Printique review

Printique provides the highest quality for both photo books and calendars, but at one of the highest prices for books

Printique calendar and book print samples
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Printique's image quality is unmatched in both books and calendars. And its powerful design software allows you to realize any concept you can think of. However, this all comes at a high price for photo books.

Pros

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    Highest quality by far for both books and calendars

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    Calendar is surprisingly low priced

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    Especially excels in color, skintones, and contrast

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    Thickest pages of all book services

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    Software gives you exceptional control over designs

Cons

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    Shiny default finish on book pages produces distracting glare

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    Calendar has flimsiest cover and pages of all we reviewed

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    Book is one of the most expensive we reviewed

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    Software can be intimidating for newcomers

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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.

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.

Printique calendars
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 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. (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. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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).

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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.

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 (opens in new tab).

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. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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.)

Printique calendars
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.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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 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. When it comes to calendars, however, Printique's low price makes it an easy top contender.

Sean Captain is a freelance technology and science writer, editor and photographer. At Tom's Guide, he has reviewed cameras, including most of Sony's Alpha A6000-series mirrorless cameras, as well as other photography-related content. He has also written for Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired.