I received my first order of Red Bubble postcards today, in the new 6″×4″ format. I thought I’d throw my thoughts up for all to see.
To get started, I thought I should share my expectations of the product when I ordered it. It’s worth noting that this is product is the least expensive of all RedBubble products. This is not a lab product like the mounted prints or large prints, or even like the old greeting card format. This is a commercial, ink on paper product as opposed to light-exposed photographic paper product. So, I would expect results similar to traditional and digital CMYK offset printing processes. Images will be made up of moiré patterns of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink (or toner) laid down on paper. This means that I fully expected the colours to be less saturated and slightly heavier than can be displayed by the default colour settings on most computer monitors. Being a proper “write-on-the-back” postcard, I’d expect the card stock to be uncoated (so ball-point pens work) and fairly heavy, to stand up in the post. At the same time, though, this is a Red Bubble product, so I’d expect something of high quality and respectful treatment of my art on a generic product.
So, with those expectations, did the product deliver? Hell yes. This is a genuinely good, low budget printed product. The card stock is perfect for the job, and the back design is understated and clean. My only question on the rear of the card is the use of the bubblesite as a URL for me – now I have to go and update it!!
Print quality is good – sharp images, accurate colour (within the tonal limitations of CMYK printing), and consistent quality from one card to the next. Not all digital processes offer consistency, so this is worth noting. Skin tones were well reproduced, and in general my art was well reproduced, and as far as I’m happy to have my images on a commodity like a postcard, I’m happy to have them printed like this. Images that were outside the aspect ratio of the product were well placed on a white background. I liked black on the old cards, but the white is fine too. In fact, this is how most tourist postcard panoramas are presented.
Some specific notes on the print quality are worth bearing in mind. As I pointed out, this is not a photographic or continuous-tone product. Black and white images are exactly that – black ink on white paper. As a result, and as is common with an offset printed image in one colour, there is not a vast dynamic range in black and white images. Some stepping is visible in my images from one tone to the next. Think how your images look when printed on a black and white laser printer, or in a newspaper. (Though this product is waaay better than that, you’ll get the idea of a loss in dynamic range.) In the future, I’ll use one of my regular offset printing setup tricks to achieve better depth in black and whites. (Ask me for that tip some other time…).
Heavy full-colour images can look a bit flat – this is a gamut (or colour range) issue in offset CMYK printing processes generally, not a deficiency in the product. Its also a matt-coated paper on the front, so will not carry the same depth of colour as a gloss stock. Remember, though, that its a POST card, that needs to be written on, probably with a ballpoint pen. The stock is perfect for that job.
So, how does the product rate?
Print Quality: 3.5 stars (as expected for CMYK digital)
Product Quality: 4.5 stars (exceeded expectations for low-budget print)
Value for money: 5 stars (I ordered 16 cards and got the big discount)
Cool-o-meter: 5 stars (Thus starts my world domination )