Best Photo Cards of 2018

Rebecca Spear ·
Digital Photo Editing & Small Appliance Writer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We ordered two sets of Christmas cards from 16 different companies – one printed on the best quality of paper offered and one printed on the least expensive paper. We only ordered one type of card for companies that only offered one paper option. By evaluating the print and paper quality of each card in addition to the overall cost of the cards we determine that Simply to Impress is the best photo card service of them all. This company gives you plenty of creative freedoms to create the exact project you envision, and the cards are both professional-looking and decently priced.   

Best Overall
Simply to Impress
Simply to Impress offers the best selection of photo card designs and services at a decent price. Not only were the cards easy to create, we also found both the print quality and paper quality of our cards to be a cut above the rest.
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Best Value
Mixbook
As far as quality goes, Mixbook is one of the best photo card options. It offers an excellent selection of holiday and themed photo cards and creates beautiful final products.
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Best Value
Mixbook
Most Inexpensive Mailing Service
Shutterfly
Shutterfly is definitely the second best photo card service we tested. The print quality is amazing and, for a decent price, the service helps you design and print your own postage stamps and you can pay to have Shutterfly mail them out for you.
View on Shutterfly
Product
Price
Overall Rating
Pricing
Quality & Services
Template Selection
Convenience
Help & Support
Cards for $35 (including tax/shipping)
Overall Card Quality
Design Quality
Service Score
Holiday Selection
Halloween
Diwali
Thanksgiving
Hanukkah
Christmas/Winter Holiday
Ornaments
Kwanzaa
New Year
Chinese New Year
Valentines Day
Minimum Order Quantity
Same Day Pickup
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Best Overall
Simply to Impress does exactly as its name suggests, impresses with its selection of beautiful designs and final products.
You can choose between six different paper options like matte, satin, pearl shimmer, cardstock, double thick cardstock and foil stamping. When choosing the design for your event or holiday, pay attention to the price. We found that the least expensive options cost around $0.62 per card while the most expensive are about $1.53 per card. The company offers large quantity discounts so the price may change depending on how many you purchase. Compared against other companies, this service wasn’t the least expensive but they definitely weren’t over priced. Considering the amazing print jobs they deliver, we think the pricing is just right. Standard shipping is somewhat expensive, but definitely not the worst pricing we’ve seen. Our order didn’t have any taxes attached to it, which makes the overall price pretty average. Keep in mind that a tax charge might get added, depending on the state you order from. Simply to Impress keeps a record of your addresses. Should you desire, you can pay them extra to mail your photo cards for you. This is an especially nice feature if you need it done in a pinch or if you are simply too busy to send them off yourself. There are multiple envelope colors to choose from, including various inner linings should you want to make your card presentation extra fancy.
Pros
  • There’s a beautiful selection of designs.
  • The cards are decently priced.
  • They can address and mail your cards for you.
Cons
  • They don’t make postage stamps.
  • They don’t offer same-day pickup.
  • You cannot sort their designs by price.
Visit SiteSimply to Impress
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Best Value
Mixbook’s cards are slightly more expensive than average, being neither the best bargain you can find or overly expensive.
You can purchase 13 cards for the price of $35, which includes taxes and shipping. There is a decent variety of holiday and themed cards. However, the company does not cover some holidays like Kwanzaa and Chinese New Year, so you might not find the photo card you are looking for. Our experts found the print and paper quality of these cards to be among the best in our testing. The least expensive satin card displayed perfect coloring and good image clarity. The pearl shimmer card was a little off color and slightly blurry in comparison. However, very few companies produce a pearl card that doesn’t alter the clarity and coloring of the images. Mixbook does offer expedited shipping, but there are no same-day pickup options.
Pros
  • This service offers some of the most fashionable graphics and themes.
  • It has some of the best print and book quality.
  • It covers a wide selection of holidays and special occasions.
Cons
  • There is no same-day pickup.
  • There is no mailing service.
  • You cannot choose envelope color.
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Most Inexpensive Mailing Service
Shutterfly offers thousands of the best holiday and themed designs. They came in second after Simply to Impress.
