Posts Tagged ‘Lithography’

A print is not necessarily a Print

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

The word “print” can mean a couple different things. It is frustrating to me when I tell people that I make prints and they misunderstand, and I think it has led to a fair bit of confusion for the average art connoisseur.

A “print” can be:

  • A hand created and printed piece of artwork, created either as a monotype, relief print, intaglio, or lithograph
  • A high quality reproduction of a work of art using photographic and mechanical means. These are also sometimes called “lithograph”
  • A poster

I’m going to go a little in depth into each one and explain the difference.

Handprinted Art Prints

These types of prints are drawn on the printing element by hand, inked by hand, and hand printed or run through a manual printing press. The main methods used to print these types of prints are monotype, relief (ie. woodblock), Intaglio (or etching), and lithography. Silkscreen can be included in this list, though silkscreen seems to be more widely used for craft rather than art.

Each print made by these methods is an original work of art. In fact, there is no “original” to speak of, because no image is being reproduced. The image is being produced for the first time with the printing elements (the plates, block, stones, etc), it is just being produced a number of times.

When people refer to Fine Art Printmaking, it is this type of printmaking that they refer to. Since these prints are original art, these types of prints maintain and increase in value over time. These are the type of prints that investors and collectors purchase.

This type of Printmade Fine Art is the type of prints that I make and sell here on BDD.

High Quality Reproductions

These type of prints are often referred to as a “limited edition Lithograph” or a Giclée print. These are high quality reproductions of an original work of art. The original art is created, and then photographic and mechanical methods are used to reproduce it.

These prints will often be signed and numbered, and issued as a limited set, so these can be easily confused with Printmade Art prints. This gets more confusing because these are often referred to as “lithographs”. The tricky thing about this language is that pretty much everything is a lithograph. Newspapers and magazines are lithographs, they are just produced by industrial lithography, rather than hand-printed lithography.

These types of lithographs are not hand printed in the fine art sense, though there may be an operator working the printing press.

Sometimes these will be called Giclée prints. Giclée is essentially a really fancy ink jet printer. (And I mean really fancy. I’ve seen Giclée printer produce prints, and they look mighty nice.

Though these types of prints are often limited editions, they do not hold and increase their value as well as original printmade art. They may maintain some value, and increase in value, depending on the artist and the work, but they won’t be an investment like a hand printed art print.


We all know about these kind of prints. These are the type that we hung in our college dorm room, to show off our appreciation for Van Gogh or Monet. These are the type of print that you will get at Museum gift shops or stores that sell art prints.

These prints are a great way to be able to look at your favorite work of art. Certainly, I know that I won’t ever own a Manet or Renoir painting, so this type of poster would be the appropriate way to have this art in my apartment.

These types of prints are not signed and numbered. They are mass produced, and are a consumable good. They are pretty, but they are not original art.

What is an Edition of Prints?

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Editioning is the process of preparing a set of prints. The prints must be signed, numbered, and gone through to make sure they are all the same.

Traditionally, when a print is made, the printing elements are prepared (the blocks, metal plates, or whatever else the artist creates to print off of), then numerous copies of the print are made.

The set of identical prints is called an edition. Most fine art prints are made in editions, and when I was in college, this is how I made my prints.

There are a few conventions to prints in an edition, I’d like to explain to you.

I’m going to use this lithograph of mine to explain. This is the first thing I could find in my easily accessible portfolio. Most of my stuff is stored under my bed!

A lithograph of a female figure

I did this drawing on a lithographic stone during a figure drawing session. I liked it enough to work up a couple of color plates and make an edition out of it.

Edition Number

In any edition, each print has a number. The number is given as a fraction, indicating which number print you are looking at, and how many prints were made total.

Edition number goes in the bottom left corner

In this case, the “1/18” indicates that is print number 1 from the edition, and 18 total prints were made in this edition.

If all you see is the fraction, then each one of the prints in the series should be exactly the same. The goal of an edition, after all, is to make an identical set of prints.

You may sometimes see the letters “E.V.” after the number. This means “Edition Varie” (edition very-AY). This means that not every print is exactly the same. The artist has created variety in the set on purpose. The most common variety found is the colors. The artist may print form the same block, but use different colors each time, so that even though the image is the same, the colors are different from print to print.

The other thing you may see on a print is the letters “A.P.” instead of a number. This means “Artist’s Proof”. It is a completed print, but is not part of the edition. Artist’s Proofs do not get numbers.

When a fine art print is released by a print studio, the number in the edition, and the number of artists prints is included in the solicitation. They may release an announcement like, “An edition of 25 prints with 5 Artist’s Proofs”.

Artist’s Signature and Title

The edition number is the most complicated part of the print to explain. The rest is easy. The next thing to notice is the signature. The signature is usually in the bottom right corner of the print, as you see below.

Signature goes in the bottom right corner

A print, after all, should be signed!

Last of all is the title. I don’t have a picture to show you of the title of this lithograph, because, well, I never titled it.

Yes! It’s embarrassing! I never titles this print. If I had, however, the title would have been written smack dab in the middle of the print, right underneath the image. The title of this print probably would have been something boring like Figure Drawing III.

A Light Touch

The last thing that you will notice is that signed and numbered this print in pencil instead of pen. This is common, and you will most likely find prints signed and numbered in pencil. The reason for this is that pencil has a softer color, and a lighter touch than a pen. Or so I imagine.

It could very well be that when editioning of prints had started, pens weren’t invented yet (probably not though).

Either way, the information about the print is written in pencil so that it is lighter in color and does not draw attention away from the print. THe title, number, and signature should be able to be seen if you want to , but should not distract you when you look at the print from a few feet away.

= = = = = = =

There you go, a quick crash course in editioning prints!

Next up, I’ll let you know why I am throwing this convention out the window for my 101 Woodblock Series.