Buying your first print can be an inundating process and the jargon can be very confusing to the uninitiated. Prints are a great way to start your art collection journey, because they are often more accessible, as well as easy to store and display. So if you’ve fallen in love with a print, but don’t know if you’re buying the right thing, then this is the definitive guide for you!
An original print is a work that has been made directly from an artist’s original plate, block, stone or stencil and printed by the artist or under the artist’s supervision. The artist can use a wide variety of print mediums, but the most common are: screenprint, woodblocks, etching, engraving, lithography, monoprinting and callagraphs. The word ‘original’ can be somewhat misleading, as it refers to the printing block or screen, as opposed to the print itself.
An artist will often create a number of identical prints, which will form an edition. An edition number can range from as small as 5 prints all the way up to 150 prints – artists will rarely print an edition of over 200. Editions can be signed and numbered by the artist and will often be marked 1/10 or 7/80 to indicate the order in which it was printed in a print run. The edition number is essentially the artist’s promise that no more than that number of prints of a certain image will be made, ever.
As with most artworks, the rarer the print (i.e. the lower the edition number), the more valuable a print will be. Furthermore, size often matters in the world of prints – with larger prints of the same image going at higher prices. It is important to note here that with a new print size or medium of an image, there is a new edition number, meaning that one image could have multiple edition numbers.
Some prints don’t have an edition number marked on them, and instead are marked ‘AP’. This stands for ‘Artist Proof’, which means that that particular print was one of the first few prints to be made, and serves as the benchmark to maintain a consistency in the following editioned prints.
Often, the Artist Proof is priced proportionally higher than the rest of the edition. This was previously the case because it was believed that the first few prints were of the best quality. However, today its value relates to the the importance of owning a rare portion of an edition and is considered a status symbol in the world of art collecting.
Digital prints have become more ubiquitous with the rise of the digital age. A digital print merely refers to the fact that the print design was conceived using a digital camera or a computer (as opposed to a stencil or a block) and is still considered an original work of art. A digital print still follows the same rules as an original print.
Reproductions, as the name suggests, are copies of original artworks that originally exist in print form or otherwise. Reproductions are often created by photographing or scanning the original and printing them in large quantities. Reproductions can be confused with original prints, because artists and their estates can authorize such practices, going so far as to sign and number them. However, the quality and value of reproductions will be significantly inferior.
Lifetime impressions are prints that were created during the artist’s lifetime – especially in the case of older prints where the artist has passed away. However, printings done posthumously and authorized by the estate of the artist can also be of great value.
Any views or opinions in the interview are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
Back to Top
Sign up for the latest updates
in contemporary art & design!