The complex world of posters and its specs

A brief explanation of how this specific type of meaningful images came into existence.

The complex world of posters and its specs

A brief explanation of how this specific type of meaningful images came into existence.

Art is a man’s deed. Forms, words, images - they are all tools to communicate. But humanity evolved beyond the idea to look at art and perceive creativity only by purchasing or going to a museum or exhibition.

Art can also communicate an event, and even in Egyptian times, there are traces of posters found in Pompeii. If there was something to sell, humanity would have the need to promote it. And as we all know, civilization exists for an extremely long time…

What is a poster?

A poster is every piece of paper meant to be displayed on a flat surface, and its main goal is to promote or demonstrate something - a product, an idea, an event. Posters include text and graphic elements, which can be used together or separate. A poster should be entertaining, but also inform whether it is an ad, advertisement for a movie or concert, or propaganda, the poster had to tell the viewer of its purpose.

Art prints are in addition posters - reproductions of famous paintings or photographs are way cheaper than the authentic ones.

A short history

Over the centuries, posters have not only advertised Shakespeare's plays but also informed citizens about government decisions. A turning point in their existence was the development of printing techniques that allowed their cheap mass production. Of note is the appearance of lithography, invented in 1796 by the German Alois Senefelder, and then color lithography, which allowed posters to be reproduced in vibrant tones.

By the 1890s, the techniques were spreading vastly in Europe. During this period, a considerable number of prominent French artists produced posters as a form of fine art. One of them - Jules Chéret, is considered the "father" of billboards. He established his small lithographic studio in Paris in 1866 and, using striking patterns, contrast, and bright colors, created over 1,000 ads, mostly for exhibitions, theater plays, and products.

The industry soon attracted many ambitious artists who required income to support themselves.

Chéret developed an alternative lithographic technique that better focused on the needs of advertisers - he added more color, which combined with the printing layout, made the posters more expensive. It is believed that Chéret was the first to use sex and the feminine body as advertising tactics. His provocative posters are proof of how art slowly started becoming an instrument for designing ads.

The posters soon transformed the busy streets of Paris into art galleries. Some artists were in intense demand - theater stars competed to hire their favorite artist to produce a poster for an upcoming event. The interest in this type of art was so massive that in 1884 a large exhibition was organized in Paris.


By the 1890s, posters were spreading throughout Europe, advertising everything from bicycles to bullfighting. Until the end of the 19th century, during the so-called “Beautiful age", posters developed as an art form further and further. Between 1895 and 1900, Jules Chéret created the series "Masters of Posters", which not only reaped purely commercial success but additionally became a key historical publication. Among the names mentioned were those of Alphonse Mucha and Eugène Grasset - legendary designers of their generation, who became popular with their style "Art Nouveau." The works of others like Théophile Steinlen, Albert Guillaume, Leonetto Cappiello, and Henri Thiriet appeared in magazines as a form of social and political commentary.


In the United States, posters did not develop to the equivalent artistic level... On the contrary, their chief purpose was to send a message for commercial goals. The posters announcing the arrival of a circus in the city were more colorful, but they were also not incredibly creative.

USA’s resolutions are full of interesting posters, for example, the 1960s, with the advent of pop music and organized protests. Perhaps the most famous are the posters created by French students during the so-called "événements" in May 1968. The riots inspired Jim Fitzpatrick to design a poster of the revolutionary Che Guevara, who became a common youth symbol of discontent and protest. After the 9/11 attacks, schools across America displayed posters with the motto "In God We Trust" in their libraries, cafes, and classrooms, with materials provided by The American Family Association.

Printing Posters

Various techniques are practiced in creating posters. While most posters are printed “en masse”, some are hand-painted and published in limited editions. Most posters are printed on one side, and their "back" is left blank and is used to attach to walls or other surfaces.

Typically, posters are printed in color on standard glossy A3 paper. When purchased, most posters are rolled up and placed in a cylindrical package to ensure their smooth carrying. The rolled-up posters can then be unfolded and pressed to return to their original shape.

In these times, it is completely possible to use specialized software (like Photoshop, for example) to design posters at home or in the office.

Preserving the poster

The lining of the posters with fabric dates to 19th century France, where posters were glued to linen. This technique provides reinforcement and some form of protection because over time the paper becomes brittle and torn.

Modern poster techniques have overcome this problem by using acid-free paper between the plate and the fabric. Instead of glue, people use wheat paste, which prevents molding.

If the poster is damaged, it can be restored, but this drastically affects the poster’s appearance. Damage caused by duct tape, stains, water, and dirt can be repaired, depending on the severity. Restoration, combined with the replenishment of lost pieces of paper, can return the poster to its original condition, but — of course — depending on the poster’s condition.

Posters now

The role and appearance of the poster have changed continuously over the past century to meet the changing needs of society. Although its role is less crucial than it was 100 years ago, the poster will evolve more significantly as the computer and the worldwide web revolutionize the way we communicate in the 21st century.

Final words

Posters have transformed through time, and the needs of people have been leading this change.

Whether the poster is for propaganda purposes, for advertising a drink, or for a science conference, you can constantly discover beauty through this form of mass communication.

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