How to make a craft Advent calendar and how to fill it

The best ideas for self-designed, individually filled Advent calendars

Whether for children, a partner, grandparents, friends or colleagues: An Advent calendar makes a great surprise gift for loved ones during the festive season. And if you personally fill the Advent calendar, you will have more creative ideas than just chocolates, because you decide the treats!

How I fill a craft Advent calendar

for my friend?

Ideas for filling an Advent calendar:

  • Vouchers (for cooking, cleaning, a dinner at restaurant, breakfast in bed)
  • Tokens (for time, love, surprises, free ticket, a massage, a trip, a wish, …)
  • Jokes
  • Tea samples
  • Spices, chilli,
  • Cinnamon sticks (rods)
  • Perfume samples and similar
  • Creams
  • Jewellery
  • Raffle tickets
  • Bath bombs
  • Fridge magnet
  • Hobby accessories
  • Collectibles
  • Jigsaw puzzles, photo puzzles
  • Compliments
  • Photo stickers
  • Clay
  • Stamps
  • Small colouring books
  • Colourful pins with glitter or scented
  • Stationery (e.g. shaped rubbers)
  • Model cars
  • Craft materials
  • Drawing templates
  • Patterns
  • Small notepads


Customising an Advent calendar

Designing a self-filled Advent calendar allows for creative ideas! Choose your favourite pictures and decorate them with winter and Christmas clip art, or design templates! Some online photo printers offer professionally printed Advent photo calendars for self-filling, too.


Example: Photo Advent calendar from cewe

To fill the Advent calendar, a pre-cut insert can be pulled out on one side. Many compact treats fit into an Advent photo calendar. For example: small creams and perfumes or jewellery, hobby accessories, toys, and collectible figures. Messages, puzzles or even handicrafts things can be put into the Advent calendar, too.


The Advent Calendar from cewe is made of strong opaline with a satin finish and has the dimensions (WxHxD) 48 x 36 x 3.5 cm. The little doors and boxes are of varying sizes:

Day High, cm Wide, cm Deep, cm
1 5.5 5.8 3.5
2 5.5 5.8 3.5
3 5.5 5.8 3.5
4 5.5 5.8 3.5
5 5.5 5.8 3.5
6 5.5 13.5 3.5
7 8.2 5.8 3.5
8 7.2 5.7 3.5
9 7 5.8 3.5
10 5.5 5.8 3.5
11 5.5 5.8 3.5
12 7.0 5.7 3.5
13 5.5 5.8 3.5
14 5.5 5.8 3.5
15 5.5 5.8 3.5
16 5.5 5.8 3.5
17 5.5 5.8 3.5
18 5.5 5.8 3.5
19 5.5 5.8 3.5
20 5.5 5.8 3.5
21 5.5 5.8 3.5
22 6.6 5.7 3.5
23 6.5 5.7 3.5
Christmas day 10 13.5 3.5
Overall dimensions 36 48 3.5


If you take a little time to design a custom Advent calendar and select 24 little surprises for your loved one, they will be treated to a very happy Advent time.

Choose the right photo book for the photographs that carry your precious memories

Photo book providers compete for customer attention. Anyone wanting to create a photo book can pick from a rich variety of offerings, driven forward by constant innovation within the field.


The leading photobook printers offer a range of different paper types including the choice between a standard, matte and high-gloss finish. This diversity is useful because the right choice of material will optimise the presentation of your pictures. This article describes the characteristics of the paper types and finishes on offer and guides you in making the best choice for your photo book project.


Photo book paper types


Photo book, digital print

Digital printing is the  most popular choice for several reasons. Virtually all photo book providers have had the necessary Kodak Nexpress or HP Indigo printing equipment for years. The pages are standard and familiar, since every modern consumer has seen digital print products before. When printed at 200 dpi or better, the printing dots are not usually visible to the untrained eye, so only experts are bothered by the optical “noise”, making digital printing suitable for everyday photographs.


