Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fridge Magnets from your Own Photos


This is not a pure DIY project in the sense I also used a third party company to achieve my goal. Nevertheless, it's a fun and pleasant one if you like photography as I do (I am also a photographer). In this article I will describe a novel way of using your favorite photographs.

A sheet of my very own fridge magnets

Searching for the new stuff

I am currently in the process of organizing a photographic exhibition of my own photographs. While looking for printing services online I came across a few companies who do prints on special materials, like wood, leather, stone, etc. I immediately liked the idea of "jazzing up" the exhibition with some merchandise other than a catalog of the exhibits, but I wasn't very warm about pictures printed on, say, a piece of wood. After some more digging I found a German company called PicPack printing images on fridge magnets. The price also looked OK for a test run, so I decided to do a test run to see if the quality is up to my expectations.

Below I am going to share my experiences and thoughts with this test run. Also, had I read an article like this before I used the service I review here, I would have had much better results for the first try. So I hope this will be useful for some.


Unfortunately, only square shaped magnets are available at the moment at PicPack - a constraint that I don't particularly like: a photographer should be able to choose the format of his/her piece of art. The company doesn't make a secret of the fact that they love Instagram - you can use your images directly from your Instagram account (if you have one, that is). Uploading of your images without Instagram is also possible, I chose this option. I just hope they will offer different shapes as well in the future.


I haven't found any recommendations on PicPack's site as to image size, so I went for the highest I had for each photograph. For a "regular" print (on photographic paper) my rule of thumb is to have at least 200 pixel per inch. This means that for 5.8cm (2.28") I need at least 457 pixels to get a sharp image on the magnet. My photos are usually way higher in resolution, so this was not an issue.

Upload, select, buy

The uploading of images is painless: just drag-and-drop your photos to the appropriate area in the browser:
Since the images are high resolution ones, it took a long time to get to this stage...
Once you have the images uploaded you select the ones you want to have on the magnets. You can select a specific image more than once, and the total number of selected images must be 12 because they can fit 12 magnets on a sheet that they chop up later, I guess, with a laser cutter. (If they don't use a laser cutter for this, they should! :) )
Multiple copies of a single image are OK, too.
Once you're happy with your selection hit Buy and check out. Couldn't be simpler.

Packaging, shipping

After just a little longer than a week I already received the package with the magnets. I would say this is a reasonable shipping time within the EU, but outside the country of origin.

The moment of truth - just opened the package!
I expected the magnets stacked, next to each other with some bubble wrap around them, but instead they arrived as a sheet in a protective cardboard envelope. Nice surprise! I even had to pick the individual magnets out of the sheet once they belonged to.

Quality of the final fridge magnets


A problem I spotted immediately is that there is a 4.5mm dead area in between the magnets, but the images are placed back to back. This means that each photo is missing a bit more than 2 mm on all sides. This is something that can be planned for in future orders, but PicPack should mention this on their web site.

A part of each image is chopped off. This needs to be mentioned on PicPack's web site so that it could be accounted for when people prepare the images.
An interesting question would be this: if I send the images files with a 2 mm white frame around them (as it should be according to my first test run) will the magnets come out correctly, or PicPack will "correct" them and I will end up with the same result?

Picture quality

On the positive side, the images look clear, clean and vivid on the magnets. I am really happy with the color reproduction. I need to use a magnifying glass to see the actual dots printed on the magnet.

Dots visible on this macro shot are not visible with the naked eye.


I am also happy with the material of the magnets:
  • they are thin (a little thicker than 1 mm)
  • they bend, which is important because many fridges (including ours) have a slight curve on their door.
  • they are not too strong - they are strong enough to hold some pieces of paper on the fridge, but weak enough so that kids can't harm themselves with them.


According to their web site, PicPack has been around for a few years only. This is probably an explanation for some of the shortcomings of their services, e.g. only one size/shape available, only one material available, no customization options available at the preparation/ordering stage, chopped off images, etc.

On the other hand, the most important part of their service, i.e. the good quality prints on good quality material, is right there where it should be.

Packaging is also adequate.

Price is also acceptable, especially for small batches. For higher quantities they should offer better prices as most print shops do.

I would also like to see more (technical) details on the manufacturing process on PicPack's web site. This would allow better planning/preparation on the customers' side.

All in all, I am fairly happy with the first results. I hope the next time the magnets will look even better as I will plan for the chopped off areas.