Most of us grew up with posters hanging in our rooms and we’re used to seeing them as advertisements hung around the city. However, as fine art prints are becoming more common, most casual consumers still don’t know the difference between the two or know when to opt for one versus the other. We see the option for fine print in the store and it usually has a higher price tag; but why is that exactly?
Fine art printing has become more popular and consumers are slowly shifting away from traditional posters as their needs are changing. So what is fine art printing? Why are so many printing companies offering this and what justifies the higher price? It comes down to a few factors not only about quality but also about possibilities. Fine art printing and posters each have their role in society and today we’re going to break down the main differences.
If you’ve ever been inside a major museum, you’ve probably walked through the gift shop and looked at the posters that they sell of the artwork for cheap. You’ve probably also been in a print shop and seen the “poster price” vs. the “fine art print” price. What are the differences between a fine art print and a poster that would merit a price difference? The images both seem to look the same, so why should one cost more than the other?
First off, printing has become more of an art in the recent years as technology has advanced. As regards posters, you can achieve decent results at home or in most print shops thanks to digital printing. But for really big projects companies want better quality and price. As a result, they typically turn to offset printing which allows them to produce posters by the thousands while getting better reproductions of the original piece and also being affordable.
This is crucial because, unless it’s autographed, nobody is willing to spend more than $10 on a New England Patriots or Lady Gaga poster. Hence, production cost must be kept low. This is why posters often use paper and ink that bring a decent return on investment. The quality isn’t perfect but if you take care of a poster correctly it will last years.
In comparison, fine art printing focuses on quality instead of quantity. Poster reproductions of a famous painting might sell at $3 each while a thousand fine art prints of the same work might sell at $35 each. Cost of production is important but definitely not crucial here. Hence, it all boils down to quality: fine art prints use better quality inks and printing surfaces, better resemble the original work, and will deteriorate much slower than a poster.
Still, graphic designers and technology have advanced so much that most of us cannot tell the difference between a fine art print and a poster produced freshly from a printer. Both will have amazing colors and quality when printed and it won’t be until a few years pass by that you can really spot the difference. So let’s take a closer look at fine art and poster prints:
Many printing companies offer fine art prints but few consumers really know what that means. The ink and the surface used to print on are different than traditional poster prints. If it’s paper, the paper will be a lot thicker, the inks will last a lot longer, and the quality of the image will be much better. Fine art prints aren’t just reserved to paper, it’s also possible to do fine art printing on other materials like wood, canvas, copper, plastic, and pretty much anything you can imagine. Different printing surfaces can give your image a different feel and really let you get creative with decoration, art, or with preserving your photos. Additionally, fine art prints are not just a “photocopy”, thanks to the superior quality and longevity they can actually increase in value over time.
Poster prints are still the choice for consumers who need to mass produce and for people who want something fast immediately. Think back to the days of your childhood and remember the posters you used to have hanging up in your room; they probably weren’t fine art prints. When you got old enough to throw them away, or maybe you still have them, you realized that the picture and the colors weren’t as vibrant as you remember them when you were a kid. If that poster were a fine art print, it would have stayed in much better shape. The bright colors can lose their vibrancy first and over time you’re left with a faded picture if not maintained well. Poster’s are still a great way to print an image and they don’t lose their colors as fast when you frame and keep them away from overexposure to light.
The strongest reason to focus on fine art prints for business is the quality of the print, longevity, and possibilities to print on any surface. Maybe you want to give your restaurant a unique industrial vibe so you print the artwork onto copper or brass plates instead of hanging up framed posters. Or maybe you manage a small office and find that the framed posters on the wall don’t look anything like when you first hung them up. Even hotels are opting more and more toward fine art prints because the price of replacing and reframing posters every few years ends up being more expensive.
There are more possibilities to unleash your creativity and the cost of buying posters every few years and framing them can actually be higher than doing a fine art print once. If you are in the business of art, reproducing some of your original works on fine prints can be another small income stream because you can sell the prints at much higher costs than a poster and the art community is willing to pay for them.
The biggest advantage that posters have over fine art prints is volume. Some businesses need to promote an event or need hundreds or thousands of copies. In that case, price and production time are much more important than quality. Think of the 80/20 rule. Companies need to see return on their marketing campaign investment so they prefer to acquire 800 decent posters for 20$ rather than spending 800$ on 20 awesome ones, of which people will throw away 19 most likely anyway. Also, as posters are much cheaper to produce, the losses are minimal if you overproduce. Additionally, they are also easy to ship as when transporting fine art prints, you have to be very careful not to disturb or ruin the ink.
Most consumers aren’t aware that they need the added quality even if it’s for a personal print at home. It’s becoming common for people to print their wedding, birthday, and other important photos on fine art prints because they will stand the test of time. These are as close to the original quality as can be and can be printed on not just paper. If you want to print your favorite photo onto a metallic or canvas surface, it’s possible.
Posters are great for commercial use. They’re cheap and easy to mass produce, especially with offset printing. Even if the small consumer continues to trend toward fine art prints for their photos at home, the large consumer will stay with the cheaper option simply because of the return on investment. Smaller consumers of posters also still keep using them. Printing a cartoon poster for your eight year old son’s room still makes sense because in a few years he will probably want new ones about cars.
If you are a customer deciding between fine art prints or posters it comes down to: what kind of quality you want and your price range. Also, If you want something to hang up for a few years and aren’t concerned with longevity or if you need 1000 copies of something no doubt a poster is right for you. If you are looking for something that you want to still look new five to ten years from now or even want to try printing on a non-paper surface, the price of the fine print will justify it in the long run.
Next time you see the higher price tag for fine art prints, don’t sheer away so quickly. Each type of print has their place in the world and neither of them are going anywhere.