Lithograph vs Poster (A Simple Comparison: The Difference Between Lithographs & Posters, & How To Choose Between Them)

Lithograph vs Poster: What Is the Difference Between Them?

To really understand the difference between a lithograph and a poster, let’s look at each of them separately.

What Exactly Is a Lithograph?

Lithograph is a term that originates from the Greek words for “stone” and “to write”.

This particular printing technique works on the fact that water and grease repel each other. (You can see images/examples of lithographs on Etsy and Saatchi Art).

Take a look at the video below, where they show how lithographs are made and what a lithograph looks like.

How Lithographs Are Made

So, basically, a lithograph is a printing technique that requires an artist to first draw their artwork on a prepared surface like a bavarian limestone (or a special kind of textured aluminum) with a greasy crayon, pencil, or another similar tool.

The drawing is then covered with a thin layer of water and then quickly applied with ink. When ink is applied to the stone, it sticks to the grease and but is repelled by areas where there’s only water present.

After some chemical processing, the drawing is placed in a press and the image is transferred onto a piece of paper, creating a mirrored picture.

The artist can create as many hand-printed copies of the same original artwork as he or she wants.

Difference Between Lithographs and Posters

Posters are one of the least expensive ways to decorate bare walls or to use for advertisements.

Typically, posters are digitally printed in bulk. Digital printing is the process of printing digital-based images directly onto paper (or other materials).

Digital printing enables additional advantages, like quick printing edits, making small inexpensive test samples, and enabling print-on-demand companies to print a single poster only once a customer has purchased an item (like Society6, and Redbubble).

With this printing technique, the artist doesn’t print the poster by hand at all and the original artwork can be mass-produced at a rapid pace.

On the other hand, lithographs are works of art that are hand-printed by an artist (or artisan) that has been reproduced in small quantities from an original image, using grease, ink, water, and a special surface such as limestone.

Typically, compared to lithographs, posters use lower quality inks and paper. The paper is usually printed on smooth semi-glossy or glossy paper. Its lower standards of quality are what make posters much more affordable than other kinds of art prints, but limits their life span.

If they’re framed properly with a contemporary poster frame (my absolute favorite poster frame is this one from Amazon), posters can look amazing. Framing is my favorite thing for my vintage and propaganda poster collections. Plus, it extends the life of my posters.

Is a Lithograph More Valuable Than a Poster?

A lithograph print is usually much more valuable than a poster because it has an air of exclusivity as the artwork is not mass-produced. Lithographs are also considered original artwork because it is handmade and slightly unique (no two lithographs are 100% alike).

However, a poster can be valuable. For example, a rare poster can be worth a lot of money if they have historical relevance (like an original propaganda poster) or are signed by a famous person.

How Can You Tell if a Lithograph Is Valuable?

Factors that have the potential to increase the value of a lithograph prints are:

  • Has a limited quantity (limited edition)
  • Is numbered (another sign that it’s from a limited edition)
  • Is signed by the artist
  • Was hand-printed by the creator of the original artwork

So now that you know the difference between lithographs and posters, go ahead and buy art (my two favorite spots for finding affordable lithographs are Etsy and Saatchi Art), support independent artists, and HAVE FUN shopping!