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Whether you're going to start your own poster or art printing business, or you're just looking for a one time purchase for an at-home project, picking the perfect paper for printing posters can be intimidating, especially when you have thousands of choices. This guide will help teach you the basics of balancing cost with quality, as well as teaching you what to look for in terms of thickness and materials when trying to select your paper. Included are three examples of paper you may want to check out before you get started.
Image Credit: Cooky Yoon
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The type of paper you will use when printing posters largely depends on a few factors:
- Cost: If you're printing posters in large quantities to sell or promote something, you're likely going to want to go for cheap, rather than expensive. Many poster papers are often a blend of fibers and materials, such as cotton, polyester, bamboo, and alpha cellulose. These materials not only have their own look and feel, but their own price range.
- Location & Longevity: Where are these posters going to hang, and how long are they going to have to hang there? Obviously posters that hang indoors will be protected from the elements, where as outdoor posters need to be a bit tougher.
- Personal Taste: Some people love the sheen of a high gloss paper, while others find matte finishes to be more pleasing to the eye. You should also note that poster papers have a specific tone to them, either being warm (more to the red) or cool (more to the blue) which can greatly effect what your final product will look like.
There are a few hard and fast rules here, though! Whatever you go with, make sure that you pick up something that is acid free, else your poster paper will yellow with age—often within months. You're going to want something that is thicker than standard printer paper, because not only does this add to durability, they are often easier to flatten and age far better than a standard thickness paper. Look for key words like "photo-thickness" or anything that says "60lbs" or above, as these will help you pick the perfect thickness for your project.
Image Credit: Derek K. Miller
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Materials and Examples
Materials are the number one thing that is going to affect your cost. A paper made out of alpha cellulose is going to cost much less than a paper made out of cotton, as it basically the same process by which we make standard printer paper. An example of a cheap poster paper made from alpha cellulose is Red River's 60lb Polar Matte paper. It's a high-grade photo paper with a matte finish and is thick enough that it won't crumple under its own weight. This type of paper is great for the standard promotional poster, or a poster that is hung in bedrooms and college dorm rooms. It'll last for years if protected from the elements, which makes it the cheep and cheerful choice for at-home projects.
If you're looking for something that is still reasonably priced, yet a step up in quality and appearance, you'll probably want to take a look at something like Canson's Edition Etching Rag. Rather thick and boasting a heavy texture, this poster paper is made from 100% cotton and is designed to showcase color as well as last much longer than a standard piece of paper, making them ideal for fine art or hanging posters outside for an extended period of time. Please note that this is an obvious step up in both quality and price, as it is meant to last for many, many years and have a superior look and feel to an alpha cellulose product.
Enjoy something a bit more glossy? What about something that falls between the cost, durability, and appearance of cotton and a cheaper matte alpha cellulose? MOAB offers up Lasal Photo Gloss, an alpha cellulose paper with a medium photo-grade thickness, a protective coating, an ultra-glossy finish, all for a middle-of-the-road cost, insuring that you won't break the bank while using it, but you aren't buying something too cheap. It also resists water and has a high brightness level, making for a brilliant display that can stand up to the elements for a while.
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- 2 years personal experience printing photographs & fine art