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Poster vs. Fine Art Print - The Differences Explained

Author: Evelyn

Mar. 08, 2024

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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.

Breathe new life into your home with Concealed Beauty, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of a light beam in Upper Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona from his Slot Canyon gallery collection. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100. Photo © copyright by Max Foster

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.

Materials

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.

Production Methods

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.

Intended Lifetime

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.

Display

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.

Price

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.

Elevate your space with Renewal, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of Balsamroot wildflowers in Grand Teton National Park from his Mountain gallery collection. Fine Art Limited Edition of 100. Photo © copyright by Max Foster

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.

Breathe new life into your home with An Ocean Apart, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of Tunnels Beach, Kauai from his Hawaii gallery collection. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50. Photo © copyright by Max Foster

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.

Bring your walls to life with The Sounds of Silence, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of coast redwoods in Redwood National Park from his Forests & Trees gallery collection. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50. Photo © copyright by Max Foster

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.

Breathe new life into your home with Winter's Embrace, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of a hoar frost covered tree from his Winter gallery collection. Fine Art Limited Edition of 50. Photo © copyright by Max Foster

Conclusion

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.

What Is The Difference Between A Photographic Print And A Fine Art Print?

What Is A Photographic Print?

The difference between a photographic print and a fine art print has to do with the paper involved with the print. The photographic paper is not as of a high-quality paper as the fine art paper. Photographic paper has acid in the paper which can make the print fade, crack, or even make them brittle over time.

What Is A Fine Art Print?

Fine art prints are made with high-quality archival inks on acid free fine art papers using a high-resolution large format printer. These are also known as fine art giclee prints. These exquisite fine art papers are acid free because the acid content of other photographic print paper can make them brittle and crack over time. They will also turn yellow from too much exposure to light.

Fine art prints made with acid free fine art paper have a lifespan of over a hundred years and usually don't fade, crack or turn yellow. Fine art paper has to meet a certain quality criteria in order to be considered fine art paper. Fine art prints are highly sought after by photographers and artists when they select a paper for their clients. 

What Are Archival Inks?

My premium archival inks produce images with smooth tones and rich colors when used with my exquisite fine art papers. I use 5 different types of fine art papers when you shop for fine art in my store. Here is a description of each fine art paper I use personally and for my nature pictures.

CANSON® INFINITY PLATINE FIBRE RAG 310 GSM

This Semi-Gloss Fine Art paper is our favorite paper for making black & white prints that look like they came out of the darkroom. 100% Cotton

EPSON COLD PRESS BRIGHT WHITE

19mil, 100% Cotton based Watercolor Fine Art paper

MOAB ENTRADA BRIGHT RAG

A Bright White, Acid Free Smooth Fine Art paper. 290gsm, 100% Cotton

EPSON PREMIUM LUSTER

A Wide-Gamut Luster Fine Art paper. 260gsm, RC Paper

HAHNEMÜHLE TORCHON

A heavy Textured Fine Art paper. 285gsm, 100% a-Cellulose

I do offer normal photographic paper if you are looking for a less expensive option when ordering your print. 

I use only professional photo papers so that you always receive the longest lasting and highest quality photographic prints available:

Kodak ENDURA Lustre “E” Paper:

My default surface paper, featuring a fine grain pebble texture.

Kodak ENDURA Glossy “F” Paper:

Professional photo paper with a glossy finish.

Kodak ENDURA Metallic Paper:

Features a glossy finish and metallic appearance that creates images with exceptional visual interest and depth.

Fuji Pearl Paper: 

This glossy surface offers sharp detail, high intensity colors, and a distinctive pearl-like appearance. Perfect for competition and display prints.

Fuji Deep Matte Velvet Paper:

Professional paper with a deep matte non-reflective surface that feels velvety soft.

Conclusion

There are many types of photographic paper on the market, but these are the ones I use when I print my nature pictures and seascapes for my customers. The paper used on these prints are different from my Fine Art Prints. Please see Fine Art Prints to see the selections of paper I use for those. 

Poster vs. Fine Art Print - The Differences Explained

What Is The Difference Between A Photographic Print And A Fine Art Print?

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