with your recipes
  • A wide range of font and color choices for the text that will be very familiar if you’ve ever used a Word document. For the more experienced user, there are also a variety of character and paragraph formatting options.
  • Deviating from the template is no problem at all. Moving text and image blocks have alignment indicators. This was perfect for me because I had a lot of family photos to include with the recipes.
  • Uploading for printing was also very easy to do, just make sure you have your Blurb account log-in information.
Keeping your text and images aligned is a breeze

Blurb Bookwright Cons:

  • If you’re looking for a purely online experience, you may be discouraged by downloadable software.
  • There are no size or dimension options when selecting the Cookbook templates. Vertical portrait books are their recommendation.
  • Cookbook templates are not designed for layflat printing

The primary con for the Blurb Bookwright platform was the limited amount of options available for the size of my cookbook design. The templates for the cookbooks were only portrait dimensions and while they have other sizes available for their photo books, the main benefit of using Bookwright were the lovely pre-made templates for the recipes and photos so deviating from them for other sizes is not ideal. The smallest size square book they offer is 12″ x 12″ and while that’s a very popular size for photo books and albums, it’s not going to be good to have in the kitchen!

For the novice, Bookwright is less intuitive to use than Cookbook Create but if you’re looking for a more customizable experience, the learning curve is worth it. For a more experienced DIYer, it’s not dissimilar from other photo book software and you should have problems, even if you decide to use other templates for other book sizes.

2. Advanced DIY: Cookbook Design with Adobe InDesign & Photoshop

After researching both Blurb and Cookbook Creator, and being inspired by templates and past EverPresent cookbook projects, I had a vision in mind for my book that I knew would work best if I built it myself.

I’ve created a basic tutorial for building your book in Adobe InDesign.

All of the Adobe programs are part of the paid creative cloud platforms and the learning curve can be steep. If you have no design or publishing background, you could easily sign up for a single month or individual platform license, but I recommend only taking this route if you have some experience.

A page layout created with Adobe InDesign

Getting Started:

Because you’ll need to have your custom designed pages printed, it’s important to pick your vendor FIRST in this instance. You’ll want to make sure they allow you to upload full-page spreads and that they offer the size book you want, in the price range you’re comfortable with. Here are some vendors we recommend for this:

Blurb’s InDesign plugin works beautifully, and when you set up a document based on the book size, it sets up the margins for you as well and the spine will expand with the number of pages you create. If you choose Blurb as your vendor for printing, but you want more customization than their Bookwright program allows, this would be an excellent option for you.

Building Heirloom Cookbooks:

I knew my preference for a 10” x 10” book meant I could work with just about any standard photo book vendor that allowed you to upload full-page spreads. With InDesign, I had much control over the photos and text on my pages than the other software platforms, but my ability to work with other elements like vectors and the control over the text is what sets Adobe InDesign apart.

  • Create a new document.
  • The width of your pages should be double the length of your book to upload full page designed spreads. For example, if you’re doing a 10″ x 10″ square book,
    the dimensions will be 10″ H x 20″ W
  • Put in the number of pages. I did 20 to start and expanded from there
  • Leave the standard margins
  • Uncheck “Facing Pages”. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a 10″ x 40″ spread!
  • Hit “Ok” and your document will generate.
The view from inside Adobe InDesign. On the right hand side, you’ll see the panel that shows all the pages in my book.

Adobe InDesign Basics:

If you’re unfamiliar with InDesign, or it’s been awhile, I recommend watching some online tutorials or doing the walk-throughs they offer but here are some basics to get you started:

  • Use the “Rectangle Frame” tool to create image boxes. These can be sized any way you want!
  • To place images into these frames, go to File > Place and then select the photo from where they are stored on your computer
  • You want to make sure all of your photos will print well. After you place an image, go to Links > Link information and look for the “Effective PPI”. If it’s 220 or above, you’re good to go! If it’s less than that, make your image box smaller.
  • The “Text Frame” tool is used to place text. Once you make the frame, you can click on it and select text options from the top.
  • If you want to make all your text consistent, you can copy and paste the text frames between pages so you don’t have to change the settings everytime. You can also use character and paragraph styles (but that’s a more involved tutorial.)
  • Keep the spacing between your text boxes and multiple images the same. InDesign will let you know when you have equal distance, but you can also use the align tool.
EVERYTHING is customizable. Here you can see the blue selection boxes around each individual element.

