Best Metal Print Company 2021: $100 Secret Shopper Print Shootout
- What are Metal Prints?
- Here's How the Metal Print Shootout Works
- Rationale for the Best Metal Print Company Comparison
- 2021 Best Metal Print Company Contenders
- Bay Photo Metal Print
- Costco Metal Print
- Pictorem Metal Print
- Mpix Metal Print
- Whitewall Metal Print
- Artbeat Studios Metal Print
- HD Metal Print -In addition to using the dye sublimation process, an HD metal print uses Chromaluxe™ metal, which has extreme resistance to fading and vivid colors. This is the option professionals often choose.
- Glossy Metal Print - Glossy prints have a beautiful sheen to them. Sometimes, you can choose between the level of glossiness (e.g., mid-gloss or high-gloss). Glossy metal prints are highly reflective, though, so you will see reflections in the print from doors, windows, lamps, and so forth.
- Satin Metal Print - Some companies offer a satin finish on their metal prints. This option reduces the reflectivity of the print without sacrificing the vibrancy of the colors.
- Matte Metal Print - These prints have far less reflectivity than glossy prints. Matte metal is less contrasty than glossy metal, so there is a trade-off. You get less glare, but the colors are less vibrant.
- I sent the same image file to each of the six companies.
- I ordered the same sized metal print - 16 x 24 - or as close to the same size as possible.
- I unbox each metal print and do an immediate review on camera. The YouTube video for each metal print company is available in this article.
- I judge each print on a variety of metrics, from the colors and sharpness to the mounting hardware and the packaging of the print.
- The wood frame is a great idea, but it's poorly executed. The mitered corners have huge gaps!
- The frame is centered on the print, though.
- The corners of the print are rounded off.
- There was a nice metal mounting frame on back with felt pieces on each corner to prevent wall damage.
- No mounting hardware was included, which boggles my mind! Definitely not something a contender for best metal print company should do.
- The mounting frame was off-center.
- Packaging was fine, but nothing spectacular.
In case you missed it, last year, I started a $100 secret shopper metal print shootout. The winner of that competition was Artbeat Studios.
The folks at Artbeat took the top spot out of a field of six competitors. This year, we have six companies vying for the top spot again in our 2021 search fro the best metal print company.
We have some of the same companies in this year's shootout as last year's, but there's also some new players to the competition, too.
Table of Contents
What are Metal Prints?
Metal prints are a beautiful, modern way to display your images. While there is some variation from one company to the next in terms of sizing options, finishes, and so forth, there are some basic features we can explore to form a basis of understanding of what metal prints are.
Metal prints are usually made from aluminum. One of two common processes is used to print the image on the metal - inkjet printing or dye sublimation. Inkjet printing is typically used for standard metal prints, while a dye sublimation process is often reserved for higher-end metal prints, like HD metal. Some companies use the dye sublimation process for all metal prints.
Speaking of HD metal prints, there are several common types of metal print:
Here's how the Best Metal Print Company Shootout Works:
Rationale for the Best Metal Print Company Comparison
If you Google "best metal prints," you'll find a bunch of websites that offer rankings of metal print companies. Unfortunately, many of these rankings are done without actually having a print in hand.
I'm not going to name names because you can see it for yourself, but some of these sites simply throw some copy in an article, grab stock images from each company, and put a ranking together.
The problem with this is that without doing an actual hands-on review, how can these sites possibly know which print is the best? To further complicate matters, if you look at the links some sites use in their metal print reviews, they are affiliate links. It's just a ploy to make money.
That's why we do things differently to determine the best metal print company...
Each print that is featured in this metal print shootout was physically in my hands. I had eyes on each print, unboxed each print, evaluated each print, and ranked each one in a side-by-side fashion in my studio. In other words, I take you along for the entire process from unboxing to the final evaluation.
The obvious advantage of doing this is that the final results of the shootout offer you a reliable means of determining which company actually has the best metal prints. While you may or may not agree with my assessment of each print, at the very least, you know exactly what your dollar is going to get you.
When you shop for a metal print, it's safe to assume you have a special image in mind for printing. That being the case, you want to invest your money in the best print - not what some website randomly put in the top spot in their "ranking."
For the better part of a decade, I've been in the trenches with other photographers. I know how hard it is to make a photography business work! You work hard for your money, and the last thing I want to do is direct you to spend your hard-earned cash on something that I haven't fully reviewed.
So, that's the rationale for this test for the best metal print company. I want to be sure that I give you all the hands-on information I can, that way you can make your own judgments about these prints and make an informed decision about how you spend your cash.
2021 Best Metal Print Company Contenders
We've got a great selection of metal print companies this year. Click on the links below to check out the full review of each company's metal print:
We have announced the winner of our 2021 Best Metal Print Company $100 Challenge. Find out which company came out on top!
Below are summaries of the individual reviews linked above so you can quickly and easily compare them to see which is the best metal print company.
Right off the bat, this Bay Photo metal print displayed colors that were close to being just right. They are slightly off from the original image file, but nothing overly offensive.
The same goes for the sharpness of the image - there's a tiny bit of softness in the foreground that is not present in the original image file.
Aside from that, something I immediately noticed was that the edges of the print were clean and had no burrs.
In the video above, you can see that the mounting plate on the back is a piece of aluminum that's wrapped in foam. On the positive side, there are multiple hanging points, which is nice. Unfortunately, the mounting plate is 1/8-inch off center. That's a significant amount!
