Like many photographers out there, I recently saw an abundance of ads appearing in my Facebook news feed from Artisan State featuring their ‘Little Black Book’. I didn’t need much convincing, the product they appeared to sell looked good. Really good. A great price tag coupled with a unique design and plenty of options.
A few weeks ago I bit the bullet and bought a sample copy of the Little Black Book 8″x11″ (Landscape). After receiving my book, I can say I’m very happy with the results, read on to find out why.
UPDATE: I have created Lightroom print templates for the Artisan State Little Black Books. If you use Lightroom and want to create a little black book, then these are the templates for you.
I offer these for FREE, or you can choose to ‘Pay What You Want’ and pay what you feel is a fair price.
This allows you to create your layout in Lightroom and upload each page layout as a JPG to Artisan State.
Website and Ordering
OK so I’ll start at the very beginning. The website of Artisan State is simple, yet functional. Signing up and creating an account was easy enough, as was starting a new photo book project from the Create page. The Create page also has a useful calculator to check the cost of the book you’re creating in advance (as there are a variety of options that affect the cost).
Once you’ve selected the book you want you are guided into their online image editor. Here you can upload all your images and then use the editor to place and organise your book in a variety of pre-defined layouts, as well as your own.
They also give you the option to download a .PSD file with the page layout including bleed (trim) guides.
As I use Lightroom 5 for all my image editing, I chose to create my own print template based on the book specs and then uploaded the images into the Artisan State software. This is a simple process and ensures maximum flexibility and control over your layout.
Upon successful upload of your images, it’s a simple matter of dragging each image onto the corresponding page and guides. The software makes the process a little more realistic with a virtual page turn which is a nice way to preview how it’s all coming together.
The editor also allows you to place text on the front cover and spine of the book.
Once the order is complete sit back and wait for delivery via DHL.
Packaging & Delivery
This is one area that will be a bit hit or miss for the pros out there. When you’re ordering a photo book for a client, you almost certainly have a deadline. My experience with Artisan State is that it is not a fast service.
I ordered my book on the 14th January, and it didn’t arrive until the 3rd February to my temporary address here in the UK. As you can see from the image below, the book spent two weeks processing before it was shipped out via DHL.
Perhaps they had a large influx of orders and were just a little overloaded, but this sort of waiting time may not be acceptable to you if time is a priority.
As for the packaging itself: The box arrived in a standard DHL satchel. Inside this was a cardboard box with dense foam protecting the Little Black Book. The book itself was inside plastic sleeve. Simple and effective. There was no packing slip or invoice included which makes this great for drop shipping.
The Artisan State website states that the books are manufactured and printed in China, and indeed this is true. My DHL tracking info showed it was sent from Shanghai.
I’m pleased to say that the overall build quality really exceeded my expectations. Artisan State appear to have hit the nail on the head and found a sweet spot between quality and price. I’ve no complaints about the book and the way it’s bound together.
As advertised, the ‘Lay Flat’ design allows you to open each page out flat which works exceptionally well for full spread images and panoramas. I did notice however, that when laid out flat like this, the pages do not stay completely flat and tend to stick up a little (pictured below). This may be because the book is brand new, perhaps it will loosen up a little after a bit more use.
One thing I love about this book are the solid pages. Each page has a thin plastic core which keeps it rigid, a feature that will stop you worrying about creased pages for good. If feels solid and professional compared to regular prints. It also means you can open the book and stand it vertically to display your favourite page(s).
Artisan State also say they apply a water/stain resistant coating to repel water and fingerprints. This is a nice addition and gives you peace of mind that your book is safe from unexpected spills and smudges. As I purchased mine to be used as a gift, I decided not to test the water resistancy out for myself but can vouch for the fingerprint resistance (which is great by the way).
Unfortunately, I don’t have a macro lens to show you this, but one strange thing I did notice were small flecks dust embedded on some of the pages. I used my fingernail to scratch some off, but other spots were a little more stubborn. This is by no means a deal breaker, but I suspect that the dust may have stuck to the paper when the stain/water-resistant coating was applied, thus not so easy to remove.
One other thing I should note is that the book has a distinct smell of fresh glue. This will go away with time, but is caused by the book being packaged straight after production. Give it a little fresh air and it should be fine after a few days.
Print and Colour Reproduction
For my book I chose Fuji Pearl Metallic. I love vibrant colour in my photos and hoped the metallic print would live up to its reputation. You’ll be glad to hear it does. I’m a bit of a pixel peeper and having examined these prints up close can confirm the colour reproduction in exceptional. The metallic sheen from the Fuji Pearl paper is magical. The prints themselves are 300DPI so are sharp and full of detail as to be expected.
I’ve seen some other reviewers complain about over-saturated colours in their books, but I didn’t have this trouble with mine and am pleased with the results. Artisan State use the sRGB colour space for their printing, so be sure to check your images accordingly. Personally I like this as it gives me hope that what appears on my calibrated LCD will be pretty darn close to the end result without having to mess with colour profiles and soft proofing.
I also had a couple of black and white images in the mix and can say that the blacks are deep and the whites are white. The Fuji Pearl paper really works well with Black and White images.
Summary and Conclusion
Overall, I’m very happy with my Little Black Book from Artisan State.
The ordering and delivery was simple enough, albeit a little on the slow side when it came the book being manufactured (pros beware if you have tight deadlines).
The book is solid and has a professional quality to it.
Using Fuji Pearl Metallic paper, the prints really pop. Blue hues especially benefit from the metallic print, a great effect if you love vibrant colour.
One thing to note when ordering is that Artisan State offers sample books for 50% off when purchased as a sample (via a Coupon Code at Checkout). The samples are still the same quality, but come with a ‘SAMPLE, NOT FOR SALE’ stamp on the back cover.
Be sure to check out the Artisan State Help Page which has useful info that you should check out before ordering. (Removed – Link no longer active)
Overall Score: (9/10)
I should note that I am in no way associated with Artisan State and have not received any compensation for this review.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this review and find it useful. Feel free to leave a comment below.