What is the difference between a poster and a fine art print? This is a commonly asked question and for those not actively involved in creating, collecting or studying art it may be confusing. However, it is important to understand the differences as they affect the quality, printing materials, color reproduction, longevity, and ultimately cost. This article will discuss the differences between the two and help you decide which one is right for you.
What are the differences between posters and fine art prints?
Fine art prints are generally intended to be long lasting, quality reproductions of images or paintings that can be produced using a variety of materials and methods. Posters, on the other hand, are mass produced using low-cost methods and low-quality materials. Posters are intended to be disposable with a short lifespan. However, there are several nuances to consider, and the intended use is very important when deciding what is best for your unique situation.
Fine art prints can be produced using an endless array of materials. There are literally thousands of paper types and brands, all with unique characteristics. Most commonly these papers are categorized into glossy paper, lustre paper, matte paper or other high-end papers such as metallic. Each of these have different characteristics, and you can find a detailed explanation between them here. The common element among all of these is that they are intended for high-quality reproductions using giclee or chemical based photographic development processes.
Posters are commonly mass produced using thin semigloss paper. These are generally shipped by rolling them into a tight circle and inserted into a plastic sheath. Damage often occurs due to lack of protection and thin materials.
Fine art prints are produced using chemical based photographic machines such as lightjet printers or inkjet / giclee printers that use a high-resolution print head. Both methods can produce images with extremely high resolution in which colors and tones seamlessly transition. This is the current pinnacle of physical print production. Posters use ink-based printers meant for mass production. As such, the printing is completed much faster than fine art prints and is of a lower, less detailed resolution.
Fine art prints often have a 100 year lifespan or longer. Colors and contrast should last a lifetime, providing they are not displayed in direct sunlight. Posters often fade after only a few years, even when not in direct sunlight. This is due to the low quality inks used that are susceptible to UV radiation and air contaminants. Additionally, the thin paper used often curls and ripples with humidity exposure, even when framed.
Perhaps the most significant difference between posters and fine art prints is how they are displayed. Fine art prints either require framing or must be face mounted to clear acrylic. High-end framing consists of a wood or metal frame, a precision-cut mat and clear glass or acrylic to protect the print. Face mounted prints are adhered directly to clear acrylic glass. These can use a float mount that provides a frameless appearance or be framed and matted for a beautiful luxury fine art presentation.
Posters are generally considered to be disposable and temporary. With that in mind many people will pin them to a wall or use a slide hanger. However, some posters are limited edition and become valuable due to that rarity. Professional framers can utilize a rigid backer and traditional frame and matting to create a look like a fine art print.
Fine art prints are considerably more expensive than posters due to the fine quality materials and individual production methods used. Preparation of files for printing takes significant mastering, including sharpening, luminosity adjustments, contrast adjustments and creating test prints. The papers used are chemically reactive or inkjet printable, both of which are costly. Packaging alone can exceed the cost of a poster print. Posters rarely exceed $100 in price and are made with low cost materials.
Should You Purchase A Poster Or A Fine Art Print?
This is entirely dependent upon what your intentions are with art. Fine art prints are a long term investment that are intended to be displayed with quality frames or with frameless float mounts. They will last a lifetime, offer significant “wow-factor” and are the ultimate in physical image reproduction.
Posters are usually intended as a temporary display to suit certain needs. Collectors of memorabilia from feature films, sports enthusiasts and those interested in other non-fine art subjects frequently purchase posters. Subjects such as landscapes, city scenes, abstract art and painting reproductions are sometimes found in poster format, but again these are not meant to replace the high-quality fine art print. If you like to change décor frequently and cheaply, posters may be a fit.
Are Posters Art?
Art is subjective and is not reliant on the print medium to be categorized as art. If your budget does not allow you to purchase a fine art print and you find a suitable image in poster format, buy it! Although fine art prints can be a worthy investment, their cost can be prohibitive. Posters may not offer the same benefits of longevity, quality and presentation but they can still provide an emotional connection with an image.
Are Fine Art Prints Worth the Price?
Fine art prints may be expensive, but their quality construction, long lasting inks, fine details and superb presentation can make them well worth the price. With the ability to last a lifetime and beyond, the initial purchase price may be less costly each year versus replacing lesser quality pieces frequently.
Although fine art prints and posters have many differences, there is no right or wrong answer regarding which is best for you. This depends on your interests, needs and budget. That being said, I believe high quality fine art prints are extremely impressive and can be a statement piece for any room at home or in the workplace.