It’s been awhile since I’ve printed a book with Artscow – been busy trying new photo book companies as well as new products from companies I’ve tried before. This is a review of the Deluxe line which is a more recent offering and wasn’t available when I first tried the company. You may or may not be familiar with Artscow – the company is based in Hong Kong and they print all sorts of custom photo gifts – keychains, dog tags, purses, playing cards, t-shirts, prints, watches, canvas prints, mouse pads, and iPhone cases just to name a few. A big draw for all new customers is the gobs of free customizable gifts you get when you sign up. They show up as credits in your account and you have to use them before they expire. While the products in the intro offer are free, one thing to note is that shipping is not included. Your package will likely be shipped internationally and it may take longer to get your order. Shipping costs are significantly higher than domestic rates, so be sure to check out the shipping costs page. The page is a bit confusing since there are so many different products and be sure you’re looking at the correct shipping type (regular airmail or Fed Ex) because that makes a big difference. But, if you’re getting the product free or during one of Artscow’s many promos, then just take that into account when you’re comparing prices. There are times when Artscow offers sales with free international shipping thrown in for good measure, so that makes the deal is pretty attractive. The books would have been $57.99 each and $17.99 shipping per book for regular airmail shipping (versus Fed Ex $29.99). So, in total I got the books for about 45% off taking into account the shipping costs and as a bonus they were shipped Fed Ex which I wasn’t expecting.
Here’s the stats:
|Book size:||8 x 10 (width x height) portrait|
|Cover:||Custom Cover – Deluxe Photo Book|
|Pages:||32 (double-sided); Fuji Crystal Archive Photo Paper (750 gsm) mounted on thick non-bendable cardstock|
|Binding:||Lay-flat with no gutter|
|Price:||Original Cost: $39.99 (for base 20 pages) + $18.00 (for 12 extra pages at $1.50 each) Total book cost = $57.99 each + ($17.99 shipping) = $75.98
Sale Price: $24.99 (for base 20 pages) + $18.00 (for 12 extra pages at $1.50 each) Total book cost = $42.99 each with FREE shipping
|Ordered/Shipped/Delivered||Dec 6 / Dec 16 / Dec 19|
Artscow Software Review
Using Artscow’s software requires a free download of Microsoft Silverlight, a platform necessary for the online software to work. I have used Artscow to lay out my pages before in my prior Artscow books, but this time I created my templates in Adobe Photoshop and then saved them as jpegs and uploaded completed spreads to the book. Artscow’s software allows you to fully customize your layouts which is a big plus in my book. Note that uploading photos takes quite a bit of time – a lot longer than some other companies – so my advice would be to start the upload and then do something else while it processes.
Other features of Artscow software:
- There are numerous shapes such as a circle, heart, rounded corners, etc. that you use to change the frame shape of your photos. My fave one is the rounded corner shape;
- You can use the “make image span pages” option to create a full page spread (single image that crosses both pages) – this feature is a bit awkward however as you have to manually drag the image for across the page and it’s hard to tell whether or not it’s completely filling the spread – there should be an instant “fit to spread” option;
- You have the option of adding or removing page numbers;
- You can use your image as background for other images;
- There are free themes available, but also paid themes created by scrapbook designers if you’d like to purchase a kit;
- You can title and add an image to the spine;
- There are about 100 fonts available
- When you hover over a photo, the x & y coordinates help you to see if it is aligned properly with other photos on the page
After using other customizable photobook software like Mixbook, AdoramaPix, Picaboo, Photobook America and Blurb, I find Artscow’s software a bit more clunky to navigate, but I prefer it to other software which doesn’t allow for any customization. It would be nice if they would add opacity controls so you could fade a photo or background.
Print Quality and Book Construction
The books came well-packaged – shrinkwrapped, encased in a foam enclosure then packed in a Fed Ex box, but unfortunately that still didn’t prevent a couple of dinged corners. That seems to be a common issue in shipping photo books both domestically and internationally – the packages probably get thrown around so much.
I looked at the tracking history and this package went from Hong Kong to Anchorage, Alaska and then to Memphis, Tennessee – no wonder! The book took just under two weeks from ordering to delivery, so that was good and on par with domestic photo book companies.
The cover is matte in finish. The color wasn’t even and there was some noticeable banding. You may not notice it unless it was pointed out to you, but I did notice. Still, I felt it was acceptable.
According to the site, the book is bound with adhesive and not stitched. It appears very secure. The book lies flat and there is no gutter in the center which means no image loss.
I was really happy with the print quality of the interior pages of the book. My images printed sharp and clear and I was surprised at how bright the photos printed since photos printing too dark is a common issue I’ve seen after printing so many photo books. The pages are super thick and not bendable – the thickest pages I’ve seen in a non-flush mount book. The pages are 75o gsm in weight which is roughly equivalent to about 270 lb. coverstock (this is not a precise conversion – just a guideline) and are printed on real photo paper. The closest comparison I would have is to AdoramaPix’s paper – in fact they both print on Fuji Crystal Archive photo paper, but it would take about three AdoramaPix pages to equal the thickness of one page in the Artscow deluxe books. The book looks and feels high quality.
The deluxe books come with 20 pages included in the base price and max out at 32 pages. Extra pages are $1.50 each (for smaller books – $1.00/page). There wasn’t any information on the site to show the max page count and it wasn’t until I tried to add more pages did I find out the limit. My book was no where near finished yet as thirty-two pages is a bit low of a page count for me, so I split up the photos of my baby shower into two volumes. Notice the color of my cover is the same as my dress and nail polish? I used the eyedropper tool in Photoshop to sample the color in my dress and used it as a background color in several of my layouts! It’s one of my favorite ways to make sure my background colors complement my photos.
We did a baby bump couples photo shoot just before our guests arrived for our shower, so I put those photos in volume one and put the photos of the actual shower party in volume two.
We called our awesome wedding photographer Albert Yau of Secondprint Productions into service again. It may sound a bit much to hire a professional photographer to shoot our baby shower, but hey you are reading a blog by Photobookgirl right? I didn’t want to forget a minute of our shower and I wanted my family to just enjoy themselves and not worry about having to take photos. We were so lucky our photographer was available right before wedding season took off!
How to Get a Deal on this Photo Book
It’s best to wait for a deal if you can since the free shipping and discount like the one I took advantage of gets you about 45% off. Shipping costs are important to take into account. I don’t focus on them as much on this site, as the costs will vary depending on where you are located, how fast you want your order to arrive and the number of items in your order, but it is an important consideration. In fact, Artscow is running two current promotions. One is for 50% off everything on the site (Coupon Code: HALFOFF, Deal Expires: 12/31/11), while the same discount that I got on my books with free shipping is still available as well. (Coupon Code: BESTBOOKS, Deal Expires:
12/20/11 12/28/11 extended) I did the math and the BESTBOOKS deal is a bit better than the 50% off since shipping is included, but double check the math yourself as it may depend on book size, page count and type of shipping! If you can’t get your books done today this week, the 50% off is still a good deal and goes til year end.
A particular type of project that I think these thicker pages would work well for custom children’s board books. How fun would it be to make a custom ABC book?
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