I will say, though, that I appreciate the rubber knobs on the back of the print that help prevent wall damage.
Something else that impressed me was the packaging of this print. Bay Photo really did a fantastic job of protecting the print from possible damage. The print was taped on all four corners, and there was lots of paper padding to give extra protection.
Of course, you can check out my 2021 Bay Photo metal print review for all the details!
Once I unboxed this print, the first thing I saw was that some of the colors just weren't correct. The blue and purple tones aren't nearly as vibrant as they were in the original image file.
Additionally, I felt like there were some yellow tones in the green areas of the shot. This color inaccuracy is very noticeable! The colors are muted, too, which is the exact opposite of what I want to see in a metal print.
As if the colors weren't bad enough, this print also had a terrible mounting bracket.
There were cracks in the material, and the mitered edges weren't tight at all. The mounting system was skewed to the left, too, so it wasn't even centered!
As you can see in my video, the packaging for the print was okay.
The print was actually protected with heavy plastic and cardboard. However, the box the print came in was too big, so the print could slide around inside the box.
At the end of the day, Costco wasn't very impressive with their print. You can get all the details on why that is in my full 2021 Costco Metal Print Review.
One of the bright spots in my 2021 Pictorem Metal Print Review was the packaging. It was very good.
Not only did they package the print very well, but they also included a small thank you card and a microfiber cloth for cleaning the print.
While these are small things, they show that the folks at Pictorem think about their clients and want to go the extra mile. It just creates a great first impression!
Now, onto the print...
The colors weren't spectacular in this print, but they weren't terrible, either. The colors were pretty accurate, and I liked the vibrancy in the print. On the downside, there was some evident banding.
I will say that the banding wasn't terribly noticeable, but still, it's there...
Another minor issue is that the sharpness just isn't there in this image. While other prints in this shootout were spot-on and others were way too sharp, this one doesn't have enough. There are areas that are just too soft.
Other features of note:
As I explain in the video above, the Pictorem metal print isn't terrible, by any means. But it also isn't at the top of the heap.
At the end of the day, it's a perfectly okay print - but certainly nothing of a quality that would win the 2021 Metal Print Shootout!
My 2021 Mpix Metal Print Review got off to a rough start...
When unboxing the print, I had no idea who it was from. There was no branding on the box at all!
But once I got inside the box, I was pleasantly surprised with excellent packaging.
The print was wrapped in plastic, then in cardboard, and was then placed in a larger box. The print was snug and couldn't move around. There was even added packing material to protect the corners. Nice!
The print itself had great color accuracy. The colors were very close - if not spot-on - to those that were in the image file I sent. There was no evidence of banding at first, but in the right light, I could see faint lines in some spots, particularly in areas that shifted from light to dark.
Sharpness was decent throughout, too. There was a good balance of sharpness vs. noise.
As I explain in the video above, my biggest beef with this print is the mounting hardware...
It's just a big piece of foam with a plastic hanger glued to it. It looks so cheap. At least it's centered on the print, though!
Get a deep dive into this print and what I liked and didn't like in the video above.
Unlike the print from Artbeat Studios, this one from WhiteWall had faint lines from the printer. There were also some puddles of ink from the printer on the print!
Aside from that, the colors were okay, and seem close to what the original image file contained.
On the sharpness front, I swear WhiteWall added sharpness. Parts of the image look overcooked, and that is not how the original image file looked.
The metal itself had a concerning feature - the four corners were very sharp. Other companies file the corners down or even round them off, but WhiteWall didn't do that for some reason.
Other things of note include:
Overall, this print is "fine," but nothing spectacular.
This print was a bummer, though. Given WhiteWall's reputation, I expected better.
You can get all the details of this WhiteWall metal print in the video above or by checking out my full 2021 WhiteWall metal print review.
As I noted in the introduction, Artbeat Studios won our 2020 best metal print company shootout, so I had high expectations for the metal print I ordered from them this year.
Things started off well with an inspection of the colors of this print. I have to say, they are an exact match to the colors in my original image file. The colors are beautiful, clean, and consistent, and there's no visible banding anywhere on the print.
Moving on to sharpness, this print gets the highest marks possible. Unlike other prints in this shootout that were either too sharp or too soft, Artbeat Studios got it just right. This print looks just as I would have expected based on the level of sharpness in the original image.
On the back is an excellent mounting frame with a metal cleat. The cleat includes a level so you're sure you hang the print correctly. Mounting hardware is also included, which as I discussed above, is something that other companies didn't bother to include.
In the video above, you can see the impeccable packaging that this print was delivered in.
The box is perfectly sized for the print to eliminate the chance of the print sliding around inside. Then, the print is covered in bubble wrap, wrapped in plastic, and taped to a 1/4-inch piece of wood. The level of care that was taken to package this print shows how committed Artbeat Studios is to delivering you the best possible product!
Get all the details on this print in my 2021 Artbeat Studios metal print review.
2021 Best Metal Print Company Winner
Now that we've had a chance to review each contender, it's time to reveal the big winner of the 2021 Best Metal Print Company $100 shootout.
In the video above, I reveal the winner and explain why this year's winner deserves the award.
Check out the video for all the details, and learn where I would spend my hard-earned cash to get the best possible metal print.