Types of Art Prints - everything you need to know!

By: Bill Wheeler, Printmaker Studio 1617

An original print is a work of art created by hand and printed by hand, either by the artist or by a professional assistant (often called an artisan), from a plate, block, stone, or stencil that has been hand created by the artist for the sole purpose of producing the desired image. The plates or stencils 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. In fact, in all print media but two, the image on the matrix (what the print is produced from) is mirror image or backwards from what the finished work will be. The image reverses in the printing process so the artist has to think and draw backwards. Each print produced is technically a unique work although produced as a signed and numbered multiple. The technical term for this is monoprint. The original print is usually produced as a limited number of impressions, another word for print. The term for this group of prints is the edition. Although there are many of the same image in an edition, each print is an individual part of the whole, the whole being the edition. An original print is actually one piece of a multiple original work of art.

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. This number is read: "print number thirty four of seventy five". There are other types of identifying marks as well. The artist traditionally keeps a separate group of prints aside from the edition marked as artist's proofs, normally about ten or less. These are marked A / P, sometimes with an edition number after (such as: A / P  2 / 5) to indicate how many A / P's there are. During the course of developing the image an artist may pull many experimental images before modifying the plates to achieve the finished product. These are referred to as state proofstrial proofs, or color proofs. When the image is finally perfected the printer's proof or bon-a'-tirer (signed B.A.T.) is pulled. This is the image that the rest of the edition is matched to and there is only one of these. The artisan printer traditionally gets to keep the printer's proof.

What Is A Limited Edition Print?

Many print collectors are confused by the terms "original print" and "limited edition print". The two are not synonymous. 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 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 photo-mechanical 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.

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 of dollars less than an original work by the same artist.

What's the Difference Between Them?

There are new technologies in printmaking that are blurring the differences between Original Prints and reproductions, the Mylar Transfer process in lithography for one, and Giclee's for another.  Technically speaking, Mylar prints are drawn by hand by the artist, which in one sense classifies them as original prints, but then they are photographically copied onto the plate or screen and at that point can potentially be mass produced on mechanical presses.   Some artists are producing hand drawn offset lithographs in small, limited editions and other artists are experimenting with hand manipulated and modified color copies as original prints.  Giclee's are digital ink jet prints of a digital image file on a computer or CD.  Technically, they are copies, though some artists use this process to produce beautiful one-of-a-kind images on paper.

In this ongoing debate one school of thought contends that an Original Print must be entirely produced by hand by the artist, which combines a considerable degree of skill, artistic ability, and technical knowledge.  Another group states that the choice of whatever type of press,  process, or medium is used is just an artistic tool.  Some purists don't always agree that the above techniques are acceptable for producing original prints since there is far less physical work and, sometimes, no technical knowledge involved in producing an edition. The image my be hand drawn, but it may not be hand printed.

There are just as many printmaker purists out there as there are experimenters and the element of the artist's direct control and manipulation of the medium is probably the key as to whether a print is an Original Print or not.  So the debate goes on.

The Difference Between Monoprints and Monotypes:

These two terms are often confused with each other. A monoprint is the term for any individual original print that is part of a limited edition as opposed to a reproduction which is a copy of something else, such as a poster print of a painting. A monoprint can also be any of a number of prints pulled from a single plate, but with no attempt to print any two the same way. A monotype however is a unique work of art usually printed from a smooth flat surface such as a sheet of plastic. The artist paints by hand the image to be printed directly on this smooth surface and then places a sheet of paper over the freshly painted surface, cranks it through a press, and so creates a one-of-a-kind work of art. Monotypes, by their nature, cannot be produced as an edition. If they are numbered at all they are numbered as 1/1 (read as "one of one"... an edition of one, in other words). 
  Types of Prints:

Relief Process:

This, the oldest and most basic method of making a print, evolved in China sometime around 800 A.D. It is based on the principle of cutting away part of the surface of a block of material so that the image area to be printed stands out in relief to form a printing surface. The ink can be rolled on to the surface to be printed (called a block in this form of printing) with a rubber or gelatin roller (also called a brayer) or can be applied to the block with a short bristled brush. Paper is placed over the freshly inked surface and pressure is applied to transfer the ink from the block to the paper. The pressure may come from cranking the block through a printing press or the pressure may be applied by hand by rubbing the back of the paper with a wooden or bamboo tool called a baren. Some artists prefer to substitute the back of a wooden spoon for the baren. 


This technique involves the use of a plank of wood or plywood on which the artist draws a design and then carves away the wood in the parts of the picture that are not to be printed. The raised surface retains some of the pattern of the wood grain which shows up in the finished prints. Only one or two colors can be applied to the plate at one time. For prints with many colors a separate block must be carved for each color, and must line up exactly with all the other blocks or the print will be out of register like a badly printed color newspaper photograph. 
This is the process that gave rise to the first information revolution and helped to start the Renaissance. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and movable type in the 1400's. His books were all printed from these little blocks of wood carved into the shape of letters and the pictures were printed from woodcuts. 