Their print clarity and color accuracy were just a little off, but you’d really only notice if you were comparing them side by side with another card. The pearl sheen cards we ordered displayed the red design beautifully, but it also blurred the images a little bit. This service allows you to design your own stamps, and this means you can often get them to match or compliment the design of your card. If you wish, you can have Shutterfly keep track of your addresses. For additional money, they can print addressee info on the envelopes. If you’re willing to pay even more, the company will mail your cards for you, which frees you up during the busy holiday season or with wedding preparations. This mailing service is relatively inexpensive compared with the other companies that offer to mail your photo card projects. We also found it much less expensive to order from Shutterfly compared to its sister brand, Tiny Prints. If you’re wanting to address or mail your envelopes yourself, have them sent to your home. Keep in mind that this service does charge for shipping and tax. When designing your card, the interface is easy to use and there are thousands of beautiful holiday and seasonal designs to choose from. However we only found 3 types of paper to print on. Since this service isn’t associated with a physical store, there are no in-store pickup options. However, Shutterfly does offer express shipping if you need your orders fast.
Pros
  • Amazing print quality.
  • Affordable mailing service.
  • You can design and purchase postage stamps
Cons
  • There aren’t many paper options.
  • It doesn’t cover a wide range of holidays.
  • There is no same-day pickup.
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Best Budget
In addition to being the least expensive photo cards on the market, Amazon Prints doesn’t charge shipping on orders that cost $15 or more.
While there is a tax charge, it didn’t make the overall price jump up very much. You will spend more than $15 even if you only purchase the smallest pack of cards so you’re guaranteed free shipping. Our testers found Amazon Prints’ cards to be a little above average with the image quality being a little grainy and dark. However, this was really only noticeable when comparing the cards side by side with other companies’. The biggest difficulty and honestly the biggest flaw with Amazon Prints is finding their selection of Christmas and Seasonal designs. You will not find them under the Holiday tab- which only features Easter and Spring graphics. You’ll need to click on the Amazon Prints Logo at the top middle of your screen and then select the “Designs for Any Occasion” link to find the large library of seasonal photo cards. If you simply click on the “Cards” tab and then select the “Designs for Any Occasion” link, there won’t be any holiday cards. Frustrating. This extreme inconvenience is partially why this service ranked so low in our testing. You’ll find photo cards for many occasions such as lifetime milestones like birthdays and weddings, as well as specific holidays. While we liked the designs offered for most occasions, we did note that some holidays, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, didn’t have any designs. Once you find a design you like, Amazon Prints’ online interface is a snap to use. You can pull images in from social media sites, your computer or from Amazon Photo. Your images will remain on the online library for free. Like most other services, the interface will warn you if your images are too low-resolution so you can prevent printing blurry images.
Pros
  • It’s the least expensive photo card service.
  • You can purchase 25 cards for as little as $35.
  • Express shipping is available.
Cons
  • There’s only one type of paper.
  • Not as many designs as other services.
  • The holiday selection is hard to find.
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Best Paper Selection
Zazzle is not your standard photo card service. The company offers plenty of customizable photo gifts from professional designers and companies like Disney, but many of their designs are also user submitted.
When you make an order, Zazzle sends print jobs to various printing companies, so the print quality of your order will depend on the printer your project gets assigned to. Most companies only offer 2 - 4 paper options to choose from, but you’ll find 12 different paper types on this company's website. Just keep in mind that the paper available to you will depend on the design of the card you select, so you might not always have all 12 available to choose from. Since many of the graphics and designs are submitted by talented users, you’ll find themes for more holidays and occasions than any other photo card service. The cards we received from Zazzle didn’t have the best image clarity, but they definitely weren’t the blurriest we received. Our expert testers did notice that the colors were murky and dark compared to the other cards, especially on the pearl shimmer paper we ordered. In fact, the sparkly look of the paper made the images look blurrier than they actually were. Zazzle doesn’t make it possible for you to print your recipients’ addresses directly on the envelopes. They also do not offer a mailing service, so you will need to send the cards off in the mail yourself. Since Zazzle isn’t attached to a physical store, there are no options for same-day pickup. However, the company does offer expedited shipping if you’re in a rush.
Pros
  • Offers the most paper options.
  • There are thousands of beautiful card designs.
  • You can find a photo card design for any occasion.
Cons
  • You cannot order same-day pickup.
  • The color quality of our cards wasn’t the best.
  • There is no mailing service.
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Best in a Hurry: Walmart Photo, CVS Photo & Walgreens Photo

