The early 2000’s were the dark ages of online print services. I tried a bunch of them: Apple, Ofoto, CafePress and probably a few others that are no longer around. They all had one thing in common… the prints were not very good. Then I stumbled upon an Mpix.com advertisement while thumbing through a photography magazine in 2003. I figured “what the heck, I’ll give them a try.” I created an account and ordered some 8×10’s of my more difficult to reproduce photographs. About a week later a white box showed up on my doorstep and to my pleasant surprise the quality of the prints was pretty amazing! The tonal accuracy was as spot on as anyone could get. Getting the tones correct was the biggest issue I had with the other print services. I was thrilled! Soon after that I was commissioned to create a large format info graphic that would be displayed in the foyer of a local business. As the design was nearing completion, I did a few test prints at a local print shop and the color was just not rendering to my standards. There was a fair amount of cyan and green that was giving me some trouble. I decided to order a print of the graphic from Mpix. (What the heck, it was my client’s dime.) Mpix did not disappoint! I ordered it with a luster coating and mounted on a double-weight matboard. The double-weight matboard had a nice rigid feeling, almost like a thin, flat piece of PVC.
Anyway, after that I was hooked. I’ve been using them for 10+ years and I highly recommend their services. Over the span of a decade I have order many of their products and they have yet to let me down. They also have great customer service. The few times I emailed them with questions they were very responsive and helpful.
Here are a few tips:
1) Paper choice: E-Surface or Metallic? I think this depends on where you plan on hanging your artwork. Metallic sounds awesome, but I find metallic really “shines” when there is direct light hitting the print. For example, if you were presenting in an art gallery and there were small spot lights aimed at your print, the metallic paper would “self-illuminate” and look awesome. If you hang it on a wall in your living with diffused light coming through the window on the opposite wall, the effect is less impressive. I only use metallic paper if my work will be properly lit. Other then that, I stick with e-surface.
2) Double-weight Matboard. This is a great option if your print is larger then 8×10. This mounting option is about 1/8″ thick. It’s a great way to keep your prints from getting wavy and bubbly in your frame.
3) Brightness and Sharpness. This isn’t a Mpix issue, but a print problem in general. Prints tend to be a little darker and softer than what you see on the computer screen. I’m going to avoid the long and boring color management /color profile lecture here. Let me narrow it down to two general things you should do before sending to Mpix. I like to brighten the image about 15% – 20% to compensate for the darkening in the print. I also like to sharpen the image using Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask filter. I usually set the Amount to around 85, the radius to about 2.5 and the threshold to 0. These values can vary based on the resolution of the image. Typically I’m at about 12 megapixels.
If anyone has any other tips or ideas, please share!