Most photo books use a paper quality of about 200 g/m², while leaflets and smaller photo books often use a lower grammage of 150 g / m² or less. A stronger paper is necessary for the larger photo books in landscape format, which are popular as wedding albums. A good photo book provider will print larger photo books on paper up to 250 g/m².


The digitally printed pages are bound with a spiral, or glued into the spine clasp to form a book.


Leading photo book providers offer to refine the photo book pages with a glossy or matte finish, for which most photo labs demand a surcharge.


Photo book digitally printed and with hi-gloss finish

Glossy photobook

Digitally printed glossy photo books receive a coating, enhancing the colours and brilliance. In addition, the gloss coating increases the durability, as it protects the photo book pages from moisture and dirt.


To create a photobook as a gift where superior quality and appearance are expected, a high-gloss finish should be added, to emphasise the photo album’s value.


Digital photo book printing with a matte finish

Digital printing with a matte finish is ideal for photo books when using high resolution pictures, especially from SLR cameras. For this process the image data will be applied with high resolution ink on special paper.


The special paper, together with the high-resolution ink, creates a photo book where the pictures can be rich in detail, with softer colours and superb contrast. The matting adds expression and character to the pictures, the reason why a matte finish is particularly popular among professional photographers.

Photographic paper
Photo book on photographic paper

Photo book on photographic paper – without the book bulge

The special photographic paper  for photo books developed by Fuji Film, is glued together back to back and then bound with a Leporello-binding. This lay-flat binding makes it possible for the photo book pages to lie practically flat, with no page curve. One advantage of photo books on photographic paper is that landscape pictures  can extend over double-page spreads, gutter free.


Photo book processed on glossy photographic paper

When choosing glossy photographic paper, the silver halide method provides, in addition to greater detail, high depth of field and a wealth of contrast, also a special colour luminosity. The images on the photo book pages appear in vivid colours.


True Matte Photographic Paper

When printing a photo book on photographic paper, the image data will be processed like traditional photographic prints. The silver halide process provides great detail and intense focus with vibrant colours.


Surface properties with and without  finish




  • Standard finish digital print is the most popular type of photo book
  • No surcharges.



  • Pages without coating are more fragile
  • Colours are less expressive.




  • The gloss gives an impression of more light
  • Glossy coating improves resistance to wear
  • Fingerprints can be easily wiped off the surface.



  • Fingerprints are more noticeable
  • Coating usually associated with a surcharge
  • Colours may appear too bright
  • Surface reflections.




  • Prevents unwanted reflections
  • The matte coating in digital and the matte finish on photo paper are the most robust
  • Neutralising effect
  • Fingerprints less noticeable.



  • Coatings often incur surcharges
  • Less detail than shiny finish
  • No gloss.


Application themes

Evaluating the pros and cons, some of the most popular photo book themes have been matched with the optimal paper types, printing and finishing processes, leading to the following general recommendations:


  • Holiday Photo Album

glossy or hi-gloss

The ideal holiday picture of a bright sunny day or beach appears more “vivid” in a glossy than in a matte finish. For superior luminosity we recommend using a glossy finish for holiday albums.



  • Winter / Snow


glossy photo paper

For digital printing, the glossy coating provides more brightness and contrast. Better yet is real photographic paper, because with processed photo paper, the lack of dots provides smoother images with richer detail. The lay-flat binding with no page bulge is ideal for double-page spread landscape pictures.


  • Landscapes, nature, travel


photo paper, matte

To maximise the detail in landscape and nature photography, the use of real photographic paper photo books is recommended, this avoids flickery print dots. To avoid reflections and exaggerated colouring, the best choice is to use a silk-matte finish. The lay-flat binding used for photographic paper results in landscapes over double-page spreads without a gap or book-bulge.

Photo album
Civil partnership album
  • People, Portraits, Faces

glossy photo paper

Nothing displays skin as clearly and naturally as real photographic paper. Faces look more lively with a glossy finish.


  • Wedding Albums

digital printing or photographic paper; glossy

Standard vs matte finish
Examples of standard and matte finish.