The service you choose depends on three things: your proximity to a brick and mortar store, your print quality preferences and your price range. Each of these services have their own strengths and weaknesses. Walmart Photo is the least expensive - you can find cards for as low as $0.64 each. CVS Photo and Walgreens Photo both cost about $1 per card. All three services are among the cheapest we tested and they each offer large quantity discounts. Walgreens and CVS offer the same four paper options: matte, glossy, cardstock and premium cardstock. Walmart basically offers the same, but with a linen paper instead of the regular cardstock. If you need your cards printed with same-day pickup you will likely be limited on your paper options.

If you don’t mind potentially skimping out on the quality of your end product, a service that offers same-day in store pickup will be the best option for you. In our testing, Walmart and CVS had better print clarity and color accuracy in our pictures. However, this will really depend on the printers used to create your project. Walgreens covers more holidays and themes than the other two services and is the only one of the three that offers foil-stamped cards. You’re more likely to find cards that fit your special event or occasion. Walgreens and CVS also offer expedited shipping to your home, but Walmart does not.

None of these services offer address lists or mailing services so you’ll still need to address and send your envelopes yourself. You must order a minimum of 20 cards from CVS or Walgreens. If you only need a handful of cards, Walmart starts off by letting you order 1 card or packs of 5, 10, 20 and more. But as stated previously, if you’re in a hurry, you’ll likely need to depend on the service with the nearest location - unless you have strong printing, price or theme preferences.

Why Trust Us?

We’ve been testing photo cards for over 11 years. Our expert evaluators have backgrounds in graphic design and photography, and they know what to look for when examining photos and design elements. They also evaluated card thickness and envelope quality in their overall assessments. We wanted to make sure that every aspect of the photo card has a professional feel to it. We looked at each services’ card theme options to determine which ones covered the most occasions and themes while still being aesthetically pleasing.

Our goal with reviewing these services was to find decently priced cards that had the best print and paper quality. Services that gave us more freedoms when placing photos and choosing fonts scored higher since they allowed us to truly create what we envisioned.  We also contacted professional photographer of four years, Lisa Mariko to get more insights on photo card creation and how to get the best image quality from your projects. We likewise attempted to reach out to both Shutterfly and Mixbook, but neither company responded back to us in time for publication.

How We Tested

In our testing, we ordered photo cards from 16 different companies, evaluating the attractiveness of designs and the number of holiday and occasion templates was our first step.

We ordered two sets of Christmas cards from each company – one printed on the best quality of paper offered and one printed on the least expensive paper. (We only ordered one card from services that offer just one paper type.) When our orders arrived, we made note of whether the cards and envelopes arrived in good condition. All of the services get cards to your doorstep in a relatively short time, but we gave higher scores to the fastest services.

Design details were very important in our testing. Sites that offer greater variety of shapes and paper textures for photo cards received higher scores. Some companies quite literally think outside the box with ornament-shaped cards, glitter or foil embellishments, and scalloped or other kinds of borders.

Once the cards arrived, we had a team of people with graphic design and photography experience examine the cards and compare them to each other. The logos and brand names were hidden so the testing could be completely impartial. For each card, we used the same photo from the same source, and the designers considered how nicely the photos were reproduced by each company in terms of color and clarity. They had a high-quality print of the original photo to compare to. The services with photo reproduction closest to the original photo received the best scores.

Paper quality was a factor as well. The high-quality paper samples were all printed on nice paper, but some were noticeably thicker. The low-quality paper samples were all printed on flimsier stock, but some still stood out for being sturdier or making the photo look more crisp and true to the original.

