Friday, July 23, 2010

GotPrint, Overnight Prints, and iPrintfromhome: a Review

I've been doing a lot of print-ordering lately in preparation for a new string of mailers, as well as getting up an online shop, and as such I have been using some different print companies. I just got my new set of mailers today, and, well...I'm not particularly ecstatic about the quality. Rather than whine I thought I would do an overall review of different companies I have used for comparison as I figure it might be helpful for those of you wondering what companies to use for all your illustrative printing needs.

Thus far I have used 3 different companies for various printing functions: GotPrint.net, OvernightPrints.com, and iPrintfromhome. GotPrint and Overnight Prints are both more for marketing purposes, whereas iPrintfromhome does professional-quality prints (they offer both photographic prints and giclee fine art prints). GotPrint I found when I was in school and it was the stand-by for my classmates and I for our mailers as they offered a pretty quick turnaround, plus good prices (you can get 100 4x6 single sided postcards for $23.36, and 100 single sided business cards for about $9). I have ordered two sets of mailers from them, as well as my business cards and have been thoroughly pleased with the quality.

However, for my current set of mailers I decided to go with Overnight Prints. My pal Jade posted a review over their products recently, and they had a few things that I wanted to take advantage of. One, they offer smaller postcard quantities in their "value" line of cards (printed on a digital press rather than an offset press, as with their "premium" quality cards). I've been planning on opening an online shop that will offer both prints of my work as well as card sets, and the smaller quantities would be perfect for the latter. ONP also frequently offers coupons for their products, to that kind of sealed the deal. I ordered 25 value cards to test the quality for sellable notecards, as well as 100 premium cards to be used as mailers. I have used ONP in the past for holiday cards, as well as for some business cards I designed for my stepdad, and both times I was happy with the quality. This time...not so much.

 Original painting on the left, value card print on the right. The values are much, much darker.

There was a large discrepancy between the colors on the value cards and the original piece, although I will be the first to admit that may be due to monitor calibration and/or how the cards are printed. I ordered my Syd piece as a test print, and this piece is also featured on my new mailer.  The values look fine on the mailer, but not on the value card. I know the image above isn't great, so I'm including a scan of the card, as well.


The values are waaaaay too dark, plus it also printed rather "cool". While I wasn't too happy about that, the value cards are pretty cheap, even without a coupon, so I figure it will be something I may just have to play around with on the digital file.

 The 4x6 mailer. If you click on the image you can see the white dots along the left side of the card.

My mailers came out...okay. The cardstock and glossy coat on the front are fine, and the same quality as GotPrint, but the values aren't as dark as I wanted. The black background isn't "black" enough. It almost seems like a "light black", if that makes sense. I wanted a black-black. Plus to the left of the pig head there are a bunch of tiny, white dots. I thought it was maybe just on one, but no, it's on all 100 mailers. I'm also not super enthusiastic about ONP's packaging. While my 4x6 mailers came packaged in a form fitting box, the value cards were thrown in a cardboard envelope, leaving plenty of opportunity for their corners to get bent in the shipping process.

All in all, I'm not super happy about my ONP cards. I will probably give them another chance with the value cards (after all, I'm only out about $3.95 with the sale price...not a huge loss), but with the mailers I could have gotten exactly what I wanted from GotPrint for the same price.

**7/26: I emailed ONP customer service over the weekend about my disatisfaction, and they responded that day. As of today they offered to either reprint my cards or give me a refund, provided I send back defective cards. I will do another update once I receive my reprints, but for now kudos on the excellent and prompt communication.

**8/3: Received my reprinted mailers today and they look great---blacker blacks, and no white spots! Plus a super fast turnaround...just a little over a week! Thanks to Overnight Prints for great customer service and for taking care of my order.

