Choosing the best photo card service for your birthday party, bridal shower or some other special event isn't as simple as choosing the least expensive option. You want to find a service that will help you create the card that is most representative of who you are, and what you want to celebrate. It should be easy to design, and offer you plenty of flexibility in terms of where you want your photos to go, and what you want to say.
Just as important is the quality of your printed photo card. You don't want to go through all the trouble, time, and expense of creating a card, only to get a product that has poor colors, smudgy lettering, and dull images.
That's why we tested a dozen of the most popular photo card services to find out which is the best.
What are the best photo card services?
After testing 12 of the more popular sites, the best photo card service is Mixbook; its stand-out software enables your creativity to shine while still being easy to use. And the photo card that Mixbook produced is beautifully printed, with great color, dynamic range and clarity. And, it's not overly expensive.
Mixbook has been our favorite service for several years running, and also makes great photo books and photo calendars. Often, you can find a ton of Mixbook coupon codes that will get you a good discount on cards and other photo products.
If you're on a budget, the best photo card service is Costco Photo Center, at 35 cents per card, offers a good compromise between cost, software and print quality. You don't need to be a CostCo member to take advantage of its service, either.
Here are the best photo card printing services
Our overall favorite – not just for cards, but for photo books and photo calendars – Mixbook’s project-creation software is versatile and easy to use, the printed products are top-notch, and best of all, Mixbook’s prices are reasonable. When creating your photo card, you’ll have fun, because of its great flexibility and tools that enable your creativity. And the card that you send out will be an attractive representation of you and your personality.
Read our full Mixbook review.
Minted's cards are designed to impress. Elegantly produced on beautiful matte card stock, the templates are stylish and the photos have good clarity, contrast, detail and color. However, the restrictive software allows for no personal creativity, and the card is pricey (unless purchased in sizable quantities).
Read our full Minted review.
Artifact Uprising's elegant card is printed on a nice quality, medium-weight, matte card stock with a pleasantly tactile texture. The single photo, though muted, has good color and sharpness. However, the remarkably easy-to-use software is very restrictive, with no room for personal creativity.
Read our full Artifact Uprising review.
If price is more important to you than creativity and photo quality are, Costco is a good choice for budget cards. True, the software is restrictive, limiting personal creativity. And though the photos have good exposure and sharpness, they're flat and dull. However, the low price makes it easy to overlook those limitations.
Read our full Costco Photo Center review.
Unlike its book and calendar interfaces, Shutterfly's card templates are rigid designs with few changeable elements, and the software has almost no features or tools. On the other hand, the card is on good quality card stock and the photos are vibrant, sharp and have good color balance and details, though the shadows are a tad blocky.
Read our full Shutterfly review.
Printique’s powerful software came in a very close second to Mixbook, with flexible, creative options. However, its card's photo reproduction was a surprising disappointment. The pictures have good color, but they're not crisp, and darker shadows have loss of detail. What's more, the card is very expensive, with no discount for quantity.
Read our full Printique review.
Mpix's photo card is pleasant, with good color and exposure, though the shadows were blocky. However, the card-creation software doesn't have a full complement of expected tools, its templates tend to be inflexible, and its content libraries are significantly limited.
Read our full Mpix review.
Picaboo's software rivals Mixbook's; it's intelligent, creative, flexible and fun. But the photos on the printed card were underexposed, with blocky shadows, depressed highlights and muddy colors. And the type had jagged edges.
Read our full Picaboo review.
On the surface, Snapfish's software is versatile and creative. However, the poor organization of clip art and backgrounds, and other frustrations, slow down workflow. While the card's photos have decent exposure and nice highlights, the shadows are blocky; color shifts toward magenta. And, they’re not all that inexpensive.
Read our full Snapfish review.
CVS Photo's Snapfish-based software is similarly frustrating and more limited than Snapfish. The CVS card is printed on nice, medium-weight card stock. The photos have very nice exposure and color, though they are a bit soft and shadow detail is clipped. And the cards are more expensive than Mixbook.
Read our full CVS Photo review.
Walmart's threadbare software is restrictive, with no creative flexibility, uneditable templates and minimal features and tools. The card's photo exposure and sharpness are good; however, color balance has a slight magenta shift, and shadows are a bit blocky.
Read our full Walmart Photos review.
Like CVS Photo and Walmart, Amazon Print's software is based on Snapfish's frustrating interface, but its card interface is far for restrictive and threadbare, with no optional clip art, barely editable templates and other frustrating limitations. The photos in Amazon's card have okay exposure and color, but they are soft and dull, with depressed highlights and blocky shadows
Read our full Amazon Prints review.
How We Tested
This year, we tested 12 different card-printing services: Printique, Amazon Print, Artifact Uprising, Costco Print, CVS Print, Minted, Mpix, Mixbook, Picaboo, Snapfish, Shutterfly and Walmart.
For this year's test, we used stock photos of two families (one Causian and the other African-American). This tested the photo services' ability to balance various skin tones.
We designed a two-sided party invitation, which included photos and type on the front and back, with relevant clip art. We aimed to use a fireworks background and rotated photos on the front, and a panorama photo and diverse holiday clip art on the back. Our design also included rotated decorative text and drop shadows throughout. However, several of the services did not permit some, or many, of these customizations.
We didn't edit the photos, before or after inserting them into the postcards, though we tested the software’s photo filters on the back photo. So, we judged photo reproduction quality only on the front photos, which had no editing variables that might skew our judging of photo print quality.
We then used each website's online software to create postcards as close as possible to the design we envisioned. Given the wide variety of paper available from the various vendors, which would make it difficult to match the cardstock in every instance, we selected the default stock.
In rating the software, we used the following criteria:
- Ease of use
- User interface and workflow
- Creative flexibility
- Quality of templates, clip art, backgrounds and effects
After our cards arrived, we assembled a jury of print and photography experts to rate the products, based on the following criteria:
- Overall appeal and quality
- Photo quality
- Overall appeal and quality
- Photo quality
- Color and skin tones
- Dynamic range
- Focus and clarity
- Quality of the type
- Quality and the feel of the paper stock
All cards were identified by numbers rather than brand names during the judging. Since the names of some vendors are printed on the back of the cards, the jury was instructed to judge based on the front only and to not look at the back until after the judging.
If a photo card 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 Printique, CVS and Mixbook.
We rated the software separately from the printed card, then averaged the two for an overall card rating. We also took cost into consideration in our overall rating. In our print ratings, we gave the greatest weight to the print quality of the service's photo postcards. That's because what matters most is the look and feel of the card you'll be sending to friends, family and associates.