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After ordering Christmas photo cards from 13 different companies, we have determined that Simply to Impress both offers the best selection of designs and produces the best print quality. The website is easy to use and gives you a lot of freedom when creating your cards. This service is ideal if you have a fancy occasion since its foil cards outshine its competitors. With several paper and envelope options to choose from, you'll be able to find the cards that fit your special occasion.
The best budget photo card service is Nations Photo Lab. This company may not offer as many paper, envelope or holiday options as the top three companies we reviewed, but its selection is stylish. And you can get the most cards for your money with this service. The print quality is a little grainy compared to the best cards from other companies, but if you are wanting the most value for the cards you order, this could be the way to go.
Shutterfly is a great choice if you need your project in a hurry. This service got our cards to us just three business days after we placed our order, which was faster than any other company in our comparison. The print quality was good and the templates are chic and modern. The price is relatively high so be ready to spend more money. Fortunately, if you plan on ordering a lot of cards, Shutterfly does offer large-quantity discounts.
If you want to send cards via email or post, Paperless Post is a good option to consider. The site offers hundreds of designs for many different occasions. You can search the selection by paper cards or online cards to help you narrow down your options. Some photo cards are only offered in one format, so be sure to verify before you get your heart too set on anything. Paperless Post is pricey so you will get fewer cards for your money than you could with some others.
Photo Cards: How We Tested, What We Found
In our testing, we ordered photo cards from 13 different companies and narrowed them down to our top 10 picks. 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.
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.
When we talked to Lisa Dixon, 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.
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 $18.20 and $65.00, depending on the company. Some companies allow you to purchase a minimum of one or two cards at a time, which can cost between $2.50 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.
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.
Birthday party invitations can be as simple as a group text, but for the milestone years, it is much more fun to get a photo card invitation with a picture of the guest of honor, especially for a first birthday. Anniversary celebration invitations are so much more interesting with some photos of the couple throughout the years. Change of address announcements with pictures of you in front of your new home are much more exciting to get in the mail than plain text ones.
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.