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Cheap Printing Options – UPrinting and Others

Besides photo prints, photographers may need to print all kinds of other things – business cards, comp cards, greeting cards, specialty products, etc. Some of these specialty products are available through professional print labs (i.e. MPix Pro, which I love), but this tends to be expensive. Digital print shops, on the other hand, can deliver great color reproduction and paper quality at a fraction of the cost of a professional photography print lab.

So what are you options…? Here are a couple places to consider.


I was searching for a digital printer over the summer to print comp cards for my photography studio. I considered a bunch of different options, and I went with UPrinting.

Why? For starters, I could order a free sample kit. This arrived in a few days, and it made it clear that the print quality and paper quality were both high. Oh, and the best part? Free really meant free. This wasn’t like Vista Print “free,” where “free” means set up fees, shipping, etc. I filled out a form, and by the next week I had a sample kit in my hands.

I’ll be writing up a review of UPrinting in a separate post, but here’s the general idea. They offer high quality, cheap printing. Their minimum orders are pretty low on most products, although you will sometimes find that it pays to order more. For example, if you’re looking for business cards, there’s almost no difference in price between 250, 500, and 1,000 cards. One of the only products where their minimum order was prohibitively large was calendars. I love the prices, and I’d love to order calendars from them, but I can’t justify that kind of order size.

You get a digital proof to review within 48 hours. You can drop ship items to clients (perfect for graphic designers searching for a business partner). Perhaps the only “downside” is that they focus on people who can and do design their own print products. If that’s you – if you design your own business cards, post cards, etc – and you’re just looking for a printer… try UPrinting. You won’t be disappointed.


Recently, I came across another online digital printer – Budget Prints. I haven’t ordered anything from them yet, but I plan on placing an order in the next few weeks to test out their services.

Why? Their prices look amazing. Their price for 1,000 business cards, for example, beats UPrinting. But, more importantly, you can by much smaller orders for cheap prices (i.e. 50 business cards for $2.59). I’d be very interested in seeing their color reproduction quality, as well as the paper quality (they offer 93lb. card stock and 111lb. cover stock).

But, that’ll have to wait a few weeks until I put together an order that I want to get printed as a sample. In the meantime, if you’re curious… you may want to try them out. As an added bonus, they have free shipping on medium sized orders ($30 or more), which is quite a cost savings over UPrinting (~$10 shipping per order, FedEx).

If anyone has placed an orer with Budget Prints, I would be very interested in hearing about your experience. Drop a line in the comments below.

Vista Print.

Eugh. I’ve written about them before, and you may know my opinion of them. I’ll be honest, I’ve never ordered anything from Vista Print. I know friends that have, and they’ve loved it.

The good? They offer lots of templates for you to work with, which is great if you aren’t a graphic designer yourself.

The bad? They advertise tons of “free” products that are anything but. You need to pay set up fees, shipping, etc. At the end of the day, you end up paying as much or more as competitors, like UPrinting or Budget Prints.

That’s not necessarily horrible, but it strikes me as slightly dishonest to build a whole brand around free stuff, and then not offer free stuff. They strike me as dishonest and ungenuine… someday, I may order something from Vista Prints to actually test their quality, but in the meantime I’m not too thrilled about them.

Bottom Line?

Based on personal experience, go with UPrinting. I love them, and I’ve used them before. If you’re adventurous, try Budget Prints. I haven’t tried them, but they look like they have potential. In my mind, Vista Print is a last resort, although it is one of the biggest names in digital printing.

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About Digital Photography How To

Digital Photography How To is intended to be a guide to people learning how to use their digital SLR cameras. Three years ago, I had never picked up a camera; now, I produce a yearbook every year and I moonlight as a professional photographer.

I write this website to share what I've learned in that time. The topics will range from truly beginners topics, to tutorials for post processing, to resources for yearbook and graphic design, to thoughts on transitioning from a hobbyist to a professional. Keep up to date by subscribing to the RSS feed.

About the Author

Digital Photography How To is written by Brian Rock. In addition to being a photographer, he's an educator. He teaches high school history, he's the advisor of the school yearbook, and he trains his kids to do all of the photography for the yearbook.

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