Photo Cards
You can purchase store-bought cards for important holidays, but one of the easiest and best options is to use photo card services, which often also make photo books, another great gift. You can make unforgettable cards in minutes by simply clicking and dragging on a web-based interface, without downloading anything new onto your computer. Most layouts do not allow for much text, but some allow quite a bit. Photo card pricing usually includes envelopes too, so you can slip a note into any card before mailing it. The price for photo cards varies greatly from company to company as does the minimum number of cards you can order. Photo card services usually have a lot less customization than photo books since you usually cannot rearrange the graphics and artwork as much.hen we talked to Lisa Mariko, a professional photographer of four years, she told us that it is best if you can edit your photos at 300 dots per inch (dpi) since this helps them look crisp and reduces the chance of them looking blurry. When we asked her what improvements she would like to see in photo card services, she told us it would be more convenient if these services allowed you to create your own designs and graphics. This is definitely a great option for creative people. She also warned that many of these sites don't allow you to use foreign characters in your cards, which can be frustrating when writing locations or some peoples' names for things like wedding invitations.

Photo Cards for Weddings & Formal Occasions

To add a more elegant feel to your cards, you’ll want to consider the type of paper and envelopes you use. Many services offer more than one paper type to choose from. Glossy and matte photo paper are very casual options and don’t really fit the feel of a formal event. According to Pipkin Paper Co., 120-pound cardstock is the gold standard for wedding invitations. Going thicker isn’t a bad idea either. Most photo card printing companies feature gold foil cards, which are perfect for save-the-date notices, graduation cards, Christmas cards and party invitations. Some services will allow you to choose the color of envelope you send with your cards. The best services offer at least five colors to choose from. This is perfect for matching your party or wedding colors in addition to matching the card itself. The best services also allow you to choose the color of an envelope’s inner lining, which adds a tasteful touch to your invitations.

Chatbook Photo Cards
The popular subscription photo book company Chatbooks also allows you to order and purchase photo cards. This service doesn’t cover as many holidays or offer as many features, so it didn’t really compare with the services we tested. However, it is still a great option for many people. You will find plenty of Christmas, birthday and New Year's cards as well as wedding and party invitations with this service. The designs are stylish and usually come in a variety of color options. Cards cost as little as $1 per card and come with free return addressing printed on the envelopes. Just like with its photo books, Chatbooks ships your photo card orders for free. You’re bound to save money using this service compared to many others on the market. In case it matters, the Chatbooks logo is printed on the back of the cards.

How Much Do Photo Cards Cost?

Purchasing photo cards can be expensive, though you can find some companies that provide inexpensive options or offer deals. Most companies require that you order a minimum of 10 to 25 cards in order to use the service. As expected, the more cards you purchase at once, the more money it will typically cost you. When making our own orders, a pack of 25 on cardstock cost us between $18.75 and $73.00, depending on the company, before tax. Some companies allow you to purchase a minimum of one or two cards at a time, which can cost between $2.68 and $5.00 per card.


The final price of your purchase is determined by the type of design, cut, paper and envelope you select and if you choose to have the company stamp, address and ship your cards for you. Most companies charge $2.50 to $10.00 for shipping and some can charge up to $10.00 in additional taxes. Be sure to use any coupons or specials the manufacturer is offering for the best deal. During busy holiday seasons, you need to purchase your cards early if you don’t want to pay additional money for expedited shipping. The printers will have plenty of orders coming in, which can make your cards take longer to process and ship.

To compare prices for each service, we created a photo card choosing the least expensive paper on each site. Without completely checking out, we looked to see how many cards we could add to our cart without exceeding $35. The total price had to include shipping and tax. Since many services only let you order cards in packs - often packs of 15 to 25 - the number of cards we could purchase varied. Services that allowed us to purchase more cards with this amount of money scored higher in our testing. Some services were too pricey and needed you to spend more than $35 to get any cards.

Personalized Photo Cards for Every Occasion
While most people use these services to make photo cards for Christmas, the companies have card designs for other holidays and events as well. As we prepared our photo card reviews, we saw all types of ideas, including some you may not have considered before. Wedding thank you photo cards are a nice touch after the big day, for instance. Seeing the recipients of your gift smiling at you from their thank you card is a very personal touch.

Photo card companies offer many designs to fit family occasions and any possible holiday – Halloween, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, weddings, adoptions and graduation photo cards are available from most services. If you can't find any cards for a specific holiday or occasion, some services like Minted or Simply to Impress can set you up with a designer you can pay to create custom designs. Unfortunately, when we contacted Mixbook and Shutterfly, both companies informed us there was no way to request additional themes other than the ones provided.