What is a Print?
A print is a work of art that is a reproduction or iteration of an original artwork. Prints can come in various forms, and a variety of printing methods have been developed over the course of our history. Today, artists are continuing to evolve and expand the art of printmaking, as they experiment with new techniques and digital processes.
Why Collect Prints?
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. This genre has increasingly become more popular amongst new fine art collectors, especially those who are starting with a smaller budget.
Prints are more than a simple ‘reproduction’, depending on the type, prints have been much valued for their unique qualities and techniques from the various printmaking processes. Some of the most renowned artists from history have employed printmaking in some form in their work, such as: Hokusai, Joan Miro, Francisco Goya, Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Takashi Murakami, and much more. Over the last decade, prints have continued to rise in value and with and increasing demand on the market, establishing prints, multiples and editions as a genre worth collecting.
So, if you’ve fallen in love with a print, but unsure if you’re buying the right thing, don’t fret, this guide will equip you with all the knowledge and tools you need to identify the prints worth collecting.
How to Collect Prints?
Here is our definitive guide to help you understand all the essentials that you will need to know and look out for when collecting prints. Learn about the different processes, the types of prints, the meanings of the various printmaker’s marks, and what exactly editions are. Additionally, we at The Artling elaborate on how you can seamlessly incorporate different kinds of prints into your home décor or office space.
Main Types of Printmaking
When an image is printed from a designed surface or block. The artist typically cuts away from the surface using gouging tools to create their desired image or design. The raised portions are coated in ink and placed on a sheet of paper. The impression created on the paper are the block’s raised areas, but in reverse. Examples of this kind of printing process are woodcut and linocut. Woodcuts are considered some of the oldest types of relief printmaking.
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The intaglio printmaking process is opposite to relief printmaking because it is the design that is scratched or cut out of the surface or plate that is printed. The ink applied to the plate (which is typically zinc, copper or aluminium) settles in the etched and scratched areas, and the remaining ink on the untouched surface is wiped off. The image is transferred onto a piece of paper using a heavy press with a flat, metal bed suspended between two rollers. Examples of intaglio printmaking include: etching, engraving, drypoint, mezzotint, and aquatint.
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Lithography is a print making process that uses a flat stone or metal plate. Invented in the late 18th century, it was one of the first planographic printing methods used. Here, the artist draws directly on the stone or metal plate using a greasy substance to create an image. The non-image portion is created using an ink resistant material. The surface is kept wet at all times so that when the oil-based ink roller is rolled over the stone, the ink will only stick to the greasy areas. The paper is run through a press, which collects the ink from the plate.
Serigraphy (Screen Printing)
Serigraphy is a type of printing where a designed imaged is stencilled out. Ink is then placed on a screen and pushed through the designed stencil using a flat implement (usually a squeegee), which forces the ink onto the paper underneath. Screen printing is one of the most popular printmaking methods, with Andy Warhol being one of the most famous for using this type of process in his works.
Digital printing is a type of printmaking that takes a digital image and prints it onto another surface using laser or ink jet printers. Digital prints can range in quality depending on the image size, type of paper and printer used.
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Editions: Open vs. Limited Prints
When a print is made, each print is given an edition number, which is usually written in the form of a fraction – e.g. 18/ 50. The number to the right of the slash (in this case 50), represents the total edition size, while the number to the left (in this case 18), indicates the individual print’s number. Having an edition size means that only a certain number of editions are available, and these are called limited edition prints. These are considered more valuable than open edition prints, which do not have an edition size and no predetermined limit of prints.
Original vs. Reproduction Prints
Establishing the difference between an original and reproduction print is essential when purchasing a print. In some cases, paintings, photographs, or prints by famous artists are reproduced – most of the time digitally printed and made as reproductions. However, there are also many artists who create prints as the artwork itself – these are called original prints. Original prints are just like paintings or sculptures in that they represent a unique work of art. These are generally valued far more than a reproduction print, as there may only be one or a few prints available.
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Signed vs. Unsigned Prints
There are many things to look out for when collecting prints, and an important mark to look out for is the artists signature. Most artists sign their prints at the bottom right of their artwork, and this signature is vital in showing their stamp of approval, whilst showcasing that it is his or her own work. Signatures are one of the various criteria used to authenticate a work of art, and a print’s value can sometimes be dependent on this. It tends to be a safer option to choose a print with a signature rather than without.
Understanding the Types of Printer’s Marks
Outside of edition numbers and the artist’s signature, there are other marks a printmaker can make to distinguish certain prints from others, and help you gauge the value of the print. Here are the main marks that you should be aware of.
A/P (Artist Proof)
The A/P marking indicates that the print is an artist proof. This is a limited-edition print that is normally kept by the artist for personal use. Typically, only 10% - 15% of the whole edition makes up the artist proof.
B.A.T. (Bon à Tirer)
B.A.T. is Bon à Tirer, which is French for ‘good to pull’. A print with this mark indicates that this is the first print of the edition that meets the standards and requirements of the artist. All prints created are normally compared to the B.A.T. print as benchmark to measure the quality of the rest.
U/P (Unique Print)
The U/P mark means that the print is unique and that it cannot be reproduced again. This means that only one print exists and no other editions are available.
Established vs. Emerging Artists
Collecting prints by established artists is a great way to acquire works by some of your favourite talents at a lower price point. Prints tend to be more affordable, especially in comparison to paintings, fine art photography and sculpture. Collecting a renowned artist’s print can also diversify your art collection, and showcase a different processes or technique the artist experimented with during their career. It also reflects the varied practice of the artist within their body of work.
Prints by lesser known or emerging artists can also be worth collecting, as they have the potential to increase in value over time. They are also a lot more accessible than bigger, blue-chip artists and relatively inexpensive. Works in many cases can showcase an incredible amount technical skill and mastery of the artist, as well as highlight unique attributes of their chosen printmaking process.
A Takashi Murakami Print Hung in Child's Bedroom
Image courtesy of Architectural Digest
Prints for the Home
It is very easy to incorporate prints into the home, and one of the great things about them is that they tend to be very easy to take care of. Prints can be hung as a series, or presented in a salon-style hang using prints and a mix and match of other artworks from your collection.
Since there are so many different printing processes, displaying them in a living or dining room can enhance the textural and atmospheric qualities within the space. Depending on size, large and eye-catching prints can also stand on their own as the sole central work of art in a room.
WeWork Shared Working Space in Fukuoka, Japan.
Image courtesy of WeWork
Prints for the Workspace
Prints are perfect additions to a work or office space as they need little to no maintenance if kept in the right conditions – and this is something that is extremely appealing for corporations and collectors.
Prints depicting natural, abstract, and organic forms tend to work best within an office environment, and can bring a sense of cohesion into a space. Such artwork can enliven the office atmosphere and brighten up a space without breaking the bank.
Prints on The Artling
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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