The Print Off

The Print Off
Is there a major difference between the various printing labs when it comes to picture printing quality and services they offer? Tiffany Reed Briley tested some of the most popular labs out there

Every day our social media profiles are bombarded with the latest sale offers from printing labs. Our team at LPM chose one image to send to four different printing labs in an effort to answer the question: ‘Is there really any difference in who you print with?’ Several labs were contacted with an offer to be included in our experiment and the test below comes from five that responded with interest.

The subject print that was selected had a large contrast in its dynamic range and color. We had the image printed on a 16x24 aluminum sheet. The process for printing infuses dyes directly into each sheet. Below are our findings in alphabetical order based on company name.

Whether you are selling your work to others or hanging it in your own home, taking images off our screens and bringing them into the physical realm is a cornerstone to the foundation of the craft we love. We hope this test will be helpful when you are making future printing decisions.


American Color Imaging

BEST IN VALUE

Print Quality: 4/5

Price: 5/5
$74.50
Free shipping
Ships internationally

Packaging: 5/5
The packaging was exceptional. The piece was placed inside a plastic sleeve, taped between two cardboard sheets to eliminate movement and then placed into a box with filler.

Turnaround Time: 5/5
Ordered September 20th, shipped on the 22nd

Ease Of Website: 3/5
The only drawback to ACI was getting started. You have to have an account set up to order or view pricing. Once your account is approved, you download their software, Roes, to place your order. It is helpful to place the images you want printed into an exclusive folder and then upload that folder to the software. From there, the process of ordering was quick and efficient.

Summary:
ACI far surpassed everyone else in terms of price. If your priority is cost while still getting a high standard of quality, this company was the clear first choice. Their packaging was exceptional. The only criticism we have is the requirement of downloading their software onto your computer before ordering. Locating the metal prints took a small amount of work, as they are located under ‘Specialty item’. Overall, once you have the print ordered, you will be exceptionally pleased with its quality print and their customer service – and so will your bank balance.


Bay Photo

BEST IN QUALITY

Print Quality 5/5

Price: 3/5
$92.50
$107.49 with shipping
Ships internationally

Packaging: 5/5

Turnaround Time: 5/5
Ordered September 27th, shipped on the 29th

Ease Of Website: 5/5

Summary:
Bay Photo is an established name known for the quality of their metal prints. Their website was very easy to use and all prints can be ordered without you having to download additional software. The price was higher and shipping was not included, but the print stood out to our staff as being the sharpest and most color accurate of all the prints ordered. In addition, their ability to print single pieces up to 4’ x 8’ is an important factor. They also have a very wide selection of mediums and formats to print on.


Simply Color Lab

Print Quality: 3/5

Price: 3/5
$89.99
$110.94 with shipping
Wooden hanging cleat $6.00 (extra)
Ships internationally

Packaging: 3/5

Turnaround Time:
Ordered on September 30th, shipped on October 6th

Ease Of Website: 2/5
Account setup is required with Simply Color Lab, which was an easy process. This is also a lab that requires you to download their software to place an order. One negative aspect to the ordering process is that the final cost is quite vague, as they do not inform you of the total until the order is placed. Once the order has been sent, they email you with the invoice within 24 hours. This is an important point if you are ordering multiple items and concerned about shipping cost and total price point.

Summary:
The print itself was clear and vivid with no color casting. The metal seemed to be thinner and was bendable compared to the other prints received. They offer a hanging cleat for $6.00 or mounting hardware for $10.00. Our order was placed with the hanging cleat, and it wasn’t worth the $6.00 that was spent.


White Wall

Print Quality: 5/5

Price: 3/5
$134.95
$154.90 with shipping
Ships internationally

Packaging: 5/5

Turnaround Time:
Ordered on September 25th, shipped on the 27th

Ease Of Website: 5/5

Summary:
White Wall gets high marks for the ease of their website. You order direct on their site with no additional software required. The order was shipped within two days. Print quality was crisp, clean and no casting. We give them high marks for the various print methods they offered, including options for metal, acrylic and various other materials. When ordering from White Wall, take your time to read all of the options they have for metal printing, as there were several to choose from.

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