Making it Your Own:

Designing a family cookbook in InDesign gives you cart-blanche to be your most creative – but don’t feel like you have to design a ground-breaking book that nobody has done before.

Search Pinterest, or flip through your favorite cookbooks for inspiration. In addition to the recipes, your family photos and stories are the true highlights of any heirloom photobook. Here are some thoughts to get you started:

Heirloom cookbooks are a hybrid of history, family and food. This is the history of my Grandfathers side.
  • Write an introduction page about why you’re doing this project and what it means to you
  • Incorporate family photos, history or quotes into their own spreads, separate from the recipes to give some background to your project
  • Create title pages for “Entrees”, “Desserts”, etc where you can put more family photos and the original scanned recipe cards
  • Write out the recipes and ingredients in a traditional cookbook style and include food photography
  • Mix scanned recipe cards and family photos on the same page as recipes and food photos
  • Highlight who the recipe is from, or create special pages for the cooks who contributed the most likes. My book had a page for both of my grandparents, as well as my great-grandmother who taught mine everything she knew.
A spread combining food, family and the recipe

Getting Your Book Printed

By now you already know what vendor you plan on using and you’ve been using their book dimensions to build yours. When you’re happy with your book design, you’ll want to get your pages into the dashboard of your vendor for printing. I printed my cookbook with Picaboo, but the steps will be incredibly similar no matter who you’re using.

  • Export your pages from InDesign as high resolution, full-sized JPEGs to a folder you’ll be able to find again.
  • I used a labeling system like “Cookbook Pages_” and then Adobe will auto number your pages when exporting.
  • Within your vendor dashboard, create your project by following the prompts given to you when getting started. You’ll be selecting book size, type (layflat or standard), cover, etc.
  • At some point during this process you’ll be asked to add photos and this is when you’ll upload the pages you exported from InDesign.
  • Since your pages are the exact size of your full spread, you can place them one at a time on each spread. Depending on the interface of your chosen vendor, there may be different ways to do this. Conceptually, it is the same as choosing one gorgeous wedding photo to go across the whole page but your high resolution exports from InDesign can contain anything.
  • Proofread and preview EVERYTHING before ordering! We’ve found that many photo book vendors are incredibly helpful when they’ve made a printing error, but your mistakes are your own.
  • After ordering, reward yourself for a project well done and eagerly await its arrival!
A peek inside the Picabook platform

We want your cookbook to be amazing, and if you’re working in Adobe, we have some presents for you! Click the recipe design template to download a customizable set.

If you’d like a FREE Adobe InDesign template and the customized set of food graphics I used in my book, just fill out this form. Please let me know if you need a legacy format like CC 2015 or prefer an IDML.

3. Working with Professional Photo book Designers

Designing an heirloom cookbook that not only includes family recipes but photos and stories is a rewarding and amazing project – but it’s also time-consuming. From sorting and organizing the recipes to deciding on a vendor and doing the actual design work can be a serious time investment that not everyone is capable of making but you have another option!

Working with a professional designer frees up your time and allows you to relay your vision to an experienced designer who can make it work in half the time. There’s still work to be done on your end, but far less!

Here are some things you can expect your designer to need from you when working with a professional service:

  • How you want your recipes organized
  • Which family photos you’d like to include and where
  • Where you want to incorporate family quotes and stories
  • Review of drafts and samples to provide feedback to move forward
Custom designed hard cover of my cookbook

These are some common questions your designer will ask you when helping you make the best decisions for your book:

  • Do you want your book to be a fully functional cookbook or a coffee table book? This will influence the type of pages your book has. For example, lay flat pages typically seen in wedding albums are more expensive and make for bigger, more decorative books than standard bound paper that you don’t mind staining.
  • What kind of cover do you want? There are tons of options! Leather cover, leather cover with photo cameos, fabric covers, hard photo covers – you name it! Working with a designer on custom cookbook covers can expand your hardcover options even further. My book included a collage of recipe card scans on the back.
  • What’s your budget? Different kinds of books cost different amounts. Ordering a cookbook through a traditional wedding album vendor is more expensive than a trade book from Blurb.
  • How detailed do you want your book to be? Freelance designers and design services usually charge hourly, so the more intricate you want your book to be, the more one-on-one time you’ll have with your designer.

If you’re interested in an heirloom cookbook project with a professional, you can see one of our previous client projects here and visit our photo book design service page here!

We hope you share any cookbooks you create after reading these posts! Please let us know if you have any questions or projects you’re interested in!

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