A format which is very popular for wedding albums is the large photo book with a leather or linen binding from Albelli, Photobox or CEWE; these are printed digitally. However, nothing depicts skin tones as naturally and realistically as real photographic paper. On glossy photo paper faces appear brighter and details sharper. The stronger photographic paper, where the pages lie flat side by side is our favourite format for a wedding photo book.


  • Babies, first pictures

digital printing or photographic paper; glossy

The glossy coating protects the pages in digitally printed photo books. It makes them ideal for the next generation’s first images, because the photo book will shine in vibrant colours forever. Nothing, however, reproduces skin tones as clearly and naturally as real photographic paper. On glossy photographic paper, faces appear brighter and with neater detail. The stronger photographic paper with pages lying flat side by side, is also our favourite for the baby album.


  • Highly detailed images

photographic paper or true matte

Photographic Paper reproduces pictures without visible print dots and should be used to display highly detailed images.


  • Product catalogues

digital printing

For a product catalogue, the choice is between the superior detail offered by real photographic paper or the more economical digital print.


  • Animal photography


Pictures of animals, particularly when taken with a strong optical zoom, benefit from the improved contrast of the glossy finish.

Photo books are fantastic memories: Whether of early childhood, a wedding album, a children’s scrapbook, a memory book as a birthday present or a holiday album. With the right choice of materials, going through personal photo books and viewing the pictures is great fun for life, no matter at what age.

Photo album printers in Austria, Germany and the UK have long benefited from lower VAT rates

FachwerkThe UK has one of the most complex Value Added Tax rating systems in Europe, compared to which the VAT-rules in member states like France’s TVA or Spain’s Impuesto sobre el Valor Añadido appear straightforward. According to information issued by HM Revenue and Customs, HMRC accept that a “photo book which possesses, as a minimum, several pages, a cover stiffer than its pages and is bound, will qualify for zero-rating as a book“. Furthermore, her Majesty’s tax collectors accept that a book is not necessarily there to be read, but can also be designed to be looked at. The tax authorities are thereby overturning the previous rule of a minimum text content of 20% (whatever that means) for a printed photo album to enjoy the same preferential VAT treatment as a novel on paper. At least the rule was not quite as restrictive as in Danmark, where the text has to be in Danish for the book to qualify for the lower rate.


However, the Queen’s bureaucrats would not see a photo book as falling within the zero rate if the pages have the quality of individual photographic prints or if it is a photo book with spiral binding.


EU VAT harmonization

In a Combined Nomenclature (used to catalogue products for customs, duties and VAT) harmonization ruling issued in December 2015, Brussels has decided that photobook print (in A4 size) is to be classified like photo albums [EUR-Lex – 32015R2254], thereby making it a full rate VAT item or service in all of the European Union, including in those member states currently classifying printed photo albums as books. The photo album ruling brings Austria, Germany and the UK in line with Ireland and the rest of the EU, ending the practise of some British and German photo labs selling printed photo books at zero or lower-rate VAT to consumers in EU-countries where local businesses have to compete at the full rate.

How to create a wall calendar

In this tutorial you will learn how to design a 12 month wall calendar with your own pictures.
If you have at least twelve images you want to show throughout the year, a wall calendar is ideal and quick to prepare, following these few, really easy steps.

Choice of calendars
Choice of calendars

Choose a suitable app

To make your own photo calendar, download free Designer software from an online photo printing lab, like e.g. FotoInsight, whose photo calendar quality has been lauded in many reviews across the UK, Ireland and Europe. The free Designer app is available for Microsoft Windows, MacOS X, Linux as well as the iPhone/iPad and Android. After installing the application and starting it, you simply choose the print product you want to create (i.e. photo calendars).


Wall calendars

There is a range of wall calendars in portrait, landscape and square format and in different sizes. To pick a suitable format, you should check the direction and shape of the pictures you want to use and the space where you plan to hang the wall calendar.


