11/10/15

Photo Lab Review - Press Prints

This is part of my Print to Ship series.  My first blog post dealt with traditional prints on photo paper and reviewed several major printing labs - it can be found here.

Before moving onto fine art printing I thought I'd dabble in press prints.  While press printing is used primarily for greeting cards or albums,  a few companies have started marketing them as regular or fine art prints. 

Press prints are made up of very tiny dots.  None of my prints looked 'dotty' with the exception of a few of my Artifact Uprising prints.

I've decided press prints are best suited for personal prints or gifting.  Here is my take on three labs...



Artifact Uprising

What I ordered:  Square Print Set 

Pros: I loved Artifact Uprising's paper the most.  It's thick, sturdy, and not too bright of a white.  Also, the website was super easy to navigate and upload.  The preset borders were a nice touch.  All the margins were cut evenly.

Cons: Artifact Uprising had the least color accurate prints of the labs I tested.  It was most noticeable in the reds and skin tones.  My tan folks looked sunburned (see below).  Also, at this time there are no other size options than 5x5 for press print sets.  I don't shoot square so this is sad for me.

The shipping costs were quite high for USPS.  Around $8 for a package that would cost me under $3 to send myself, so you have to add that cost into the product when you order.

Summary: This is a consumer oriented lab with a consumer quality product.  I will be keeping my eye out to see if they decide to offer rectangular prints as I do love their paper.  The quality isn't high enough for professional use, but I wouldn't mind having a pile of these for personal use.  I have considered writing notes in the bottom margin and placing them together in a box to act as an unbound book my kids can flip through.  Other ideas include writing map coordinates on my landscape photos or using the prints to adorn wrapped gift packages.


Artifact Uprising Review
Top: Artifact Uprising Press Print - Bottom: Black River Imaging Press Print


Loktah

What I orderedPress Printed Flat Cards and Press Printed Photographic Prints

Flat Card Pros:  Loktah offers some really nice papers.  I tried the Cotton but the Bamboo looks lovely also.  The color accuracy was really good.  Both the paper and inks are archival.  Also, if you order through their website rather than their ROES  then you can order a different image on each card.  Their free shipping promos do not apply to non-ROES orders at this time.

While I did not order images with white margins, I have been told that their margins are cut evenly if I add them myself.

Flat Card Cons: Well, I didn't order torn edges, but they did refund my money for that mistake.  Of the 3 times I've ordered through them, I've had two incorrectly fulfilled orders and I don't think any of them have shipped within the promised time frame.  They have made all incorrect orders right, but it has been frustrating.   The blacks on the cotton prints are muted.  Part of that is due to the paper itself.  The blacks almost remind of of Fuji Deep Matte paper in their tone.  I'll post a few comparisons below for a general idea, but it's hard to compare accurately in photos.



Press Prints Pro Lab Review
Left:  Press Print on Cotton Black River Imaging - Right: Press Print on Cotton, Loktah



Photographic Prints Pros: This is a product I've never seen before.  Loktah offers press prints on photo paper.  They have a traditional luster paper and a metallic option.  Whats interesting is they seem to have more detail than a luster print from a traditional lab.  As much detail or more than the Fine Art Giclee print I got from the same lab.  I also like how the metallic paper allows me to write on the back with pencil.  There are no imprints or marking on the back giving a nice clean writing surface

Photographic Print Cons: Despite having more detail, I can't say I like the overall feel of the images.  On the metallic paper, it almost seemed too sharp.  It's not a technical flaw, but the aesthetic I didn't care for.   Also, my luster print had a cyan hue to it.


Summary: Loktah is a small company and going through some changes in their ordering system, so I'll attribute the ordering mistakes to that.  Several of their products are interesting, but not quite hitting the spot.  Their ordering system was the most difficult to navigate of any I used, but like I said, they are in transition.  I'd like to see what they have to offer a year or two down the road.



Lotkah Press Print Examples
Clockwise from top left - Traditional Luster Print, Black River Imaging -  Press Print on Luster, Loktah - Gilcee Print on Matte Paper, Loktah - Press Print on Cotton, Black River Imaging




Black River Imaging

What I ordered: Flat Card Press Prints on various papers and Folio Press Prints.

Flat Card Pros: Black River Imaging had the best quality printing of all the labs I tested.  I would love if they started offering individual prints in the future rather than card sets.  I used the greeting card sampler to test mine along with some larger test prints they sent me for free.  All paper and inks are archival.  You can choose between 4 or 6 color press prints.  I could not tell a difference between the two, but it was the only lab of the three to offer the 6 color option.

The paper selection was very nice.  The cotton had more texture than Lotkah's cotton paper.  A nice catch on your fingertips roughness.  It felt a more fine art.  The only paper I didn't care for was the Linen.

Flat Card Cons:  The biggest issue I had were the prints I added a white border to.  They were cut unevenly resulting in an off center image.  I would not add a border in the future.  This was not an issue with my Folio Print as the border for that was a template during the ordering process.



Press Prints Cotton
Black River Press Printed Flat Cards on Cotton


Folio Print Pros:  The Folio Prints are really interesting.  They seem to be almost the exact same product as Artifact Uprising's Signature Prints, but for a fraction of the cost.  I checked all the specs and the only difference I can find is Artifact Uprising's seem just a little thicker, though I have not ordered one to compare (way overpriced!)   We are talking $7 vs $30 for an 11x14 print.  The detail is almost comparable to a fine art print.  Of course, fine art gilcee prints are superior for several reasons, but I wouldn't mind this low cost version for a gift or my own walls.

I like being able to write or sign the prints in pencil since they are on an Eggshell paper.  If you choose the border option, there is no need to buy a mat.  You can also print double sided for no additional fee.

Folio Print Cons: If you do not add the border, the edges do get a little beat up and chip away at the image if you don't have it framed.  Also, it's is thick like mat board, so that may be a pro or a con depending on your preferences.

Summary: I would certainly order from Black River Imaging again.  They had the highest quality press prints of the bunch and they offer free shipping for orders of $35.




Signature Prints
Left: Black River Imaging Folio Print - Right: Luster Photo Print


Left: Panopticon Find Art Print - Right: Black River Imaging Folio Print

Black River Imaging
Side View of Folio Print







There are so many labs I didn't review, this was a rather random bunch. Feel free to leave any feedback in the comments!


More in this Series:

Part 1: C-Prints and Silver Gelatin Lab Review
Part 3: Fine Art Prints Lab Review
Part 4: Printer Review - Epson p600 
Part 5: Choosing a Storefront - Etsy vs Tictail  
Part 6: Eco-friendly Packaging and Shipping

2 comments:

  1. Wow, thank you so much for posting this comparison. I've been wondering about this myself lately, and I so appreciate you sharing what you've learned.

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  2. These comparisons are really helpful Maryanne! thank you!

    ReplyDelete