Printique continues to rank at the top of our lists of the best photo books and best photo calendars. Among books, it's almost in its own category. That's in part because even its default offering is a lay-flat design that lets you enjoy every square millimeter of its luxurious pages. That also pumps up the price, however. The calendar, in contrast, is a bit flimsy with its thin pages, but it still offers premium image quality. Cards are at best average, with weak color, contrast, and text quality.
Printique provides the most sophisticated design software of all competitors. You can even control minute features such as the thickness of drop shadows. But all these features can be a bit intimidating. Design mavens may take to it right away, but newbies face a learning curve. Read the rest of our Printique review to see if you’re willing to pony up for this premium service.
Printique review: Prices
Printique photo books
A photo book ordered through Printique costs 54.99 for a 20-page 8 x 8-inch hardcover layflat book, which is Printique’s least expensive hardcover option. Printique has a wide array of photo books. Hardcover layflat books range from 6 x 6 inches (38.99) to 12x12 inches ($86.99). Linen or Pebble finishes cost more. Softcover books are available in 4 x 4-inches (starting at $14.99) and 8 x 8-inches (29.99). Other styles are fabric cover books (from 48.99) and leather covered books ("vegan" and "genuine") from $83.99.
Calendars start at $25.99 for a 12-month 10 x 10-inch centerfold version. An 18-month 10 x 10-inch calendar is $40.99. (6 x 6 and 8 x 8 sizes are also available.) Top-hanging 12 x 18-inch calendars start at $34.99 for 12 months, and small desktop calendars start at $15.99 (for 3.74 x 8.27 inches).
Printique photo cards
The 5x7 and 7x5 cards start at $1.75 each for 12 or more; single cards are a hefty $4.99. Printique doesn't offer metal foil text, but some card types offer rounded corners or other edge patterns for an additional fee. There are no other sizes of flat cards and no folded-card options.
Printique review: Software
Printique offers 86 templates for photo books, which you can narrow down by category or a search function. It has just 11 templates for calendars. Cards come in a whopping 300 types for over two-dozen occasion categories, including wedding, baby shower, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Diwali, Valentine's Day, Mother's and Father's day, and a range of Jewish holidays (but no Muslim events, such as Eid). You can also create your own design for either from scratch, as I did.
Printique has excellent, feature-rich online software that will appeal to seasoned designers, but it's jam-packed with rulers, gridlines, submenus, and toolbars that could be rather intimidating for newbies. (It can also take a while to load.) And Printique doesn't provide a tutorial to walk you through all these features, as less-complex services like Costco and Mixbook do. But once you get the hang of it, you can do some great things with these tools.
For instance, a floating toolbar that appears when you click on a photo provides easy access to many key configuration options: panning and zooming, fitting or filling pages and spreads, and setting image opacity, among others.
Nearly everything is customizable with Printique. You can set the exact size and dimension of photos, down to hundredths of an inch. Borders are fully adjustable: Not only can you set the color and width, you can set the border to either extend out from the photo or crop into it. The width of drop shadows is also fully adjustable. All these style settings can be copied and pasted from one photo to another.
Text customization is also rich. The vast array of fonts is grouped under detailed categories such as Serif, Sans Serif, Handwritten, Fancy, and even Hebrew-inspired. Font sizes can be adjusted in one-point increments, in fully customizable colors, with adjustable opacity. You can also configure the thickness and color of drop shadows on text, but you cannot create borders around the lettering. Finally, you can adjust the tracking (space between letters) and leading (space between lines) of text. But pay close attention to what you type, since there's no spell check--something that every other service we've tested does have. (Our advice: Compose the text in another app, such as MS Word or Google Docs, which has spell check, then copy and paste it into the Printique text box.)
Printique offers a huge selection of page background designs (783). They are less cutesy, and more arty or conceptual, than with other services. (For instance, the "Birthday" category has no hat, cake, or balloons, but rather starbursts, polka dots, and colorful brushed-metal patterns.) Solid colors are a nightmare, however, as Printique offers virtually no presets, and instead forces you to use an awkward color-picking tool that requires configuring a hue with sliders, setting the red-green-blue intensity levels, or entering a hex code. Design pros will be familiar with and may adore this capability. Others will be baffled.
Printique's frames are not what you would expect. You can select from a very small assortment of basic frilly patterns or faux corner mounts. But most frames are actually cutouts that crop the photo into a vast selection of shapes, such as hearts, stars, or letters.
Printique offers an insane selection of stickers (14,951) ranging from monochrome cutouts to childlike drawings, detailed drawings, letters, slogans, and calendar grids. I even spied an N95 mask and a coronavirus (not things I'd like to be reminded of).
Amidst all this richness of embellishments, though, Printique offers no photo-editing options or even photo filters. However, you can opt to have your photos auto color-corrected when you order a printing.
