Tiny Prints Review: Custom Photo Cards and Invitations
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|Great quality, large selection, attractive design and an intuitive shopping experience combine to make this site worth the price|
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One of the best-known names in custom photo cards, announcements and invitations, Tiny Prints began as a startup in the San Francisco Bay Area in early 2004. Since its launch, Tiny Prints has expanded exponentially, and today the company encompasses four sister sites: Tiny Prints, Treat (greeting cards), Business Tiny Prints and Wedding Paper Divas.
Shopping and Selection
Tiny Prints is one of the giants in this market, and having shopped around their site and those of their major competition, we can see why. Tiny Prints draws its enormous selection of beautifully-designed cards, announcements, invitations, and stationery products from the work of a wide variety of professional designers. In opposition to the independent focus of some sites, Tiny Prints puts an emphasis on the work of larger, more established designers, even offering some cards designed by celebrities or featuring licensed characters from companies like Sanrio and Nickelodeon.
Tiny Prints has a huge inventory of templates to choose from, including contemporary, classic, whimsical and romantic styles. Just about anyone can find a card they like at Tiny Prints with a bit of searching. And speaking of searching, Tiny Prints' search function is one of the most streamlined we've seen. Tiny Prints uses thorough, well-labeled categories to sort cards, and then provides a huge array of filters in the side bar so users can pare down their results by color, size, shape, number of photos, style, theme and many other qualities. Tiny Prints even allows shoppers to sort results by price as well as popularity, which makes choosing the right card at the right price really simple. After reviewing a lot of sites with more difficult user interfaces for shopping, we really appreciated how right Tiny Prints gets it.
As you browse, Tiny Prints lets you save designs to your "favorites" section with a single click, so you can collect the templates you like best to sort through and compare later.
Tiny Prints' designs include printing on both sides, which opens up some cool options for backings, including vibrant prints, extra photos on the back, space for more text or blank space for you to write a personalized message on each card. You can also select special envelopes for your design or choose custom address labels to match your card or invitation.
For those in search of wedding invitations and stationery, Tiny Prints' sister site, Wedding Paper Divas, produces an extensive range of options from ultra casual to black tie. The site also shares style, etiquette and wedding planning tips on a frequently-updated blog.
Tiny Prints doesn't provide the most customization options we've seen, but their design tool is effective and very simple to use. When you begin designing a custom card, announcement or invitation with Tiny Prints, the design tool asks you for a few basic pieces of information. When we were working on holiday cards, the system asked for a family name and the first names of every family member. Then, as we tried different designs, the tool plugged the appropriate names into the templates' default signatures and text fields.
We could edit every text field however we wanted, but could not move text or design elements around the card, which can be a little limiting when trying to fit some specific photos into a design template without blocking people or faces. Tiny Prints lets users choose from a few colors for text, depending on the design of the card, which can help keep text legible over different photographs or line the design up with your particular tastes.
Tiny Prints' photo uploader is very intuitive to use and will make sure that your photos follow you from design to design so you don't have to upload them more than once. The design tool integrates with Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, Smugmug, and Shutterfly, so using pictures you've already uploaded to one of those sites is really easy. Tiny Prints even partners with a number of professional photographers, so if you've worked with one of those pros you can plug your brand new pictures straight into Tiny Prints designs.
Like some of the other premium custom card sites we reviewed, Tiny Prints has a professional graphic designer review every order before it is sent to print, checking for potential issues like insufficient photo resolution, cut off faces, misaligned text, or misspellings. Our finished card reflected this professional attention, with every detail in line.
To ensure your card is of the highest quality, you can request a "designer review" for $1.99 per order. This will ensure that a team of experts will review your order for spelling, photo quality and more, contacting you after with either design change suggestions or to let you know your order is ready to ship. If you'd like to see a proof of your card before your order is sent, you can select to receive both a digital proof by email and a designer review for an additional fee of $6.98. If you'd like to see a physical sample of a card you like, Tiny Prints offers samples for between $1.00 and $3.00 apiece. Note that any samples you order will use their default image and text, not your personalized information.
If you are placing an order for wedding stationery through Tiny Prints' wedding site, Wedding Paper Divas, you will receive up to three complimentary digital proofs with your order.
Tiny Prints offers a number of shipping options. The prices listed here are for standard stationery orders of up to 500 items. Orders of more than 500 items will incur increased shipping charges, and shipping may be different for non-stationery items or wedding products. Turnaround time includes both processing and shipping time.
*Super Rush+ delivery gets your order to you as fast as possible, within one business days in most cases. It is not available for all products and is not offered with Mailing Service.
In addition to shipping your cards to you, Tiny Prints offers mailing service. If you choose mailing service, Tiny Prints will print your address and your recipient's address on the envelopes and send your cards for you. Tiny Prints charges the cost of the stamp plus $0.30 for envelope printing for each card sent this way.
Using the USPS shipping option, our order from Tiny Prints arrived four business days after we placed it, which is on the quick side for custom cards. Packaged in a metallic, holiday-themed envelope, the cards were protected by a tight shrink-wrapping and held together with a clear plastic band. This presentation was not as fancy as some of the high-end sites we tested, but got the cards to us undamaged and was economical with packaging materials, which we appreciated.
Tiny Prints offers several paper options, all recycled. Most cards are offered in the Signature Matte and Signature Semi-Glossy papers. Wedding stationery and other premium cards often include additional paper options, including the Signature Textured, Premium Double Thick Matte and Pearl White Shimmer papers, while postcards and Studio Basics cards have their own papers. Premium paper options sometimes carry an additional charge of a few cents per card.
Our test card was printed on the Signature Matte paper. We were very happy with the paper quality of our finished card. The matte card stock is a stiff, smooth option, offering a great surface both for writing and for printing photographs and text.
The design we chose looked just as good in person as it had on the screen, and we really liked the bright stripes printed on the back. Tiny Prints' photo printing looks particularly good, with deep colors and high resolution. Text printing was very crisp, and the color choices in our design were very true to the on-screen preview. The overall print quality was some of the best we've seen, which, combined with the price point, keeps this service very competitive in the high end of the market.
Most Tiny Prints cards (including our test card) use digital offset printing, a flat, high-quality printing technique. Wedding products often offer other printing options, including letterpress printing and thermography (a technique that gives an effect similar to engraving). Both thermography and letterpress printing are significantly labor-intensive and therefore more expensive than digital offset printing.
Tiny Prints has one of the more accessible service departments we saw, with phone and live internet chat support available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. PST and on the weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST. Tiny Prints also offers email-based support and maintains an extensive knowledgebase and FAQ section for more routine questions. We found Tiny Prints support representatives very responsive when we asked a few basic questions, and really liked being able to get in touch in real time.
Tiny Prints is in the higher end of the sites we reviewed in terms of price, but not the most expensive. There is definitely a quality difference to be noticed between the most expensive and least expensive services we tried out, so it's important to balance cost with your design tastes and quality expectations. Tiny Prints' slightly more expensive cards are worth it to some consumers because of their correspondingly higher print and design quality. Tiny Prints has a minimum of 10 cards per order and offers increasing discounts up to about 150 cards per order, depending on the specific design and designer.
This chart contains pricing information for the least expensive 5 by 7 inch flat card printed on card stock from this site. Different sizes and options may have different pricing. Click here for more information about how we compared prices.
Tiny Prints offers a big, attractive selection, intuitive shopping experience and good design tools. We really liked the design we chose, and thought Tiny Prints offered some of the highest-quality printing and design available today. Though you could find more customizability with some of the other sites we reviewed, we were very happy with the way our test order turned out, and recommend Tiny Prints for quality, service and selection.
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