Newbie Question - Where to get vintage poster artwork of sellable quality?


I’m looking for some help in finding old vintage poster artwork which is good enough to print.

We find high definition JPEGS online but then when we turn it into a pdf & print it it is coming out slightly pixellated on a xerox 550.

We’ve tried vectorizing the artwork online & also editing in photoshop but can’t seem to get “sellable” quality.

The vintage posters seem very popular online so thinking we could try this & actually get some use out of our printer.

Thanks for any help.

“Finding Online” is not legal to sell. If you want high rez artwork like that you will probably have to pay a royalty for the file based on how many you want to print, and depending what is depicted in the poster. Ringling Bros, for instance, probably wouldn’t want you selling their artwork without a license. Music posters would be owned by the artist, artist agent or the artist estate if they are dead. Read up on Copyright law.

I know a few places where you can buy high rez files to use in your business…
Something like this for instance (you have to create an account to see pricing):

That’s the kind of thing i’m looking for so thanks for that. Any more sources you know of ?

I thought that some vintage images were copyright free as it’s so old.

I just noticed lots of others were selling these vintage posters & wondered where they actually find the artwork because everything i find online prints slightly blurred.


Old is a relative term. Pre-1923 is most often Public Domain. However, if a person or an estate is involved, that date is irrelevant. Anything after 1923 gets tricky.

Since posters always had multiple copies printed, some of those places offering them will have purchased public domain originals and had them photographed for reproduction.

Others just print ripped off sources and hope no one comes looking for them. I don’t recommend the latter. I do a lot of image sourcing and some sources are very rabid about serving papers seeking damages if they discover their art being sold for profit.

Then there is the question, are they actual vintage posters, or modern retro designs.
For ^ that image you pay for an “enhanced license” to use on sold merchandise.

The other part of this is people buying “art posters” like to know what they are. If you get your files from a legit source, they will tell you the provenance of the image and maybe a little of its history. You might pay $500 (or more) for the license, but if you can’t make that back plus profit, you have chosen your image poorly.

I’m gonna guess though that if this question was asked, you aren’t using archival inks and papers either. Or maybe you are. People buying “art prints” usually buy from a source with a known reputation for providing quality prints. Or they buy them off posters.comcomcom and put em on the wall with scotch tape, in which case they aren’t paying top dollar. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the replies, i’ll give an example of the kind of poster…say i’m looking to print…

I’m approaching this from the sense that other people know how to get this artwork to a saleable quality but I currently don’t so copyright isn’t so much an issue. It’s more the concept that others know something I don’t & I’m the type to obsess over that.

I can’t get this to A3 like others eemingly can without it being blurred & even at A4 the text is slight fuzz. I was thinking maybe people are just adding the text over it as then it would print clear i guess.

Think i’ll have to buy a few posters to check out the quality.


I told you how they get the quality. From the tight crop on that piece I would guess it was shot from an original 1951 poster where the edge had to be cleaned up to remove tatters.

You can’t “rez up” something you find online. If the image info isn’t there, no interpretation engine is going to fix it for you. We joke all the time here about the non-existent CSI plugin.
This does not exist:

As to your poster example,
That image would require licensing from 20th Century Fox. These people are doing it right. They got their imagery from the Everett Collection.

BTW, don’t get excited about that Collection website.
From their legal page:

Other than the Comp Use, the Content may not be used in any way, until an invoice granting usage rights is paid in full. Upon termination, you and your employer must immediately stop using the Content, delete the Content and all copies from all magnetic media and destroy all other copies.

And if YOU get busted, their indemnity clause means you pay their attornies’ fees as well as your own. Most image sites say that anyway.

PrintDriver is right. There is no practical way to enlarge something while adding missing detail back into the image one begins with. Ideally, you’ll need about 20 MB of good, clean, sharp, uncompressed data to print an image to the size you mentioned. You could probably get by with a bit less depending on the quality you need, but starting with a smaller JPEG found on the Internet, blowing it up to that resolution and expecting it to look sharp just isn’t doable.

As PrintDriver said, you need access to the original poster or a high-resolution (15-25 MB) image that was shot from an original poster in a controlled studio environment. Even then, there would be significant clean-up work that would need to be done in Photoshop.

My guess is that the best recreations you’ve seen were shot from actual original posters purchased from, maybe, eBay for a couple hundred dollars.

You sort of dismissed the copyright issues as not being germane to your question, but it would be remiss, in a public forum like this, to not bring it up. Unless you can document a poster being in the public domain or unless you have written permission from the copyright owner, you’re opening yourself up to legal action when you sell your recreations. And even if the original poster design/illustration is in the public domain, any photograph taken of that image has its own copyright that belongs to whomever shot the photo.

B, pssst…Check out Bridgeman v Corel…

But that doesn’t apply here. The image in question here still bears copyright ownership and would indeed require licensing from 20CF even if the OP was able to lay hands on a photograph of a real poster or bought a poster and made his own photo.

I gotta tell you too, those posters will more than likely have a halftone pattern to them. Those can wreak havoc when photographing digitally, and especially if scanning. You need a camera sensor that can process the original poster line screen without creating a wonderful moiré mess. Back before high resolution digital cameras, we would create 4" color chromes using a conventional camera then scan them using a drum scanner. Flatbed scanners back then couldn’t deal with the line screen either. Better to do film. LOL.

No enlarging either. You take a photo of halftone dots, the dots enlarge if you scale up the image. I’ve taken old postcard images to mural size even after printing a full scale proof to show the client. It ain’t pretty.

Interesting. Seems the legality of that has changed here (and in the UK) since it was first explained to me way back when. Thanks.

Most museums have circumvented that by not allowing any photography inside their buildings, which is perfectly legal for them to do. So if you want a most excellent 150mb+ image of one of their holdings, you pay the licensing fee.

Same goes for Libraries and other institutions that have digitized their collections (like the New York Public Library.) Doing that and hosting them costs them money, so I see no reason not to pay them a usage fee.

Heck, even a botanical garden may require anyone desiring to take photos to state that they would be for personal use only. I used to work at one where anyone wanting to take photos was given a handout with a stub to sign that they understood the usage and the rules (ie no stepping into beds or bending plants to make them more photogenic.) Wonder how that is working out now with all the cell phones…

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