Photographic Print vs Poster; What’s the Difference Between Them? (A Quick & EASY Look at the Difference Between Them Such As Color, Paper, Printing, Finish/Gloss, & Archival Quality)

Photographic Print vs Poster (A Quick & Easy Comparison)

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Although both high-quality photographic prints and posters are more similar than they are different, the main difference is the type of paper used.

Posters are made with poster paper which is water-resistant, so it doesn’t crinkle up or rip easily when it gets wet. It’s also a little thicker and more durable compared to the regular paper you see every day.

On the other hand, photographic prints are made with photo paper which is resin-coated and light-sensitive (more on that later). This type of paper is also water-resistant but is typically thicker than poster paper.

To really see the difference between photographic prints and posters, let’s look at each of them separately. Then, we’ll look at the best places to buy affordable photographic prints vs posters online.

Photographic Prints: Paper & Printing

Commonly, digital photographs are printed on plain paper with a printer, but this is not considered a photographic print.

A photographic print is a reproduction (copy) of a photograph or artwork, and it must use photo paper (paper coated with light-sensitive chemicals). This type of paper is smooth and has a gentle polished look or a glossy finish.

Photographic paper is typically made with much higher-quality materials than posters.

Today, most of the high-quality photographic prints sold online are what you call silver halide photographic prints (see images on Redbubble). Silver halide photographic prints are printed by exposing photo paper to light and having the image infused in the paper through a silver-based chemical process.

High-quality photographic prints are known to have colors that look very natural yet vibrant with amazing highlights and shadows.

Another great thing about a photographic print is that the dye is inside the paper, as opposed to laying on top of the paper, so it’ll be resilient to being damaged by things like scratching and liquids.

Posters: Paper & Printing

Posters prints are another kind of reproduction (a copy of an original work of art or photograph) and are one of the cheapest ways to decorate bare walls.

Posters are printed on all kinds of poster paper that differ in size and weight. But typically, posters are easily printed in bulk and use lower quality inks and paper compared to photographic prints. Posters are also usually printed on smooth semi-glossy or glossy paper.

Its lower standards of quality are what make posters much more affordable than photographic prints. But their lower standards in quality also limit their life span and careful attention to true color is usually not a top priority.

Today, when you go to popular sites like Society6 and Redbubble, you’ll quickly find that poster prints that are sold as artwork have more similarities with photographic prints than differences. (Redbubble’s posters have a 3/16 inch (5mm) white border to assist in framing).

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 high-quality, smooth gloss, or semi-gloss poster paper.

The weight for a typical 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.

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

If you’re really into the look of posters but you’re looking for a reproduction that will last a very long time, check out iCanvas’ framed prints of famous posters.

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

However, posters that are meant to be hung on your walls as art should usually be 185gsm in weight or more if they won’t be framed.

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

Cheapest Places To Buy High-Quality Photographic Prints & Posters for Your Walls

Here are my favorite places to get the cheapest, high-quality photographic prints and posters.

Please Note: The art sites below are not listed in any particular order.

Website Description
Redbubble Best site for people who want art on a variety of items, including photographic prints and posters.
Society6 Another great site for people who want art on a variety of items, including posters.
Etsy Best site for people who want to buy affordable art directly from artists.
Amazon Handmade Best site for people who love & trust Amazon.
Saatchi Art Best site for people who want to learn to invest in art, including limited edition photographic prints and posters.
Artfinder Best site for people who want to buy original photographic prints and posters directly from artists.

So, go ahead and buy photographic prints or posters, support independent artists, and HAVE FUN shopping!