Prints Versus Posters

How can we tell prints from posters? With modern pigment inks and proper care they can stay fresh and vibrant for many decades.

There was a time when posters were produced to be disposable. They were printed on thin, cheap paper. And they used cheap inks that would deteriorate with the action of air and moisture. So the posters didn’t last. But now the quality of inks is so good that it’s a toss up whether you call something a print or a poster.

Maybe you can tell them apart because people produce them for different reasons and purposes. Or maybe there are real differences in quality.

People say that prints are more expensive, made by artists and printed in small runs. And printed on thicker paper.

We have to go back to when posters became popular and why they were made to understand why people think of prints and posters differerently.

The Nineteenth Century Cult Of Celebrity

Photography took off in the second half of the nineteenth century. By the early 1860s, around 400 million photographic cards of celebrities were sold every year in Britain alone. The population of Britain in 1860 was around 20 million. So that’s 20 photo cards for every man, woman, and child in the country. And that was just thirty five years after photography was invented.

Posters have an interesting history. In the 19th century they were printed to advertise everything from shows, to cafes, to railway journeys. At the same time, artists like Toulouse Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard were happy to use their skill to design posters.

And when an advertising campaign was over, people would take the posters and put them on their walls at home. And that’s how the mass market for cheap art at home began.

Art and Advertising

Today the differences between prints and posters depends on how who made the original art work. And then it comes down to the numbers printed. A poster is rarely considered to be a valuable work of art simply because of the numbers.

Prints versus Posters

Of course a cheap poster printed on thin, glossy paper is a cheap item. But who says posters have to be printed on paper like that? Nowadays we can print on museum-quality, thick matt paper with pigment inks that will last for decades.

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