zentao.com trademark logoComparing two online giclee fine art Print-On-Demand shops for artists and photographers — Finerworks and Imagekind.


THE BASICS

Both Finerworks and Imagekind run on .asp architecture. The difference in their web interfaces is considerable, though. While Imagekind’s seems straight-forward and easy, its failures are notorious. Lots of server failures, thumbnails not showing up, gallery problems, uploader issues, deletion problems (and the resulting copyright infringement issues)…to name the tip of the iceberg, problems which are not addressed in a timely, efficient manner. (See extensive documentation on Imagekind’s forum or ask Revad at www.revad.com, a programmer who has extensive insider knowledge of the flaws and gremlins that persist even today.) Finerworks requires a little more effort from its artists (watch the tutorial). But, so far, for me, (I’m loading big .TIFs) the experience has been flawless, with extremely pleasing results.

Both Imagekind and Finerworks use state-of-the-art Epson printers.

Both Imagekind and Finerworks use museum quality archival substrates.

Imagekind offers framing (farming it out to framing shops for fulfillment); Finerworks doesn’t.


PLUSES AND MINUSES FOR IMAGEKIND

The plus side of Imagekind

  • They have a BIG web presence, and it’s going to get bigger since now Cafepress owns them.
  • Their print quality is excellent.
  • They have a pretty open, uncensored forum for their artists, refreshing in a day when most online enterprises quash any negative member feedback. (How long this will last since Cafepress took ownership remains to be seen.)

The downside of Imagekind:

  • You will struggle to get your images printed at sizes you want on the substrates you designate IF you are an artist who likes to control those aspects (I am.). Their “container” sizes are hostile to anything not “standard” and are set in concrete. So, if you want your print exactly this by this in inches/millemeters, plan to put white borders around your work so it prints inside the container sizes, then EMAIL care@imagekind.com and warn them that, yes, you want the PRINT AREA at X by X size.
  • Imagekind drop-shipping is specifically designed for Imagekind promotion, and does nothing at all for the artist whose work is being drop-shipped. When Imagekind drop ships, the packages are smothered in Imagekind stickers, customer incentives to purchase more printing and framing from Imagekind (not from you, the artist whose print they shipped), customer incentives to become art sellers themselves at Imagekind, ad infinum, ad nauseum.
  • Imagekind promises a lot, but doesn’t quite deliver in the area of artist promotion. A “platinum” or “pro” membership nets you a monthly or yearly bill with no perks except more space. The Platinum or Pro member artist gets no special benefits on their website or a place in Imagekind’s marketing strategies. In fact, Imagekind is big on marketing themselves…to Flickr users and to artists who want to sell prints, not to art buyers. In fact, Imagekind’s main focus seems to be selling themselves to anyone wanting to print and/or sell photos and art. Their focus is not selling prints to art buyers…except, perhaps, their “old masters” and “classical artists” print run remainders.
  • Imagekind’s website design seems specifically tailored to try to siphon off an artist’s customers during the shopping and purchase fulfillment process.
  • Imagekind’s shopping cart is not exactly user-friendly.
  • Imagekind’s search engine is, plain and simple, B-A-D…but, then, Finerworks doesn’t have one, so…no comparison.
  • Some of Imagekind’s advertising is misleading…to both buyers and sellers.
  • Imagekind is big on marketing themselves through their artists, but not good at reciprocating. “No follow” is their rule for off-site links leading to an artist’s personal website…which is totally bogus because the major search engine’s no follow rule only applies to paid-for advertising. So Imagekind is doing the no-follow strictly as a self-serving function to the detriment of their artist members. In other words, everything can point to Imagekind, but Imagekind won’t point to an artist member, contributing to that member artist’s web presence. Reciprocal linking is specifically denied in Imagekind’s web programming.



PLUSES AND MINUSES FOR FINERWORKS

The plus marks for Finerworks are:

  • Excellent print quality.
  • Artists have complete print size and substrate control. Your art is printed at the size you choose and at the DPI you set, not resized to fit convenient “containers.”
  • White label drop shipping from Finerworks is good for the artst: When Finerworks drop ships, the works look like they come directly from the artist, not from Finerworks.
  • Finerworks doesn’t attempt to siphon off your customer to other products and artists like Imagekind does.
  • Finerworks DOES NOT SELL “classics.” In other words, at Finerworks, unlike Imagekind, you aren’t competing with cheap remainders of Van Gogh, Degas, Ansel Adams, Warhol, Monet, Picasso, Rembrandt, Dali…sold at clearance sale prices from big art publisher syndicates.
  • Your personal Finerworks‘ website and gallery is your own, not a cluttered page of branded advertising for the venue.

The down side:

  • There is no real way of finding an artist and their work on Finerworks…except to laboriously click through the members listings, page by page. No search engine to speak of…but, then, Imagekind’s search engine is a notorious DOG, so they both fail there.
  • Finerworks doesn’t have the big “face” or “presence.” It isn’t well known…yet. Instead of 50,000 artists, it only has a couple of hundred members. I hope that changes. I think Finerworks provides things in ways Imagekind doesn’t, and Imagekind provides things Finerworks doesn’t.



While I presently use them both, I look forward to seeing each becoming better and better. Each could be leaders in the online art world to benefit both artists and art buyers.