Geek Gifts 2011: CanvasPop photo printing service

TechRepublic Senior Editor Selena Frye reviews the CanvasPop photo printing service that allows you to turn any prize photo into art on an archival quality canvas.

I am not a professional photographer and I'm not even a very good amateur photographer, but like many people, every now and then, I snap a pretty nice picture by accident. And now that nearly everyone has a decent camera built right into their ever-present smartphones, we can snap away like paparazzi at a movie premiere — even if we're only sending a picture of some really excellent beer to a sibling (not that I've ever done that).

If you've ever taken a picture — either by accident or design — that you think is particularly artistic or interesting, there is a service that can help you turn it into something a little more special than a 5x7 glossy. With CanvasPop, you can upload any digital image and turn it into an actual piece of art, printed on archival quality canvas. I gave the service a spin, using one of my, um, quirkily composed, vacation photos from Paris — a close-up of the facade of Notre Dame at night.

Specifications

CanvasPop has a very user-friendly interface and a clean design. They make it easy to place your order. Here are some of the basics:

  • Virtually any size or resolution image can be uploaded in any format for printing
  • Wide range of standard canvas sizes or you can choose a customized size
  • Single or multi-panel designs are available
  • Choose a rolled canvas or frame and thickness options (here is the price chart)
  • CanvasPop technicians will help you fine-tune your image and even remove red-eye for free
  • Various filters and effects are available
  • Free digital proofs of your selection for final approval

Easy ordering, lots of options

It really is an easy process. I decided to do a middle-of-the-road selection with my photo, figuring if they could turn my iPhone snap into something pretty snazzy, then some of the fancier options would really be worth it for a special photo. Figure A shows the clean interface that greets you as you begin the Create and Order process:

Figure A

The image I uploaded is at right. Here are all the options that I chose:

  • Single Panel Canvas
  • Size: 8 X 10
  • Frame: 0.75" deep
  • Edge: Black Border
  • Effect: Black & White
  • Apply PicturePerfect (this is their in-house fine-tuning)
  • Free Digital Proof

These options will set you back $49 + shipping (free shipping currently for orders over $150). After submitting your order you will promptly receive your details via email. The next day, I received another email with a link to log in to the site and approve my free digital proofs. At this point, you can cancel, decide to make changes, or give final approval.

In a little over a week, my box arrived, securely wound in layers of bubble wrap. Here is the view of the back of the canvas — very securely wrapped and stapled with the wire hanger attached, and signed by the technician who put it together — a nice touch:

Here is my canvas propped on the mantel:

Photography skills aside, I was really pleased with the overall quality, including the Black & White effect that I chose. Best of all, it's ready to hang on the wall when it arrives unless you opt to have it sent as a rolled canvas and want to do your own framing.

I had no problems during the process, but CanvasPop offers a LiveChat option if you need to ask some questions about your order, or just need some advice. You also can't argue with the guarantee — if you don't like it, they'll re-print it or give you your money back. They also offer a lifetime guarantee against cracking, fading, or bubbling.

Geek bottom line

Geeks everywhere should welcome a gift idea that is fast, easy, and unique. Not only can you turn some of your favorite shots into art for your home, it could make a great gift for family members or special someones who would appreciate something personal and maybe even a little sentimental.

Geek Gift Score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: *****
  • Geek factor: ***
  • Value: ****
  • Overall: ****

For more reviews of tech gadgets, gizmos, games, and books, download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2011.