Art Print vs Poster (A Simple Comparison: The Difference Between Art Prints & Posters, & How To Choose Between Them)

What’s the Difference Between an Art Print and a Poster?

Although they have a lot of similarities, the biggest difference between an art print and a poster is in the level of quality.

To really understand the difference between these two types of prints, let’s start by looking at each of them separately.

What Is an Art Print?

An art print is a copy of an original piece of artwork or photo that has been created by an artist or photographer. The original work could be a drawing, an oil painting, digital art, an abstract collage, or other artistic works. The copied image is then printed on some kind of fine art paper.

If you go to popular sites that sell wall art such as Society6, Redbubble, or iCanvas, you’ll quickly notice that what they call art print is artwork printed on medium-weight, cotton paper with a white border. It’s common for art prints to come with a white border around the artwork for framing, but it’s not a requirement.

An example of what most people call art print is in Society6’s product video (below).

Product Video: Society6 Art Prints

The most common type of art print is a giclée art print, which uses archival inks and archival quality paper to create a print that will last for generations.

Typically, giclée art prints follow these standards:

  • Inkjet Printers: Standard inkjet prints are made using dye-based inks. Giclées are made using pigment-based inks.
  • High Resolution and Colors: They have the sharpest detail and highest resolution, displaying a full-color spectrum. Giclées capture every shade of an original work.
  • Archival Papers: The paper surfaces must be acid-free and of archival quality to ensure longevity.

The standards mentioned above are what make giclée the best art prints that are very resistant to fading and yellowing. (Art prints from Society6, Redbubble, and iCanvas are considered giclées).

What Is a Poster Print?

Poster

Similar to an art print, a poster is a type of print (a reproduction/copy of an original work of art or photo).

Standard posters are usually used to advertise events, ideas, or products. For example, a movie studio may release a poster to generate interest in an upcoming film.

These posters are easily printed in high quantities and use lower-quality inks and sheets of paper. Its lower standards of quality are what make posters much more affordable than most other types of prints. But their lower standards in quality also limit their life span and careful attention to the true color of the image is usually not a top priority.

Poster Prints

Today, posters also come as poster prints, which is a superior version of just the standard poster. When you go to popular sites like Society6 and Redbubble, you’ll quickly find that poster prints that are sold as high-quality wall art.

However, compared to other types of prints, poster prints are still one of the cheapest ways to decorate bare walls.

Although poster prints are considered to be of lesser quality than other types of prints, sites like Society6 and Redbubble have posters that are printed on premium, smooth gloss/semi-gloss poster paper.

The weight for most poster paper is usually 120-140gsm* which is sturdy enough for temporary posters you would find nailed to a post outside, advertising a band’s gig, or trying to find a missing pet. They can definitely handle a bit of wind and rain.

* GSM means grams per square meter and describes how heavy paper is.

However, poster prints that are meant to be hung on your walls as artwork should usually be 185gsm in weight or more, especially if they won’t be framed. (Quick Tip: you can get great, affordable poster frames on Amazon).

Society6 posters are around 271gsm and Redbubble posters are 185gsm in weight.

Is the Paper for Art Prints and for Posters the Same?

No, the paper used for art prints and poster prints is not the same.

Art prints use fine art paper while posters use poster paper.

Fine Art Paper

Although fine art paper is available in a variety of sizes and thicknesses, depending on the needs of the artist, it has common characteristics:

  • Fine art paper is usually matte and can be smooth or lightly textured.
  • It is usually made from cotton or linen fibers, which makes it thick and sturdy.
  • Archival fine art paper, used for printing giclée art prints, can have a lifespan of 100+ years.
  • Compared to other papers used (like a photo or poster paper), galleries usually prefer fine art paper because it tends to last longer with less fading, cracking, and yellowing.

Poster Paper

Posters are printed on all kinds of poster paper that differ in size and weight. However, all types of poster paper share common characteristics.

  • First, poster paper is smooth and glossy (or at least semi-glossy).
  • Poster paper is a type of paper that is thicker and more durable than standard copy paper. It is often used for posters, signs, and other projects that need to be displayed for a long period of time. It’s also slightly water-resistant so it doesn’t crinkle up or rip easily when it gets wet.
  • Poster paper also typically allows for brighter and more colorful prints than other types of paper, which makes it ideal for projects that need to be eye-catching.
Overview: Difference Between Posters and Art Prints

Art prints are reproductions of original artwork of art or photography that are typically printed with high-quality inks on fine art paper, which is thick and sometimes has a lightly textured surface.

Art prints are also typically made using a professional printing process called giclée printing. Giclée prints are considered to be of the highest quality, can last a lifetime, and are used by thousands of artists, illustrators, photographers, galleries, and museums around the world.

Posters are also reproductions of original works of art, but they’re usually printed on paper that is thinner, less expensive (unless they’re a vintage collectible), smooth, and glossy or semi-glossy.

Posters are usually printed in high quantities and use lower-quality inks and sheets of paper. Its lower standards of quality are what make posters much more affordable than most other types of prints. But their lower standards in quality also limit their life span and careful attention to the true color of the image is usually not a top priority.

So, when deciding which type of wall art to buy, consider your budget, the overall look you are trying to achieve in your space, and how long you want the print to last.