Original art is just that, the archetype piece created by the artist. It is unique and singular. By making copies or prints of their work, artists are able to make their work more accessible. Prints offer buyers a lower price point and give more buyers the opportunity to collect an artist's work. Still, the question remains, what exactly are buyers buying? The term PRINT gets used liberally to describe any number of artistic processes. The term is often surrounded with words that include reproduction, giclée, limited edition, lithograph, impression....But what do they all mean? I do not claim to be an expert; I am constantly discovering new fissures in the caverns of the art world. Still, I hope to help you become a more informed buyer.
Limited-edition print: This is an adjective used to describe a print with a set number of reproductions. These prints must be authorized by the artist but not always directly produced by the artist. The limited-edition must be created from the artist’s original work of art, and be under his or her direction. The edition and print number must appear on the print. The edition number can range from 10 to 10,000 or more. The image at the right is signed and numbered in pencil. This is the #3 print in an edition of 100.
Lithograph: A lithograph is an authorized reproduction of an original work created by the artist himself or other skilled craftsmen. It is often hand painted. It should have a signature & an edition number. If the quality is excellent and the production number is low, it will have value in the art world. It is not the same as a giclée print.
Impression: Art created in a printing press or pressing process is not a reproduction at all. These prints, or impressions, are considered original works of art. This term, 'print' is meant to literally reflect the process of creating this artwork. It is considered original art because each print varies to an extent due to the printmaking process; the imagery of a print is typically not simply a reproduction of another work but rather is often a unique image designed to be expressed in a particular printmaking technique. These works should also be signed, numbered & made in editions in order for them to have value. The dog above is a free hand sketch. It is just as original as a numbered and signed impression from a press.
Giclée: These reproductions are created using a specialized inkjet printer. The quality of a giclée print is higher than anything you would print from a generic home printer. Various kinds of paper can be used for giclée printing, including canvas and photograph paper. Any artwork, including paintings, drawings and photography, can be reproduced using the giclée process. Again, these pieces must be signed AND numbered by the artist for the art to have value. The piece above is unsigned, so, until it is signed and numbered, it is simply a high quality print with very little value in the art world.
There are exceptions to every rule. Value is entirely subjective; All of this can be nullified by the brand of the artist, the quality of the work, or even a buyer's personal relationship with the artist! Still, signed prints without edition numbers have less value in the art world than signed prints with edition numbers. Fine art reproductions without signatures & edition numbers are just expensive posters. Impressions are original works of art, but check for that signature and edition number. In general if the print does not have a signature AND a number, it is simply a poster. Finally, if you are going to spend money, support an artist & don't buy from a box store! Cheers!