The design interface for calendars is virtually identical. You have access to the same tools and assortment of texts, backdrops, frames, and stickers. You also have 13 text-grid patterns to choose from. Text, backdrops, and stickers can be added to the grid pages, as well. You can also fully customize the calendar's fonts (individually by month, week, day, and event designation), change the grid's opacity and add drop shadows of any color. You can add a photo to any date square by dragging, dropping, and cropping. But you can only change the text for a particular day by going into the universal settings and choosing options for all event days.
Make sure you know upfront what finish you want for the cards. There is no way to go back and change the finish, instead having to recreate a card from scratch to make the change. (Printique said that it plans to add this capability.)
One fun feature for friends and family is the ability to share access to your online creation. Users can view your photobooks and order printed versions, but they cannot collaborate on the design or make a copy and then tweak it to their taste, as Mixbook and Shutterfly enable. (Printique Pro members can also share comments.) Here's the album I designed from scratch for this review.
Printique review: Print Quality
Printique photo books
Printique's books stand apart from all others for their very thick, rigid pages, which are more like sheets of paneling than of paper. It's hard to imagine them creasing or tearing. Even the (expensive) entry-level book comes with a layflat binding that permits not even the slightest furrow in the seam between pages, making this design perfect for images that span spreads.
The pages also display images very well. Printique topped — generally by a large margin — in all our image quality categories: color, skin tone, contrast, and sharpness/detail (where it tied Mimeo). The pages have a semigloss finish called Luster that renders images quite well but also kicks up a lot of glare, requiring you to angle the book to make out images. That side effect caused out judges to rate Printuque's paper quality lower than Shutterfly's. The company offers three other finish options for its 8 x 8 books — Glossy, Linen, and Pebble. Its Deep Matte finish is available only for books of 10 x 10 inches or larger, and it adds $36 to the price. The cover images appear a bit less glossy, and they show up very well on both the front and back (tying Mixbook's).
Aside from glare, images are excellent. Color is truly exceptional: Judges average rated quality was 4.2 out of 5. The second-best book for color, Shutterfly's, averaged 3.1. You can see the quality, for instance, in the rich but not oversaturated oranges, pinks, and purples of a winter sunset in the Sierra Nevada mountains. In a picture of two women with very different skin tones, both appear natural.
Printique wraps all this up in the most thorough packaging we've seen. The 8 x 8 x 0.5-inch book comes in a box measuring 15.5 x 10.5 x 3.25 inches. Within, the book is wrapped in foam and shrink-wrapped flat against a cardboard sheet. The book itself is the second-most expensive we reviewed, at $54.99 for 20 pages. (Shutterfly charges $74.15 for a comparable layflat design, although it offers lower-cost pages and often runs specials.)
Given the quality of its photobooks, Printique's dominance in the calendar category did not come as a surprise, but its price did. At $25.99, it's nearly the cheapest option (behind only Costco's offerings). Although at 10 x 10 inches (Printique's largest for centerfold designs), it is on the smaller side — about the same as Mixbook and Shutterfly but dwarfed by Mimeo's jumbo and Costco's behemoth versions.
Also unlike its book counterpart, Printique's calendar has by far the thinnest pages — especially its flimsy front cover. It's hard to imagine the calendar surviving all January hanging on a nail held just by that page. (Our advice: Fold up the thickish back cover as well, so the nail goes through both pages.) The pages are excellent otherwise, earning the highest marks from our judges. Printique's calendar also came in first on color and contrast and about mid-pack on sharpness and detail.
Hanging on a wall, the Luster-finished pages are less likely to catch glare than in a book flat on a table. And the semi-gloss allows colors and contrast to pop more than with the flat finish on Mimeo, Shutterfly, and especially Mixbook offerings. Despite the glossing finish on the calendar-grid pages, ink and marker writing did not smudge.
Printique photo cards
In contrast to Printique's fabulous books and attractive calendars, its photocards are just middling. Overall, its wedding card came in seventh and its holiday card eighth of 10, with even Costco's much-cheaper holiday card beating them. On the bright side, judges liked the wedding invitation envelope, rating only Shutterfly's slightly higher. The cardstock was of acceptable weight, but has a low-quality look and feel. Two judges found the text a bit difficult to read. And one of them said that the holiday card looked like it had been produced on a home inkjet printer. Printique's default Linen finish may bear some of the blame. One judge said that it affected legibility. Printique also offers Matte and Felt finish options for the same price, though they are unlikely to add any more luster to images.
Printique review: Verdict
The best things in life may be free, but photo-printing isn't. Printique photo books cost a pretty penny, but they yield very pretty products. If you're looking not just for a scrapbook but for a showpiece (perhaps a special gift), Printique may be worth the money. If you just can't swing it, check out Mixbook or Costco's surprisingly nice (and bigger) hardcovers for much lower. Cards are moderately priced, but of only moderate quality. When it comes to calendars, however, Printique's low price makes it an easy top contender.