I recently purchased a picturewall in order to add some accents to my otherwise boring apartment. It’s been on my to do list forever and now that I own a couch, hanging up some “fotografs,” as Caitlin puts it, was my next priority.

A quick run to Costco today allowed me to add a few photos.

Picturewall (detail)

Review of the picturewall

The picturewall is a great idea created by “The Picturewall Company” which is probably a single guy sitting behind his DSL account.

The main weakness is the set up is definitely overpriced: $350 for 10 frames. For reference, the nicest non-custom frames come from Umbra and will run you from $15 to $25 each. But the picturewall is convenient and I figured worth a shot.

The picturewall box advertises the ”Made in China” like it is a point of pride. One one hand, I have to applaud them given how hard it is normally to find the “Made in China” mark, on the other hand… the frames were full of dust and they over-glued the black and white sample images to the mattes. At least one frame had the finish nicked off on the sides. Another frame had the plexiglass covering missing. I guess the person who inspected it was asleep at the wheel. I can’t say who it was because it just says: “Inspected by unreadable Chinese characters”—really helpful guys! (Caitlin e-mailed the company and they’re sending us a replacement plexiglass.)

Speaking of plexiglass, the FAQ in the instructions brags about how they felt that plexiglass is “worth the extra cost.” Is this true? I actually prefer plexiglass to glass (because of the weight and breakage), but isn’t that the stuff they use in cheap poster framing places like PrintsPlus? In any case, they helpfully remind you not to use ammonia-based solvents like Windex when cleaning it. (They recommend using warm water, but I bet a 50/50 solution of rubbing alchohol and distilled water will do a better job of it.)

Since I was going up the stairs with this one, I had to use the stair template. One nice thing about the templates is they are reusable—they include a nice set of Scotch brand removeable double stick tape which I wish I had known existed before this as it would have saved me a lot of pain re: hanging up other stuff around the apartment. A bad thing about it is the marks won’t be relevant to just any frame. Another bad thing in the case of the stair template is that it consists of two sheets. Aligning the two templates perfectly was next to impossible so I live with the error.

Beyond that setup was a breeze. They include the regular crappy frame nails which I’m sure the people on the other side of the wall must have enjoyed my banging with the hammer at 1AM. (They run their rap music at full blast during the day. Surprisingly, they bang on my wall when I watch a movie at any volume, but didn’t respond to my hammering this time.) After that, you just hang them up and not worry so much about a few milimeters of misalignment.

A big surprise with the templates was finding out that they seem biased toward vertical aspect photos on the stairwells and biased toward the horizontal aspect ones on the wall. Look at the photos on their website and you will see what I mean. For example in my case, I had the following openings: 7 4×6″, 2 6×4″, 1 14×6″ and 1 11×14″. That’s 8 portraits, 2 landscapes, and one panoramic and that ratio will continue even if I add more.

I’m very pleased with the results though.

Picturewall (from below)Picturewall (from above)

The picturewall finally says “Someone lives here!”

Printing at Costco

The next step was to get rid of the “artistic” black and white filler they included with the frames (it was very clever of them since these sort of shots could go just as well rotated 90 degrees). This meant printing at Costco again.

The reason I use Costco for this sort of thing is that they have Dry Creek Photo color calibrate their printers. The calibration for the Costco in Mountain View is a Noritsu 3000 series Laser Printer on Fuji Crystal Archive Paper. In case you are wondering, this is a 320dpi printer, not a 300dpi one. (A quick call home to Caitlin asking her to read me one of the backs of an earlier Costco print help me figure that one out.)

Since I needed at least two 14″ prints ($3/print), I couldn’t use the online Costco service (Snapfish). This is all well and good because I forgot how their website worked anyway, and my local Costco added a second Noritsu printer since the last time I was there, which was going to complicate things (two printers=two different calibrations).

Caitlin selected a number of photos yesterday and I proofed them and a few extras for printing out using the technique on their website delta one small change. I first resized the image to the larger dimension using Image Size, and then I did the Canvas Size recommended in the instructions. (I messed up the print dimensions of the 11×14″ print, so there is a slight black bar visible on the image. I’ll have to reprint that one sometime.)

I dumped the outputs onto my memory card and then went to Costco. When I got there, the guy told me to just use the terminal despite the files being precalibrated, needing output on their old printer only, and memory cards usually triggering digital media corrections. He claimed that they had turned off all the autocorrecting features, but you can imagine I was quite worried. He said it would take an hour and a half and to come back at 7:30PM (which was actually just over half an hour from that time, increasing my worry on whether or not they would be competent).

(By the way, the terminal interface is very quick, but really poorly done when you want to select a bunch of photos out of a batch. In fact, I forgot to print out three 4×6″ prints because I missed a navigation arrow somewhere. This meant one of my horizontal shots and one of my vertical ones were not the ones Caitlin wanted. Oh yeah, I also mistyped my name so now the backs of my photos read “TERRRY CHAY.”)

When I showed up after 8PM, they had everything done but the finishing on the 14″ prints. I looked at the back and much to my relief they were true to their word and no color, contrast, or sharpness corrections had been done. Score another one for Costco photo over Walmart!

One small quibble: Costco blows up the 4×6″ prints about 2% and you lose about that much when they cut them. It isn’t much, but it’s noticeable to someone like me. Of course, at 17 cents/print, it’s really hard to get worked up over this.


For the curious, the images I put up on the picturewall were (from left to right, bottom to top): Clouds approach Mt. Tam, Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, unknown purple flower, Redwoods and West Berry Creek, Yellow flower backlit, Multnomah Falls, Angel Island at Dawn, Upper Yosemite and Half Dome, Footbridge over West Waddell Creek, Gibson Baby, and What’s in her bag (to go)?.

3 thoughts on “Picturewall

  1. Do you have a contact number for this company? I ordered a picture wall in June 2007 and have been charged but have not received any product?? When I try e-mail it bounces back to me. I found a phne number on the internet but have called several times and left messages and no response. Does this company really exist or have I lost $350?? Please let me know. Thank You Misty

  2. Hey, can you give me the dimensions of the frames that you used to make this AWESOME layout? I want to try something similar on my stairwell… Thanks!

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