Square Print face-off: Artifact Uprising vs. Parebo

I’ve had a nebulous desire to start printing some of my photographs for several years, but haven’t really had the funds or the impetus to do much of anything about it. Sure, I jumped on a couple of groupons and printed a couple of books for gifts, but good printing can get expensive and a good printer, while reasonable enough, comes with the additional—and often insane—cost of ink. So when VSCO offered users 25 “free” prints from its Artifact Uprising subsidiary (just pay shipping), I jumped at the chance to see some of my more recent pictures in print. I quickly found 5 pictures with some tenuous relationship to one another, put them on my phone, ran them through the SquareReady app (sadly, and somewhat strangely, square prints require square images: it seems like it would be easy for apps to letterbox rectangular images, but nope), and then loaded them into the Artifact Uprising app. It was a bit tricky to figure out how to get 5 of each—the app is really designed for you to add 25 different square pictures—but once I found the FAQ and figured out how to follow its instructions, it was pretty easy.

My plan was to write about the experience and give a set of prints to whoever wanted them, but then Parebo Press—part of the Photojojo empire—offered the same thing: 25 “free” prints, just pay shipping. I didn’t read the description carefully (or at all, really) and jumped on the deal, thinking that the Parebo prints would be similar to those from Artifact Uprising and hoping to give away an edition of 10, rather than the 5 I planned on initially.

The process with Parebo was similar: download the app, load images onto the phone, select images, find it difficult to select multiples of the same image, read the FAQ, try again, and then order—and the prints arrived rather quickly, but that’s where the similarities end.

Artifact Uprising prints its square prints on a cream- or natural-colored card stock with a very slight bit of texture to it. The paper is 5 inches square and images have a 1/4 inch border on each side. (The border around my prints is larger than normal: I made my square images with the SquareReady app and included a bit of a border on them there too.)

Artifact Uprising prints

Parebo Press paper is bright white and 5.5 inches square, and images have the same 1/4″ border.

Parebo Press

When I realized the size difference (about two weeks before I saw the prints in person) I was pretty excited: larger prints for the same price, on white card stock? Great! But then I got the prints… the differences are stark:

Artifact Uprising prints are contrastier and more saturated than Parebo Press prints, and it appears that the Parebo Press registration is a bit off: note the difference in the width of the borders. (All five prints show the same slight shift to the right.)

A half inch doesn’t sound like much, but compared side by side it gets obvious.

Comparing the two prints side-by-side, the Archive Uprising print looks much better to me (and to others that have seen the prints in person), but neither are exactly what I sent to them. The Artifact Uprising print is actually more saturated and contrasty than my original, and bit greener as a result, whereas the Parebo Press print is a bit more washed out than my original.

Here’s the original, for reference:

In isolation, both prints look great, and it’s wonderful to have prints of some of my pictures. Side by side, the Artifact Uprising prints are more striking and pleasant to look at, but when compared to the original files, the images are too contrasty and a bit oversaturated, while the Parebo Press prints look slightly washed out.

But at $16.99 for 50 prints (shipping is $7.99 from Artifact Uprising and $8 from Parebo), I can’t complain. At regular prices of $21.99 from Artifact Uprising and $24 from Parebo Press, I’m not sure I’d order them again, though I could see maybe running a couple of editions of 25 or 50 and using them like calling cards, or maybe including them with gifts or something. The size is right for giving away, and the stiff paper makes them ideal as bookmarks and really easy to just prop up against something.

In any case, I had fun with this test, and I have 8 sets of prints to give away! Each image is individually signed and numbered on the verso, and this is the only time these five images will be offered at this size. Here are four of the five images. The fifth has not been featured on this blog, and probably won’t be… it’s one of the best pictures I’ve made, in my opinion… it somehow looks like something someone else took, my pictures usually don’t look like that.

If you’d like a set of prints, leave a comment below and shoot me an email with your shipping info and I’ll mail you a set in a few days.

Happy New Year!

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