Paper Culture Review: Custom Photo Cards and Invitations
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|Very high quality, eco-conscious cards with a low order minimum; slightly smaller selection, but great customer experience|
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One of the most popular card printing companies in its price range, Paper Culture blends modern designs with a strong focus on environmental responsibility. In addition to operating CarbonFree®, the company prints on eco-friendly, recycled, wind power-generated, chlorine-free paper and plants a tree with each order as part of an ongoing goal to plant one million new trees.
Shopping and Selection
Paper Culture's selection, while beautiful, is not quite as extensive as the more-established Tiny Prints. The site does an excellent job of curating the designs though, so the smaller collection doesn't feel limited. Paper Culture offers birthday and party invitations, birth announcements, holiday cards for a wide variety of celebrations, customized stationery, and bamboo wall art. Though Paper Culture does not offer full wedding invitations, the company does produce save the date cards and bridal shower invitations. In addition to photo-based cards, invitations, and announcements, Paper Culture produces a number of graphical and type-centric designs in a variety of styles.
Paper Culture's site offers a number of search and filtering tools to help shoppers narrow down their selection, including filtering by color and number of photos. Since the selection is on the smaller end and all Paper Culture cards are the same shape and size, we didn't miss having more filtering options, though in a perfect world we would have been able to narrow our results down by the orientation of the photos (either vertical or horizontal).
Paper Culture emphasizes rounded edges on its cards, though some are also available with square corners. While many sites charge to have the corners of your card rounded, all cards in the Paper Culture collection are priced exactly the same, with essentially no add-on features. Some cards have free colorful backings, and all are available on the same heavy card stock with the same pricing structure, which we liked.
Similar to both the selection and the design aesthetic, the Paper Culture design tool is a little minimal. The photo uploader is quick and simple, and we liked being able to drag pictures around to reposition them. We wish we could click and drag to resize and rotate photos, but the built-in zoom and rotate tools work pretty well. The tool also allows you to convert any color photo into sepia tone or black and white, and the site encourages you to start with a full-color photo so you retain as many options as possible.
This design tool will not allow you to move text boxes or design elements, though you can edit almost any text field and adjust font sizes. As a general rule, you cannot select your own font colors, though the site generally offers a few different color schemes as part of the overarching design. As with some of the other premium sites we tried, a professional designer reviews each design and provides you with a digital proof if you'd like one. These designers weed out potential problems like too-small photo files, odd crops, or text fields that run off the card. They can also make some small photo edits upon request or necessity.
Paper Culture offers free design assistance and a digital proof by email upon request. Just check the box marked "I'd like more designer assistance" at the end of customizing your card to receive assistance and a proof. Note that this proofing process will add about one business day to the time it takes to receive your card. Paper Culture does not offer samples of its cards before you order, but their relatively low order minimum means you don't have to commit to a ton of cards if you're not sure.
Paper Culture offers a number of shipping and delivery options, including traditional shipping and mailing service. If you choose mailing service, you just input your recipients' addresses into the online Paper Culture address book or import them using a spreadsheet the company provides, and Paper Culture will print envelopes with your return address, your recipients' mailing addresses, and even a personalized message for each card. Then they stamp and send the cards for you, all for just the cost of the stamp. While other sites sometimes offer this service, they often charge to print the envelopes or add personalized messages, so going with Paper Culture can save you money if you plan to take advantage of this feature. Once you place your order, cards will be mailed within four days via First Class Mail, which usually takes between one and five days to arrive.
If you'd like to send the cards yourself, you have several shipping choices with varying prices. Paper Culture offers flat-rate shipping, so you will pay the same for shipping no matter how many cards you order. Turnaround time in this chart includes production time. Paper Culture says production usually takes fewer than four days, including the wait for printing and one business day for the cards to completely dry.
Using the Standard shipping option, our Paper Culture order arrived via Priority Mail four business days after we placed it. Tightly packed inside the Priority Mail box, we found a stylish brown cardboard box, printed with the Paper Culture logo. Inside the box were our cards, a thank you note from the company, and some crinkled brown paper packing material. We liked this compact, yet decorative packaging, and were immediately impressed with the quality of Paper Culture's presentation.
Though we tried to order a five by seven inch card from each service, the round-cornered cards Paper Culture uses for most of its offerings are actually a bit smaller—just 6 by 4.3 inches.
Paper Culture emphasizes the quality of their only paper option, a standard, recycled card stock, and we can see why. This sturdy, off-white paper is one of the heaviest we saw in our tests, and stands up well to photos and graphics.
Side-by-side with other cards we ordered, the Paper Culture sample has some of the richest color. We liked the rounded corners, and particularly noticed how they helped the Paper Culture card to stand out in a row of cards ordered from different sites. Though some Paper Culture designs include colorful printing on the back, the design we chose leaves that space blank, with just a small logo in the lower right-hand corner.
The photograph on our card was clear and had deep, accurate color. Text came out looking crisp and precise and reflected the preview we saw exactly.
All of Paper Culture's cards are printed using digital offset presses. This cost-effective technique produces high-quality, flat images and text.
Paper Culture provides customer service by phone and over email. Phone support is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. When we asked a question by email, we received a helpful, on-point answer within 10 minutes, an impressively quick turnaround.
Paper Culture is a premium option, but they offer a very transparent pricing structure and good bulk discounts, which makes them less expensive than some of our other top picks. All cards, including thank you notes, invitations, and photo cards are priced on the same scale. Particularly considering the high quality and the company's environmental commitments, Paper Culture cards are a pretty good deal and they have a low order minimum, so you can get just a few cards or enough for everyone you know. If you use their mailing service, you can even order just one or two cards.
Unlike most custom photo card sites, all Paper Culture cards are the same price. To ensure a fair comparison, we have chosen comparable products from all the sites we reviewed. Click here for more information about how we compared prices.
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