Photo Mugs (Picture-on-Mug Gift Item)
Reviews and Recommendation

Photo processors reviewed: Shutterfly, Photoworks, Kodak, Costco, Wal-Mart
Update December 2011: Photoworks was acquired by Shutterfly, so I decided to give them a try. The ordering process was much better than I've seen in the past. Now you can choose the number and arrangement of photos on the mug, for example, one long horizontal photo that wraps around the whole mug, two photos side-by-side, three photos side-by-side, montage, and so on, with up to 14 pictures on one mug. Also, there's a preview page where you can rotate the mug and see what it will actually look like:

Shutterfly mug ordering

You can crop and enlarge the photos for placement on the mug, which is great. However, the crop lines can't go outside the picture. If you want to put just one picture on the mug, and you want white space surrounding it, the crop tool won't let you do it. One way to get around this problem is to go into Photoshop or some similar tool and add a bunch of white space on the left and right sides of your photo, then upload it to Shutterfly. Then you can just print out your long panoramic photo with white on either side, wrapped around the mug.

I ordered two mugs and they arrived just four days later. The cost was about $11 per mug plus $9 shipping. The pictures are sharp and well-aligned to the mug. The only flaw is that the color is slightly too yellow. If I was picky, I might send them back and ask them to re-do it. On the bottom of the mug is an orca logo and the words Orca Coatings, and Made in China. 


Update 2010: Based on the few samples of photo mugs that I''ve tried, I recommend the Yahoo! Target photo mugs available from Yahoo! Photos. The cost is $9.95 per mug plus shipping. Be sure to crop the pictures the way you want before you submit them for printing.

Update 2008: I no longer recommend Target for their photo mugs. Try Photoworks instead.

Please let me know how your mugs came out by following the Guest Register link at the bottom of this web page. I'll publish selected responses here.

Picture of
                  better-quality photo mugs
Better-quality mugs from old
Wal-Mart and Yahoo!/Target

Photo of crummy mugs
Lesser-quality photo mugs from
Kodak (Ophoto) and Costco

Photo Mug Quality

You can order an 11-oz. coffee mug with your digital photograph printed on it. Many photo processing companies offer this service. The photo quality varies considerably. A company that makes good photo prints on paper does not necessarily make good photo mugs. I've tried four different brands.


The first photo mug supplier I tried was Wal-Mart, in early 2003. The results were great! The photo on the mug extends from the very top edge to the very bottom of the mug. The picture is sharp and the color balance and exposure are perfect. Unfortunately, when I tried ordering some more mugs a few months later in 2003, the results were terrible! The new ordering software was full of bugs. It would let you crop and pan the picture left, but not right. The mugs came out with very poor exposure and color. I returned them for a refund.

Kodak (Ophoto)

In 2004, I ordered a single mug from Ophoto (now Kodak EasyShare). The picture came out OK, but a little too yellow, and not as sharp as my first mug from Wal-Mart.


In December 2005, I ordered three mugs from Costco. The pictures on the mug were out of focus! This was very disappointing, considering that their regular photo prints on paper are very good. On one mug, the picture was tilted by a couple of millimeters.

Yahoo! / Target

Yahoo and Target jointly market a photo processing service. I decided to try their mugs in December 2005. The picture quality was very good, as good as my original Wal-Mart mug. Their mug-ordering software does not allow cropping, and I was afraid that they would enlarge and crop the pictures to make them fit the available space on the mug, so I did not crop the original picture. However, they printed the pictures "full-frame" without cropping, leaving a white space around the picture. They placed the picture directly opposite from the handle, whereas the others placed the picture just to the left of the handle.

Both of the better-quality mugs, one from Wal-Mart in early 2003 and the other from Yahoo! Target in late 2005, have the word THAILAND embossed on the bottom. Does some manufacturer in Thailand provide mug-printing equipment or services for different photo processing companies?

THAILAND photo mugs

Update March 2008: Yahoo and Target no longer market their photo processing services. I tried a mug from Target and the quality was not very good. The colors were off from the start and began fading with ordinary use within a couple of months. It did not say THAILAND on the bottom. Not recommended.


I tried a mug from PhotoWorks in April 2006. The picture quality was good. The word THAILAND was embossed on the bottom. The cost was about $15, with free shipping due to a temporary promotion.

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