Paper qualities and the print process

Different photo labs use different paper qualities. CEWE Calendars are all made on quality cardstock, using digital print at 300dpi or special photo paper. The paper can be prepared with a glossy or matt finish, where again, the wall calendar’s location will play a role. For example a high-gloss finish, popular for its radiant elegance, will display more reflections. Processed photo paper is more radiant than direct print, so that even a matt finish photo paper will provide brilliant colours. Photo paper also feels stronger, though if hung over a stream of hot air, like above a radiator, it tends bend a little, as it is composed of layers with different thermal properties. The photo-chemical exposure on photographic paper reproduces balanced colours with sharper detail, with no noise from print dots, not even under a magnifying glass.


Starting month and bank holidays

Calendar_change_featuresWhat is your calendar for? If the calendar is for example for a birthday present it could start the month of the birthday? Bespoke calendars can also follow a twelve month school or academic year or start on any other month of the year. To change calendar features like the starting month click on the “tools” in the top left corner of the software interface. Here you can also tick the option to add bank holidays or add date-specific free text to the calendar template. Note that some smaller calendar templates may not display the bank holidays due to lack of space.


Basic layout

Calendar_basic_designThe Designer App offers all three categories of basic designs of the CEWE photo calendar:

  • The default calendar provides one or more images per page in front of a plain background, for which there are many choices of colours. It also offers the usual calendar templates.
  • The Designer Calendar provides designer backgrounds and calendar templates, often on specific topics, at a surcharge.
  • The templates of the free customisable calendar will usually assume that the image or images cover the page to the brim. Only in these highly customisable calendars, is it possible to set images as a full page background, as is popular in photo books, by right-clicking the mouse over the picture and choosing the option in the pop-up menu. In the free customisable calendars it is also easier to add small images on top of the calendar template, for example, to show passport pictures on birthdays.


The basic design sets the calendar template, background and image layout as a theme for all 13 pages of the calendar. The background and image layout can be changed for the cover and each individual month at the next stage.


Design menu

Calendar_design_choiceThe FotoInsight Designer app menu gives access to the choice of designs and image folders in the section on the left hand side of the interface. This section can be expanded by positioning the cursor over the separating line and then dragging it right to enlarge the section or left to give more room to the design area.


Layout in the design menu

The layout section in the design menu allows to drag image templates onto individual calendar pages. The image frames can be individually adjusted, layered and text frames can be added with ease, using the icon on the top toolbar or with a right click or “Ctrl + V”.


Text over images can be difficult to read, but for example a white text on top of a uniform surface, like a clear blue sky, can work well. The design grid, which can be activated from the ‘Designs’ block of the toolbar, helps to position picture or text frames.


When creating a bespoke design for one month, it can be saved to use in other months. To apply a specific design to the whole year as a basic design, right click on the design template and click the option in the pop-up menu.


Calendar templates with columns

In some calendar templates, such as those for the kitchen calendar and time planners, it is possible to insert columns in the calendar.

In the headings of the columns you can then enter the names of your family or team members, so that each member has a separate area for notes, tasks and appointments.

In the first row of headers write the heading for the first column, in the second line, the heading of the second column, and so on.


Moving a design and picture to another month

Individual calendar pages can be changed by dragging one month (e.g. July) from the page selector (on the right hand side) onto the other month (e.g. May) with the mouse, while pressing the left button. In this case the pictures, background and design from July will appear in May and vice versa.


Picture editor

The FotoInsight Designer app comes with a photo editor. The editor is handy to quickly post-edit pictures while creating a photo book or calendar.



To save a project click on the disk icon on the “General Tools” menu on the top left hand side of the toolbar or under the header “File” (“Save File” or “Save as”). It is advisable to save projects during the design process, though FotoInsight Designer also autosaves projects as the work progresses.


Calendar_basketAlready stored projects can be opened by clicking on the folder icon in the “File” section on the left hand side of the toolbar or on the header “Open” (“Open another project” or “Ctrl + O”). The latest projects which you have worked on, including auto-saved projects, are listed directly under the header “Open”, where they can opened directly.


Upload / buy

Once the photo calendar has been completed the Designer app makes it easy to order a print. Just click on the red “Add to Basket” field at the bottom right of the screen, to order one or multiple prints. It is best to save the project to make sure it will be available for later use.


You can read more about the print quality in the photo calendar test. That review also discusses the main software options here: