The Art of Printing Vintage Posters: What are the Techniques?

Here at Printed Originals, we believe that original vintage posters possess an irresistible charm for a multitude of reasons, transporting us back to bygone eras and capturing the essence of a different time. Behind these beautiful works of art lie various printing techniques that have stood the test of time. In this blog post, we'll dive into the fascinating world of vintage poster printing and explore the methods that bring these masterpieces to life. From lithography to screen printing, each technique has its own unique characteristics and contributes to the allure of these original gems.


Preserving the Craftsmanship Lithography, a popular method during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is a process that relies on the principle of oil and water repulsion. To create a lithograph, an artist would draw directly onto a limestone surface with an oil-based medium or use a separate drawing transferred to the stone. The stone is then chemically treated, allowing ink to adhere to the drawn areas while repelling it from the wet areas. Finally, the stone is pressed onto paper to create the final print. This technique captures intricate details, subtle shading, and vibrant colors, making lithographic vintage posters truly remarkable.

Screen Printing

The Versatile Stencil Method Screen printing, also known as silkscreen or serigraphy, involves using a mesh screen as a stencil. The process starts by blocking out areas of the screen with a substance that prevents ink from passing through. Next, ink is applied to the screen and forced through the open areas using a squeegee. Each color requires a separate screen, allowing for layering and creating intricate designs. Screen printing provides vivid, solid colors, making it ideal for bold and graphic vintage posters. The versatility of this technique has contributed to its enduring popularity in both artistic and commercial applications.


Bringing Typography to Life The letterpress technique originated in the 15th century and revolutionized the printing industry. In letterpress, raised surfaces, often metal type or polymer plates, are inked and pressed onto paper to create an impression. This method lends itself well to vintage poster printing, particularly when typography takes centre stage. The process requires skill and precision, as each piece of type must be set manually. The resulting posters showcase the beauty of elegant typefaces and the tactile quality of the impressions.

Offset Printing

Efficiency Meets Quality Offset printing, introduced in the early 20th century, revolutionized mass production of posters and all advertisement artwork. This technique involves transferring ink from a plate to a rubber blanket and then onto the final printing surface. Offset printing allows for high-speed production and consistent image quality. It is commonly used for reproducing vintage posters, ensuring the fidelity of the original artwork while making it accessible to a wider audience.

The art of printing vintage posters encompasses a rich tapestry of techniques, each with its distinct characteristics. Whether it's the intricate details and vibrant colors of lithography, the versatility of screen printing, the elegance of letterpress, or the efficiency of offset printing, these methods have contributed to the enduring appeal of vintage posters. Exploring the craftsmanship behind these techniques not only deepens our appreciation for these timeless artworks but also showcases the mastery of the artists and printers who bring them to life.