Where to Print: Outputting a Unique NASA Poster Using WhiteWall’s Online Lab Services

It’s no secret that the online photo lab WhiteWall is one of our favorite services for making gallery-worthy prints of our favorite images. Back in 2015, Shutterbug Editor-at-Large George Schaub reviewed WhiteWall’s services for our website and came away impressed. WhiteWall also just received TIPA's “Best Photo Service” award for 2017, and I’ve, personally, used them for printing a number of my photos on a variety of surfaces including acrylic and metal and have been very pleased with the results.

My wife and I recently bought a new apartment and were looking for something a little different to hang on the wall and I decided to try out WhiteWall’s services again. The following is a short, “mini-review” about my experiences.

The Project

Our new apartment has a modern feel to it and while several of the walls are filled with my photos and other artwork we’ve collected over the years, we thought the living room needed something unique that fit the modern decor. NASA, via its Jet Propulsion Laboratory, recently released 15 photo illustrations titled “Visions of the Future,” which show various planets and moons in our solar system as if they were science fiction tourist destinations. (And who knows: they may be one day!)

We liked the style of these illustrations and decided on one that would look great in our new home: an image depicting NASA’s Voyager mission as “The Grand Tour” of the solar system. The benefit of this artwork being produced by government-funded NASA is that the public can download high-resolution files of the posters for free. Sized at 20 x 30 inches, The Grand Tour image was a massive 206MB TIFF file suitable for printing.

Our budget for this poster print was $200-250, which was in range of what WhiteWall could offer.

The Process

WhiteWall is based in Cologne, Germany but US customers would probably never know it. You do all your ordering via WhiteWall.com, which has a US version that comes up first in Google searches from this country. The site itself is extremely clean, attractive and user-friendly.

If I do have one criticism, it’s that the amount of choices can be overwhelming. Everything, however, is very well organized. Across the top you can choose from six categories: Acrylic Photo Prints, Metal Prints, Framed Prints, Canvas Prints, Prints, And More. And when you click on each category, a bevy of additional options for each choice pop up. For instance, under Acrylic Prints, which I was interested in, you can choose an acrylic photo print, an original photo print under acrylic glass, an ultraHD print under acrylic glass, a Kodak metallic photo print under acrylic glass and several other iterations.

Photographers can be perfectionists so I’m guessing they’ll love all this specificity. I was in a bit of a rush – getting settled into a new home can be stressful! – so I looked under the handy Our Recommendations section on the homepage and went with the “Original Photo Print Under Acrylic Glass” option, which I figured would give me the best quality for my budget.

Next I uploaded my 206MB NASA file to the WhiteWall site and went about choosing a size. I didn’t see a 20 x 30-inch option on the first page but when I clicked on the “More size options” panel, a massive number of sizes opened up. And sure enough, when I selected the Portrait option, a 20 x 30 size was listed in the 3:2 format section. The price was $234.95, which fit our budget perfectly.

If none of the myriad of size options fits your needs, there’s also a customized size feature where you can plug in your exact dimensions. Yes, while WhiteWall’s print options can be overwhelming, they are certainly comprehensive and should meet most if not all of your printing needs.

After ordering my acrylic photo print poster using the FedEx delivery option, I left on a business trip and was away from home for about a week. Because of the value of my order ($200+), WhiteWall requires some form of signature for delivery. Unfortunately, since I was out of town and FedEx made three attempts without getting a signature, my print got sent back to FedEx’s shipping center, which was quite far from where I live. I did manage to convince FedEx to deliver it to one of their stores, which was easier for me to get to, but the whole hassle could have been avoided if WhiteWall made the required signature caveat be an option for the customer rather than a default setting. Just a suggestion if WhiteWall is considering changing their shipping selections in the future.

On the plus side, WhiteWall’s speed from print to delivery is really quite impressive especially when you consider the high level of quality they offer (see details in the next section.) As I said earlier in this review, you would probably never guess that their actual lab operation is based across the pond in Germany.

The Results

WhiteWall does such an expert job in packing its prints that even though my acrylic poster had been through ringer as it got bounced around FedEx locations, the final product was in pristine shape when I unboxed it.

WhiteWall’s Acrylic Photo Prints are made on Fuji Crystal Archive DP II, which is a classic, glossy digital photo paper, designed for a variety of images with varying levels contrast. The print is layered under shatterproof acrylic glass with Aluminum Dibond backing and aluminum rails. All in all, it’s a very solid print product with a shiny, eye-catching finish.

The colors of the NASA illustration were rendered nearly perfectly: it looked exactly as it did in the TIFF file, with the red and maroon rings of Saturn, blue and green planet and orange streaks reproduced vibrantly and accurately. Even the creamy background with the eggshell white border was captured in the poster. Overall sharpness was excellent, which is something I thought might be diminished by the acrylic overlay. The text is easy to read and the unique fonts look accurately replicated.

Hanging my new piece of artwork was simple: I just pounded two nails into the wall and rested the aluminum rails on top of them. Done.

While we tested how WhiteWall handled photo prints in our earlier review, I wanted to see how this online printing service performed when printing out a photo illustration. And just as it did in our previous test, this Germany-based lab produced exceptional results with speed, accuracy and reasonable pricing. There are also more printing options than you can imagine; so many in fact that it can be a little overwhelming. But if you’re planning a gallery show or just want to hang artwork in your home, WallWall offers a comprehensive, high-quality solution that will fulfill most of your image printing needs.