Poster Printing in Pittsburgh


I wanted to print a bunch of photos I’d taken on my cell phones over the years on very short notice (printed Friday, needed by the following Tuesday EOD). I’d never done this before, so this post contains the things I’ve learned. I tried to optimize for wall coverage (lots of posters at a large size) and minimized cost.

Print Resolution / Size

I always set my cell phone camera to save at full resolution, which has been 4:3. This is what my settings app looks like:


I have a couple different resolutions of photos:

  • 12.5MP, 4080 × 3072 from Pixel 6 Pro (actually 1.328125 instead of 1.33 = 4:3 aspect ratio)
  • 12.2MP, 4032 × 3024 from Pixel 4 and Pixel 3 (proper 1.33 = 4:3 aspect ratio)

Here are the various options for integer-sized posters which maintain the same 4:3 aspect ratio, expressed as height x width (3:4) as that seems to be more common. I used this online generator for the table.

Height (in) Width (in) Pixel 6 PPI Pixel 3/4 PPI
3 4 1020 1008
6 8 510 504
9 12 340 336
12 16 255 252
15 20 204 201.6
18 24 170 168
21 28 145.7 144
24 32 127.5 126
27 36 113.3 112
30 40 102 100.8
33 44 92.7 91.6
36 48 85 84

A couple random sources online (this one and this one) both suggest that PPI for poster printing should be somewhere in the range 150 - 300 PPI. From the chart above, this meant that I should be looking for somewhere between 12x16 and 18x24.

I opted for 18x24" as my target size, since it happened to match a poster I already had on hand, and I wanted to fill as much space on my walls as possible.

Print Medium + Budget

My budget was ~$20-25 per poster.

Metal Printing

Originally, I wanted to get prints done on a metal backing, as those are supposedly among the highest quality prints you can do. However, I wasn’t able to find any cheap sources. Looking at some of the comments here and here, it seems that there’s also large variance in quality, so the cheap sources are probably best avoided. Typical prices ended up being ~$100 for the 18x24" prints I wanted, which was way too much.

Paper Printing

Next, I considered “normal” printing on paper, and then finding a way to get the posters framed. I ended up dismissing this option pretty quickly, because I was pretty sure I couldn’t find frames cheaper than ~$20.

Turns out this isn’t quite true - Amazon has a number of options for fairly cheap frames, at ~$10-13 per frame, e.g. this single one at 12.99 or this pack for ~$10.84 each. While the listed ones seem to hold 18x24" posters exactly, there’s also some, e.g. this one, which are designed for smaller posters of 17.2x23", so it’s probably best that I didn’t risk it, given my tight timeline. In a quick survey of a few different print sites, I was only able to find 18x24" (or similar sized) prints for ~$15, which would exceed my budget when combined with the cost of a frame. On the bright side, most stores offered same-day pickup for normal poster prints, though typically it was on glossy material.

Foamboard Printing

One of the options I was considering for a cheap DIY frame was foamboard. I then remembered that we had our Symposium posters printed directly on foamboard, and wondered what the process would be like to get that done myself, and how expensive it might be. I found this wonderful guide which goes into some more detail, but generally it seemed to be a promising option. Taking a quick look around at e.g. Staples, they were available for <$25, which met my budget.

When calling around for a few local quotes, CopiesAtCarson told me that there’s another option for foam board printing - printing first on a label / vinyl, and then getting that stuck to the poster. This apparently produces higher quality, more durable prints, but is also more expensive. For cell phone photos, they recommended just printing directly onto the foam board.

Print Shop

I started looking for options Thursday night, and needed the posters in hand by Tuesday EOD, to be hung for Wednesday morning. This meant I had 3 business days, and 5 calendar days to get it done. I considered both local and online options.


  • Staples - $24 per 18x24" poster, but even with expedited delivery (an extra 24.99), the posters would still arrive a day too late.
  • Walmart - $12.96 per 16x20" poster, which is smaller than I wanted, but offered same day pickup! 22.96 for 20x30" posters, but that’d be a 3:2 (1.5) aspect ratio instead of 5:4 (1.25), which is closer to 4:3 (1.33).
  • FedEx - $70 per 18x24" poster, and might not have been done in time as well.
  • Costco - suggested frequently by Reddit, but unfortunately as of January 2023, Costco photo is shut down and instead directs you to Shutterfly.

Local to Pittsburgh, PA:

  • AlphaGraphics - $320 for 10x 18x24" posters, 3-4 day turnaround. In other words, more expensive than Staples, and slower.
  • MinuteManPress - $17.66 each for 14x 18x24" prints, ready by Tuesday EOD.

I ended up going with MinuteManPress, as they offered the cheapest price (by a good bit), and they were local. I thought they were going to print in-house, but apparently for some of the larger orders they have their central facility (somewhere else in the country) print the orders and ship them in. Unfortunately, this meant there was a chance of shipping delays, which ended up happening to this order. What was supposed to be a Tuesday EOD pickup became a Wednesday morning (unknown time) pickup, which wouldn’t have worked for me.

Luckily, the people at MinuteManPress were extremely understanding and helpful, and got in touch with the delivery driver to hold the package at the delivery facility on Wednesday morning, and picked it up themselves to deliver straight to my door before 9am. That gave me just enough time to get the posters hung before 10am!



I found this YouTube video which suggested using specially designed foamboard hangers. Poking around on Amazon, I found those, as well as a second option:

I ended up purchasing the first set, since I didn’t particularly fancy having to tilt all of the hangers back up to the same angle. I paired it with these nails, though I’m sure any similar picture hanging nails would have done.


For the landscape posters (most of them), I used a Speed Square to put a .5"-wide $\perp$ mark 4" from each top corner, as below.


Then, I put the forks at the two ends of the horizontal line, held the hanger parallel to the poster board (so the forks are at about 45$\degree$ from the board), pushed enough to get the forks to stick in just slightly, and then tilted backwards so the forks were nearly level, and then pushed the rest of the way. This took a bit of experimentation to figure out - the first couple times I tried it, I poked a little bit into the print on the other side (but not all the way through). After the first 3-ish, though, the remaining 25 went smoothly.


For the portrait posters, I used the same procedure, but put the hangers 4" from the top and 2" from the sides, instead of 4" from both.


Overall, I’m quite happy with the way the posters turned out. I have 2 minor complaints - a couple of the posters came out a little warped, and some of the brightest spots in a couple of the images are clipped. If you’re not looking for these specific phenomena, though, you won’t notice. The prints are perfectly adequate for the goal I had in mind, which was to add features to an otherwise featureless wall.

To counteract the warping, I probably should’ve put the hangers 2" from the sides on the landscape posters just as I did for the portrait posters, That would make the mount points for the landscape and portrait posters incompatible, but that’s probably fine. The portrait posters also seem to generally have less warping (or at least less noticeable) - this could just be because there’s only 2 of them, so I have a small sample size, or because the vertical hanging makes the warping less visible. I might also look into slightly thicker foam board for the next set of prints, at 3/8".

I’m not sure what to do about the clipping - perhaps printing on the labels would address this, or perhaps just using glossy foam board if available. I might also just not bother, as it’s really not that noticeable.


  • Cell phone photos are ~12 MP at 4:3 aspect ratio
  • 18x24" is the largest you can print while staying >= 150 PPI
  • Print directly on foamboard (3/16" typically).
  • Order from Staples if online, MinuteManPress if local. Plan ahead, ideally at least 5 business days.
  • Use dedicated foam board hangers with some picture hanging nails at 4" from the top, 2" from the sides.