Now that we are nearing the end of 2021, it’s time to start thinking about ordering one of the best photo calendars for next year. A photo calendar filled with personalized photos is not only a great gift, it’s something you’ll look up to every day, filling it with appointments, recitals, birthdays, and other reminders.
Because you’ll have it year round, you’ll want to make sure it looks great. That’s why we tested the best photo calendar services to see how easy it is to create a calendar exactly the way you want it to be and to see which one was the best when it came to the printed product.
What are the best photo calendar services?
After testing all the best services, Printique has established itself as the best photo calendar. Not only did its calendar offer the best and most consistent photo reproduction of any service we tested, it also offered the most flexibility with its calendar maker software. However, it was on virtual par with Mixbook, which has almost as good print quality and software, but is slightly cheaper.
Many of these services often have promotions and deals for calendars and other photo products – up to 50% off, in some cases – so be sure to compare their discounted rates before choosing one for your needs. Be sure to check out the best Black Friday photo book deals for sales on our favorite products.
And don’t forget to check out our pick of the best photo books and best photo cards.
Here are the best photo calendar services
Printique wins first prize for best photo calendar. Printique’s calendar interface is not just an addition to its powerful, versatile and creative software. The developers have given some thought to what you might need when customizing a calendar, which means you can do more with the grid page than usual. Like Mixbook, all of Printique’s excellent editing and creation tools are available for the grid page. Additionally, you can edit the grid itself.
Printique’s printed calendar offers excellent photo reproduction and professional print quality. While we highly recommend Printique for the best personalized photo calendar, be sure to check out our second favorite: the Mixbook Calendar.
Read our full Printable journal.
This year, the Mixbook calendar came in second place, after Printique. Mixbook’s software gives you the versatile and flexible tools you need to have fun creating a calendar you’ll be proud of all year round. This includes the ability to easily upload your own photos and graphics to use as backgrounds or clipart; Printique does not offer this in its interface. While Mixbook’s calendar software doesn’t have as many options as Printique’s, you can be as creative with Mixbook date grid pages as you do with photo pages. Unfortunately, Mixbook’s calendar software has poor event handling, but then again, Printique does not have an event manager at all.
Mixbook’s printed calendar photos are warm, bright, and lively, and the type is clean and well-trained. And because we could design both the photo pages and the date grid page, it looks neat and professional. Yet Printique’s print job is a cut above in quality compared to that of Mixbook.
Read our full Mixbook review.
Shutterfly’s calendar software has all the great versatility and flexibility of its photo book interface, as well as the same limitations. Add to that the workflow issues peculiar to creating a calendar. These include a convoluted multi-step event date box creation and the inability to cover a photo or clip art on both pages of a calendar month.
Shutterfly’s printed calendar has too many flaws to make it our top pick among the best photo calendars. Photos have an orange shift which is generally more pronounced in dark skin tones. While images have a good balance between shadows, midtones, and highlights, shadows tend to be harsh. And the concentration is not great. But the last nail in the coffin is that the Shutterfly calendar is more expensive than our big winners: Printique and Mixbook.
Read our full Examination of the shutter.
Costco’s photo calendar is really cheap. However, take a double look at what’s on offer. Its calendar creation software has few options and few possibilities for personal customization. It doesn’t have clip art or drop shadows, and the selection of fonts, text colors, and backgrounds is tiny. The only feature that was implemented well was the ease with which it was to create a graphical date box event.
The quality of the photos on our Costco calendar is spotty. Some images have a decent color; others are too orange. But the most notable issues are with the inaccurate exposure in which the shadows tend to be too pronounced, making some colors muddy. Every other company in this roundup offers better quality calendars.
Read our full Review of the Costco Photo Center.
Vistaprint’s calendar software is extremely restrictive. It doesn’t have any photo editing tools, background options, clip art, masks, or cutout shapes. Layouts are limited and cannot be changed. You can’t add a photo to a date grid page, and if you want the icon you’re placing (like a birthday cake) to show in color, you’ll need to pay extra.
On the other hand, the print quality of our Vistaprint calendar was surprisingly good with rich, lush colors, so it came in third after Printique and Mixbook. But given that Vistaprint’s calendar is priced the same as Printique and Mixbook, and it certainly doesn’t have their fun and creative software, we can’t imagine why you would want to choose Vistaprint for your calendar.
Read our full Vistaprint Reviews.
Photo calendar shipping times
If you want to order a photo calendar as a gift, you need to order it well in advance so that it arrives in time for the holidays. All of the best photo calendar services provide shipping times, which vary depending on the product you are ordering as well as the shipping method. Below are quick links to each of the service shipping times.
How we test and rate photo calendar services
This year, we tested five photo calendar creation services: Mixbook, Printique, Shutterfly, Costco and Vistaprint. However, if you want to see how other services have performed in recent years, here are links to our old reviews:
Examining the Artifact Insurgency
Walmart Photo Reviews
CVS Photo Review
To evaluate the calendar maker software, we used the following criteria:
- Ease of use
- User interface and workflow
- Creative flexibility
- Quality of templates, clip art, layouts and backgrounds
When we had all of our calendars printed, we assembled a jury of printing and photography experts as well as ordinary consumers to rate the products based on the following criteria:
- Overall attractiveness and quality of the physical calendar
- Photo quality
- Color and skin tones
- Dynamic range and exposure
- Focus and clarity
- Balancing of various images
- Text quality
- Paper quality
If a calendar had obvious and unexpected print quality flaws, we would order a reprint to see if the errors were a one-time occurrence.
In order not to blind the jury’s judgment, each calendar was identified by a number rather than the name of the company. However, some calendars had the names of the sellers printed on the last page. We therefore discouraged the jury from looking at the backs of the calendars until after the judgment.
We rated the software separately from the printed calendar, then averaged the software and calendar scores for an overall rating of the book. We also factored the cost into our overall assessment. In our print evaluations, we placed the utmost importance on the quality of the reproduction of the photos of the services, because that is the whole purpose of a photo calendar.