Calendars filled with personalized pictures make for great gifts that the recipient can cherish all through the year. There are dozens of calendar-creation services, but not all of them are created equal when it comes to making a great-looking calendar with a minimum of fuss.
Based on more than 40 hours of testing of 12 services, Mixbook is our top pick for photo calendars, because its calendar had the best and most consistent photo reproduction of all the services we tested. It also offers the greatest flexibility with its calendar-creation software. Printique comes in a very close second for both print quality and software. For those on a budget, Costco is our favorite service because it offers a fair compromise between price and quality.
Many of these services often offer promotions and deals for calendars and other photo products — as much as 50% off, in some cases — so be sure to compare their discounted rates before choosing one for your needs.
Here are the best photo calendar services
Our overall favorite not just for calendars, but also for photo books and photo cards, Mixbook offers software that's powerful and versatile, providing just about all the tools necessary to enable users' creativity, while also making things easy for novices to master. The calendar is printed on thicker-than-average card stock, with a nice, smooth texture. The photos are vibrant and well balanced for the variety of skin tones. Details are good throughout the dynamic range. Mixbook's prices are reasonable.
Read our full Mixbook review.
While not quite on the level of Mixbook, Printique's software is flexible and creative. Priced exactly the same as Mixbook, the Printique calendar calendar is printed on good-quality, thick luster stock. The photo reproduction is vibrant and crisp, with excellent color, details in shadows and highlights, good contrast, and appealing skin tones.
Read our full Printique review.
If price is more important to you than quality or creativity, Costco Photocenter is a viable budget alternative.Though the calendar software is restrictive and limited, the calendar's photos are generally vibrant with good skin tones. What's more, the Costco's calendar is the lowest priced in this roundup.
Read our full Costco Photo Center review.
Mpix's calendar-creation software is flexible and generally creative, but it doesn't have a full complement of expected tools, and its content libraries are limited. The calendar is printed on very nice-quality, heavy paper with an appealing pearl sheen. And the photos shine with very good exposure, saturation, contrast and dynamic range.
Read our full Mpix review.
Shutterfly's calendar software is a mixed bag. It's versatile and flexible, with enormous libraries of searchable content and great creative options. However, making some of the edits involves annoying limitations and workflow bottlenecks. However, the calendar is printed on nice, smooth, heavy paper, and the photos have generally good exposure, sharpness and detail.
Read our full Shutterfly review.
Artifact Uprising's calendar is printed on luscious vellum-textured stock, and its photos have good color and tonality, though with some severe shadows. However, the remarkably easy-to-use software is very restrictive, with no room for personal creativity. The company offers only one size of calendar (5 x 7 inches), with each month on a separate page, and it's all attached to a wooden clipboard.
Read our full Artifact Uprising review.
Picaboo's software rivals Mixbook's; it's intelligent, creative, flexible and fun. While the calendar's average card stock has a pleasant, smooth finish, the photos are uneven, with OK balance and decent sharpness but flat dynamic range and blocky shadows.
Read our full Picaboo review.
Minted's calendar is elegantly produced on beautiful matte card stock; it would make an impressive gift. The photos' exposure and midtone colors are generally good, though with diminished highlights and shadows. However, the restrictive software allows for no personal creativity.
Read our full Minted review.
On the surface, Snapfish's software is versatile and creative. However, the poor organization of clip art and backgrounds, along with other frustrations, slows down workflow. While most of the pictures are OK, they don't have much vibrance, and lighter ones tend to have reduced saturation.
Read our full Snapfish review.
Like CVS Photo and Walmart, Amazon Print's software is based on Snapfish's frustrating interface, but with even less content than what CVS offers. Printed on average card stock with a smooth finish, the photos on Amazon's calendar are generally OK but don't have much vibrance. The lighter pictures tend to be blown out.
Read our full Amazon Prints review.
CVS Photo's Snapfish-based software is similarly frustrating and more limited than Snapfish. The CVS calendar is printed on nice, medium-weight card stock. Though the photos tend to be crisp, with good tonality, the colors and dynamic range are muted, and some shadows are blocky.
Read our full CVS Photo review.
Walmart's threadbare software is restrictive, with no creative flexibility and minimal features and tools. Generally unimpressive, the printed calendar is on average card stock with a smooth finish. Color is generally good, but photo reproduction is inconsistent; some have good exposure, while others are muddy with blocky shadows.
Read our full Walmart review.
How we test and rate photo calendar services
In rating the calendar-creation software, we used the following criteria:
- Ease of use
- User interface & workflow
- Creative flexibility
- Quality of templates, clip art, layouts and backgrounds
When we had all our printed calendars, we gathered a jury of print and photography experts to rate the products based on the following criteria:
- Overall appeal and quality of the physical calendar
- Photo quality
- Color and skin tones
- Dynamic range and exposure
- Focus and clarity
- Balancing of the diverse pictures
- Text quality
- Paper quality
If a calendar exhibited obvious, unexpected flaws in print quality, we ordered a reprint to see if the errors were a one-time event. This year, we ordered reprints from CVS Photo and Shutterfly.
To keep the jury's judging blind, each calendar was identified by a number rather than the company's name. However, some calendars had the vendors' names printed on the last page. So we discouraged the jury from looking on the back of the calendars until after the judging.
We rated the software separately from the printed calendar, then averaged the software and calendar scores for an overall book rating. We also took cost into consideration in our overall rating. In our print ratings, we gave the greatest weight to the quality of the services' photo reproduction, because that's the entire purpose of a photo calendar.