Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Print Quality Review - Society6, RedBubble, and INPRNT

Hello friends!

So, just as the title suggests, today I'll be starting to answer the question of which art site to order prints from by reviewing the quality of art prints from Society6, RedBubble, and INPRNT.

The idea for the post came from a few inquiries I received over the years regarding where one might purchase one of my art works as prints or on which online art society type shops I recommend selling and buying (my own) work from. This post will explore which is the best option (of the three site listed) for purchasing prints of your own art.

For my review process, I chose my illustration - "The Fox's Tower" as the control image. Because it had a range of subtle colours, lights, and darks - it would be ideal for revealing subtleties between colour quality of the prints from each online shop.

To begin, I will say that I was very pleased with the colour correctness of all - RedBubble, Society6 and INPRNT prints. They were both very close to the hues and levels of my original file. If I were to be very particular, I would note that they were both a touch darker and more desaturated than the original, but this was very slight, and anyhow, I would have preferred that the prints came out a tad more muted than too saturated.

And now let's get to some more detailed analysis!

(*Disclaimer 1: photos documenting this review process aren't the best. I will improve upon them later.
Disclaimer 2: I've not had any incentives to do this review from the companies mentioned.)

1. Society6 Print

Society6 print
I ordered the standard Art Print / MINI 7" x 10"
According to Society6 its a "gallery quality Giclée print on natural white, matte, ultra smooth, 100% cotton rag, acid and lignin free archival paper using Epson K3 archival inks. Custom trimmed with 1" border for framing."

With my artist seller discount, the print price came to $12.69 and shipping would have been around $10. However, I ordered it during a free shipping promotion day which cut the cost down in half. Yay!
Total: $12.69 USD

The print arrived around two weeks later in a thin, but seemingly sturdy cardboard envelope. Inside it was packed in a plastic sleeve and enforced by thin sheet of cardboard paper. The packing seemed very size appropriate and "green", but I was just a little concerned that my print might have gotten bent on it's journey, had it been a rough one. This, in fact had happened before with a different print I ordered from Society6.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I was very satisfied with the colour quality. I also appreciated the equal white border width around the image.
However, I suspect that this feature was what caused the print to actually be 7.5 x 10 inches, rather than 7 x 10 as was said at the check out. I had no problem with it, but I can see where some people might be annoyed if they already prepared a mat and frame.

2. RedBubble Print

RedBubble Print being held straight by misc. objects (pre ironing)

I ordered the Art Print in the 'Small' 12x16" size
According to RedBubble their Art Prints are:
  • 100% cotton rag Giclée art prints
  • Printed on stunning 240gsm natural white archival paper with archival ink
  • The size options are exactly tailored to standard frames
  • Self frame in the blink of an eye for a perfect custom finish

With my artist seller discount, the print price came to $14.61, the standard shipping $4.79 - a subtotal of $19.40. However, because there was a discount promotion of about 20% happening, the final price came down to $15.33 USD. 
Yes, it was my strategy to order prints when there were promotions happening. =)

The print also arrived around two weeks later and it was packed inside a plastic bag and rolled up to fit into a cardboard mailing tube. It was delivered to a designated mail slot for packages at my apartment complex.
On the one hand, I appreciated the tube packaging because that greatly reduced the chance that my print would get bent or damaged along the way, but it did require me to iron the print to make it straight in order to be framed.

Again, as mentioned, I was very satisfied with the colour quality.
The only thing that irked me was that 12 x16" was the smallest size I could order withing the Art Print category. Don't get me wrong - it looks great and I love it, but I definitely think a smaller size option would have been fantastic.

3. INPRNT Print

INPRNT Print. (More yellow in photo than in real life)

Last but not least, I ordered the 8 x 11" print from INPRNT.
According to INPRNT: "This is a gallery-quality giclée art print on 100% cotton rag archival paper, printed with archival inks. Each art print is listed by sheet size and features a minimum one-inch border."

With my artist seller discount, the print price came to $8.00 USD and because I purchased during their free shipping promotion weekend that was my grand total also. (Yay!)
And if I decided to upgrade to a larger - 12 x 17" print at the time, it would have only cost me $10.00
The shipping is what really makes or breaks the deal for me.

This final print also arrived around two weeks after the purchase date. It was packed into a plastic sleeve and held in place by tape in between two large, thick sheets of cardboard, which were then encased in a large cardboard envelope. It was delivered to my door. I enjoyed it because it seemed like my print was very well protected against bending. However, in my opinion the packaging was rather oversized for the size of the print, which might be regarded as a little wasteful. Not a problem for me, because I reuse or re-purpose all the packaging I receive (the best I can), but something to keep in mind.

Colour quality wise, I was also very satisfied. No complaints whatsoever. Compared to the other two prints, it was a touch warmer in tone and a little more desaturated in some places, but that didn't make me like it more or like it less.

(left) Society6 print | (right) INPRNT print
Funnily enough, the Society6 and RedBubble prints were exactly the same in tone. (More apparent in life, rather than in photos.)
On one hand, it was reassuring, because that confirmed my monitor and their printers were calibrated properly. Yet, on the other hand this made it hard for me to pick a favourite.

(left) RedBubble | (middle) Society6 | (right) INPRNT


Not to sound too repetitive, but I was very happy with the colour and paper quality of all three prints, so I can't really pick a favourite in that regard.

In terms of value, it can get tricky to judge which print would be the best value for the price because all these place I purchased from would have different promotions and sales happening at different times, so it would really depend on the luck of the day or the strategy of the purchase.
(For this shopping round, the print with the lowest price per square inch was from RedBubble with $0.08 per square inch)

In turn, let's look at how much each print would cost with the artists seller discount but without any other promotions/sales.

Society6: $12.69 (print price) + $10.00 (standard shipping to Canada) = $22.69 USD total
RedBubble: $14.61(print price) + $4.79 (standard shipping to Canada) = $19.40 USD total
INPRNT: $8.00 (print price) + $10.00 (standard shipping to Canada) = $18.00 USD total

At first glance INPRNT seems like the most frugal way to go, with its lowest cost of $18.00 per small print.
However, if we crunch the numbers again to calculate the lowest price per square inch, the frugal winner is the print from RedBubble at $0.10 per square inch. INPRNT comes in second - with $0.20 per square inch and Society6 in third - with $0.32 per square inch.

Well, there you have it folks.  For the same quality of print, RedBubble is the way to go on an average day, with the best deal of value per size of the print. And INPRNT is the way to go if you're choosing by lowest final price overall within the small print category.

I hope this has been a useful post for you to read and keep an eye out for a similar review post in the future when I compare more art print results from a different set of companies.