And now for something completely different...iPrintfromhome. Like I mentioned above, iPrint is for professional prints, so they are a bit of a different animal. I don't have scans of their stuff as a lot of it would be hard to register as a 2D picture on a computer monitor, so I will try my best to describe their work. I ordered a couple kinds of prints: fine giclee prints, lustre photographic prints, and metallic photographic prints. Since I wanted to see how a collection of my pieces looked on the different papers, I resized some of my pieces and formatted them on an 8.5" x 11" image so I could just order a few 8.5" x 11" prints on different papers. I also resized my "Which One's Pink?" series to ACEO-sized prints and ordered a 5 x 7 metallic print. Everything was good quality; I just preferred certain pieces on different papers. I found that some of my pieces (the Greyhound, Animal Farm, and Human Rights poster) looked better as lustre prints as the blacks looked "blacker", while others (my Drawgasmic and The End bomb) looked better as giclee prints as the values were too extreme as lustre prints. My Pink series looked good as both lustre and metallic, though I prefer the metallic as it gives a really nice sheen to the pieces that really makes some of the colors pop. I plan on ordering real prints as soon as I can afford them. Fortunately iPrint has really great prices! Photographic prints are very affordable, and the giclee prints are, too, especially considering they are archival, high quality prints. If you're thinking about ordering prints, I definitely suggest doing the test print route. And for first time customers, they will send you a monitor calibration kit that includes samples of their papers so you can see the difference between matte, lustre, glossy, metallic, and giclee prints. I highly recommend them!

Whew! Was that a long enough post for you? I promise to have real artwork up on here...sometime...soon. I plan on doing a post on the Sketchbook Project, which I signed up for, so definitely expect to see process work from that. Also, you may have noticed I broke down and joined Twitter. Feel free to follow me! I promise to attempt to keep it professional and avoid any "this is what I had for lunch today" posts, though I can't promise there won't be an occasional Floydgasm on there.

5 comments:

  1. Really nice reviews! Thanks a lot for posting. I can really tell in the pictures how much darker the ONP card is compared to the original. It's weird that the black in the pig card came out lighter than black, but the other card came out darker! Sounds like they really need to work on quality control. And I'd definitely contact them about the white dots in the cards. If those weren't there in your file then you deserve a refund or reprint.

    My initial note cards came out dark too, before I bought a monitor calibrator. I often end up making things lighter than I think they should be, and sometimes that helps them come out right in print ;P If you try them again I'd recommend that.

    I feel bad that I just finished positively reviewing them, and right after that they go and deliver bleh results :I I'm going to adjust my review, too. Overnightprints still seems like a great value, but it seems rather hit-or-miss with the colors.

    If you order from them again, let me know how they turn out!

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  2. Thanks, Jade! And I definitely sent them an email about the white dots on the card (and even provided a link to this post--ha!).

    I've had problems with some things printing off darker than I had intended, so I usually make any digital files for printing lighter than what I'd like them to be according to my monitor. Although getting an actual calibrator is a really good idea. Is there one you would recommend?

    I will let you know about any possible future orders. I am willing to give it another go on the value cards, but for mailers I will be sticking to GP.

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  3. Yeah, GP will never do us wrong... They've always been great and on time! (crossing fingers)

    I have a Spyder3 Express. It's very affordable and super easy to use. The difference between the Spyder3 Express and the Pro is that you can't set your white point and gamma with the Express. I have no idea if that matters too much :D (reviewers said it didn't as I think dimming the brightness might accomplish the same thing)

    When you're working on art for print I found it helps a ton to have the brightness of your calibrated monitor set to very low. You'll have to experiment with the exact brightness that seems right. I also have it set low when calibrating, since those are the conditions you'll be working in when designing for print. A bright screen is way brighter than white paper and it's part of the reason things look so much darker when you print it. If your monitor is already as dim as it can be, it's closer to real paper. But then you have to remember to raise it again though when saving art for the web, since nobody browses the web on 5% brightness, heh. Sorry if you already know all this stuff but it was just stuff I read up on while researching a calibration system to buy!

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  4. I will NEVER use Gotprint again. I'm happy that others have had success with them but since last year I have had to return EVERY order. Loss of time and money! Every print run has been completely washed out and never matched the proof. Their customer service responds with "return for refund at your expense" and that's it. If I could find another resource that offers the heavier 16pt. smooth card stock weight, they would have ALL my business. Anyone care to respond. Thank you.

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