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I am designing a rather large poster (850mm x 2150mm) and trying to figure out whether to create it in actual size or whether to create a smaller version and scale it up afterwards.

The two comments under an answer that recommends scaling up make good points against it:

I recommend creating the poster in its true size, since that will enable commands like \vspace{1cm} to do what's expected. – Ben Jan 30 '11 at 18:48

Another reason for creating your poster in its original size is that if you use a font with optical scaling, then you will get the correct weight. (Large fonts != small fonts scaled up). See this question for example. – mforbes Dec 8 '11 at 5:42

"this question" is about optical font size which implies that fonts are designed for a particular size, so you should always select the correct font size rather than scale another one.

Stephan Lemke, however, argues the exact opposite, also for optical font size reasons.

So: To scale or not to scale? If I try to use a 32pt font, is that not a scaled up version anyway? Or is it a matter of creating the poster in real size but use all the different font sizes scaled up by the same amount (i.e. redefine \large as being \cmr12 at 32pt, for example)?

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No font that I know of has optical size variants for over 17pt; Computer Modern has cmr17, but no other variant, so boldface must be scaled from cmbx10 or cmbx12 anyway. –  egreg Oct 17 '13 at 14:50
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For posters, one usually can not get the print-out from a desktop printer and a special printer is required from printing house. But I would recommend creating LaTeX poster in its true size, because you can then scale it down to A4/A3 size via package pdfpages for proofread. This is how I do when a poster is needed, then use the following code to convert it to A4 size.

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