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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Poster Printing: A Venue for Art, Marketing, and Politics

Posters have a long history as works of art, marketing venues, and vehicles for protest. What they all share–in the best of cases–is immediate impact. They’re powerful. They present a single image and a few words (like a small billboard) that grab you.

They also share another quality: mass production. Because of this, modern posters can really be traced back to the perfection of color offset lithography in 1870.

Posters Throughout History

Here are some notable historical posters that make the cross-over between art and marketing:

  1. The Moulin Rouge posters produced by the artist Henri Tolouse-Lautrec in 1891.
  2. The Alfonze Mucha posters promoting everything from dance to cigarette rolling papers in the late 1800s and early 1900s (and notable for their art deco style).
  3. The psychedelic posters of the 1960s, such as the works of Peter Max or the posters promoting the Grateful Dead.

Posters have also been used to convey political messages:

  1. Consider the famous stylized poster of Che Guevera, the Marxist revolutionary.
  2. Or the Rosie the Riveter or “Loose Lips Sink Ships” posters of World War II.

In all of these cases, the aim of the poster has been to use a little text and an eye catching image to elicit a strong reaction from the viewer. Unlike large-format graphics, they are of a limited size, and they are usually hung on a wall. They range from movie posters to travel posters to reproductions of art works to commemorations of events (like concerts or political gatherings).

Custom Printing Specifications for Posters

Here are some specifications to consider when producing posters:

  1. Size: Poster printers will usually suggest sizes ranging from about 11” x 17” to 24” x 36”. The goal is to capture the viewer’s field of vision when he or she is standing at a comfortable distance from the poster on the wall. Along with this, it is prudent to consider the maximum size press sheet your commercial printing vendor can run and how many copies of a poster he can get on a single press sheet.
  2. Paper Stock: A good rule of thumb is to start with 100# text (gloss or matte, although you can also print on an uncoated sheet). Some posters are much heavier, with weights between 100# and 130# cover. Posters hung on exterior walls (consider some of the political posters wallpapering Europe) will be exposed to sunlight and rain. For them to last even a short while, it is prudent to laminate, UV coat, or aqueous coat them. Posters hung indoors may still be exposed to sunlight (through windows) and fingerprints, so in this case lamination is still not a bad idea. (However, if you’re producing a poster for use in a school, for instance, and teachers will need to write on any part of it, you will need to knock out–i.e., not print–the varnish, UV coating, or lamination in that area.)
  3. Folding: Consider whether you will want the posters delivered flat, folded (image in or image out), or rolled and inserted in cardboard tubes.
  4. Press Run: For 100 or fewer posters, you will probably want to digitally print your poster press run. (Commercial printers have different digital and offset equipment, so this cutoff point may vary from 100 to 250 copies.) Above this number, you will probably move to offset printing to be more cost-effective. Let your commercial printing supplier suggest the optimal printing technology, but ask to see printed samples before you proceed. In addition, size may be an issue for digital printing. Some digital presses only accept smaller sized press sheets (although this has been changing recently, and digital presses have been made that can print larger press sheets).
  5. Color: Traditionally, posters have been produced in 4-color process inks, although you may want to add a touch plate (a separate ink) to highlight the color in certain areas of the poster. For instance, purples, greens, blues, reds, and oranges can benefit from additional PMS touch plates to increase the color gamut of the four process colors. You may also want to add a metallic color, or even white.
  6. Overall Design: Keep it simple. The best posters are dramatic because they are simple. They focus on only one concept, and they use a single, powerful image and just a few words to make their point.

4 Responses to “Poster Printing: A Venue for Art, Marketing, and Politics”

  1. Jacks says:

    Great article

  2. I liked reading your post. It seems to be very informative. Thanks for the share.


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