Original Prints Explained

Posted on Feb 19, 2016 in Editorial

I’m hoping the following information will help you understand the differences between Prints, Original Prints, Limited Editions, Original Artworks and Giclee Prints….

Definition of a Print:

A print is a picture, text or design often produced in multiple copies, by applying ink to paper or other material by various processes.

The word ‘print’ is used to describe both digitally reproduced and hand-printed work (such as printmaking) and it is not always clear to buyers which process has been used to reproduce the print.

Definition of an Original Artists Print:

Hand-made prints are not a digital reproduction. They are produced by hand from a printing plate or silkscreen which can be made by hand or created digitally, or a combination of both. The plates or silkscreen it is printed from bear no resemblance to the finished work of art, which means it is not a copy or a reproduction of anything.  Only hand-printed work that has been manually produced by the artist can be called an original print. Anything else is simply a copy or reproduction.

Examples of traditional print-making processes include linocut, woodcut, etching, screen-printing, monotype and collograph. Creating an original print using one of these processes usually involves many hours in the studio, infinite patience and experience with an array of chemicals, plates and (often ancient) equipment!

In screen printing the inks are mixed by hand and pulled through the silkscreen (which has a negative stencil of the image to be printed) by hand using a squeegee. Each colour in the print is printed separately.

Each print, although it may be one of a numbered series (or edition) is a unique, original, hand-crafted piece of art. Although the image is the same in an edition of hand-made prints, no two are exactly identical as each one has been individually printed. Slight differences in the amount of ink applied and the pressure on the press make each print unique. Signing and numbering prints (as part of a limited edition) does not necessarily mean that the print is a hand-printed original.

If you look closely at my original hand-made silkscreen prints you can see differences in texture and sheen between the ink and the paper. The inks I use are slightly raised on the paper and have a soft sheen which contrasts with the velvety matt surface of the paper.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 17.28.28 IMG_5204Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 17.22.55 Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 17.21.43 10659228_1574295976148455_4829184657497310317_n Katie Edwards Profile Pic

Original Artworks

I have some pieces on my website that are Original Artworks, these are silkscreen prints that are completely original and not part of an edition, they are usually created as experiments and are the first time I will have created that image. I experiment with different papers, colours, positioning and often hand paint layers with acrylic. I consider them to be as original as an oil painting. They are priced higher than my Original Prints because they are one offs.

Here is an example of my Original Artwork of ‘Joy’, all the colours in this artwork are hand painted in acrylic, only the black is printed by silkscreen.

Original Joy

and below the Original Silkscreen Print of ‘Joy’ which is an edition print and larger in size.

Katie Edwards-Joy-Screen printNB

What original prints are NOT…

  • Original prints are not photographic, or scanned, copies of paintings.
  • Original printmaking does not involve a painting being painted, photographed (or scanned) to turn it into a computer file printed from a large format computerised printer.

Original prints are…

  • A printmaker sets out to create a print, and only a print – there is no (‘master’) painting.
  • Each print in an edition is personally and methodically made by the printmaker.
  • These variations of printmaking produce different types of original prints: Silkscreen Printing, Etching, Collagraph, Woodcut, Linocut, Lithography and others. However, the description above explains what is distinctive about all types of original printmaking.

The difference between a ‘Limited Edition’ and an ‘Original Print’

Many print collectors are confused by the terms “original print” and “limited edition print”. The two do not have the same meaning. The term “original print” is a specific term; “limited edition” is a general term. An original print is almost always a limited edition print simply because the edition is limited to the actual number of prints that can be safely “pulled” or printed from the plates/silkscreen before the plates begin to wear out and break down from the physical wear and tear of the printing process. But a limited edition print may or may not be an original work of art. It might be just a digital reproduction of a painting, photograph, drawing, etc., in other words no more than a poster. The edition may be limited to an arbitrary number of 500, 1000, often more, and is sometimes even signed in pencil by the artist. It is not, however, actually printed by the artist.

An original print is a work of art created by hand and printed by hand by the artist from a plate, block, stone, or silkscreen that has been hand created by the artist for the sole purpose of producing the desired image.

Original prints are traditionally signed in pencil by the artist. They are numbered to indicate how many prints there are in the edition and to identify the individual print. This number appears written as a fraction, for example: 34 / 75. This is called the edition number. The number to the right of the slash (in this example, 75) indicates the size of the edition: 75 prints have been produced. The number to the left is the actual number of the print. The artist traditionally keeps a separate group of prints aside from the edition marked as artist’s proofs, normally about 10% of the edition, these are marked A / P.

The term “limited edition” is vague. When purchasing a work of art it’s a good idea to know whether or not you’re buying the real thing, if you truly want the “real thing”. There is a reason for reproductions and posters in the print collectors’ market; a reproduction sells for hundreds or even thousands less than an original work by the same artist.

Digital & Giclee Prints

These are prints that have been reproduced using a sophisticated, professional inkjet printer, from a digital file, onto fine art paper, photographic paper or canvas. They are reproduction prints (copies) which are not considered original works of art and do not fall into the category of printmaking. I do not have any Giclee prints for sale on my website.