Wood Engraving:

In this type of printing a piece of boxwood is cut perpendicular to the grain of the wood. Since the resulting end grain offers a smoother and more uniform surface than in regular woodcuts, little or none of the wood texture is seen in the print. Wood engravings are almost always small, usually under 5 x 6 inches because boxwood does not grow very large. Larger blocks can be made by laminating small pieces of wood together. This technique is seldom used today. In the past it was used mostly for book illustrations in hand printed volumes mainly because the block can last for hundreds or even thousands of copies, and this process produces an image of very fine detail. There was a large revival of this technique in the 1930's among many American WPA artists. 

Linoleum Cuts:

Linoleum cuts, or lino cuts, are almost identical to woodcuts. The only principle differences are the material and the ease of cutting the plates. The artist works on battleship linoleum, which is not the kind that is used in kitchens today. It is a very thick and pliable material that cuts with a knife or other cutting tool quite easily. Inking and printing are exactly the same as in woodcuts. Sometimes artists use linoleum for their color plates behind a final run of a woodcut because this medium is so easy and quick to work in. 

Stamped Prints:This is the most basic of all print processes. It consists of simply applying ink or paint to something and transferring the ink to the surface to be printed. This process includes such simple things as rubber stamp prints, potato block prints, finger prints and hand prints. All of these humble techniques have been used at one time or another by many well known artists. 

Intaglio Process:

The process of intaglio, incised or copperplate printing uses a principle opposite to that of relief printing. The image to be printed is sunk into the printing surface (which in this process is called a plate) and filled with a greasy printer's ink. Then the surface is carefully wiped clean so that the ink remains only in the incised design. The great pressure required to pick up the ink in the intaglio printing leaves a visible plate mark within the margin of the uncompressed paper. 
Intaglio plates can also be printed by the relief process. This results in a negative image, for example, white lines on a black background. The two processes may also be combined on the same plate as in a viscosity print, or stencils can be used to apply some color in precisely the right spot on a plate over the color already there. Go to Combination Prints to find out more about these processes. 

This is the oldest of the intaglio processes. Albrecht Durer was the first artist to popularize this medium although there are some examples of prints made from the engraved designs on suits of armor from almost one hundred years earlier. In this process the design is cut into a metal plate, usually copper or zinc, with a sharp tool called a burin. The plate is wiped clean with a type of starched cheesecloth called tarlatan. The ink remains only in the furrows left by the burin. Dampened paper (to make it soft) is placed on top of the plate and then they are cushioned by blankets on top and run through a flatbed press, between two rollers at several hundred pounds of pressure per square inch. This forces the ink that is down inside the lines of the plate onto the paper, leaving a raised inked line on the surface of the paper with the background printing white where the plate was wiped clean. 

Dry Point: 
In this process the artist draws directly on a copper plate with a sharp needle with great force. This leaves two burrs of copper, one on either side of the scratched line. It is mostly the ink caught in the burrs that forms the image on the paper in this case and not so much the ink in the shallow line. Since the burrs wear off rapidly under the pressure of the printing press and the abrasion of the wiping, only a limited number of copies can be made, often as few as only 10 or so, before the plate wears out. This technique is very rapid and produces an image very like a drawing. Dry point lines are often incorporated into etchings and aquatints to add variety of line and texture to the image. 

An extremely difficult and demanding (not to mention physically painful!) process in which the artist begins by using a special tool called a rocker to create a rough, even texture similar to sandpaper on the surface of the metal plate. If this plate were to be printed in this state the result would be a solid black image. Everything that is required to print lighter than this black has to be scraped away by hand with a metal tool and burnished smooth with another to produce the gray tones and whites of the finished print. The end result is a beautiful and almost photographic image. Many mezzotint artists print in color; a separate plate must be produced for each and every color and printed individually on top of the previous print in a separate run through the press for each plate, aligning each one in exact registration with the previous image. Mezzotints are often very expensive, and this is why. 

Instead of cutting directly onto the plate the artist covers the plate with acid resistant wax or turbaned ground and then draws on the plate with a special sharp tool called an engraver's needle to remove the ground and expose the metal underneath. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath which bites into the plate where. the protective covering has been removed. By leaving different areas exposed to the acid for varying lengths of time the depth and quality of the line bitten can be controlled. The finished plate is then printed in the same way as an engraving. Rembrandt van Rijn first popularized this medium. Some consider him the father of printmaking as a fine art form. 

Photo Etchings: 
Although this process uses photography it should not be confused with the Photo-Mechanical processes.  Exactly as in making a photographic print by hand a negative is used, but instead of processing  a piece of photo paper, a plate, which has a photographic emulsion coating on the surface, is exposed to light.  The plate is then developed in an extremely toxic chemical / solvent solution which hardens the unexposed areas of the plate.  Then the plate is etched and printed the same way as a traditional etching plate.  The artist then also has the option of re-coating the plate with a traditional etching ground (see above) and drawing back into the photographic image, or modifying the image by scraping away areas, or otherwise manipulating it by hand. 

 Instead of lines being bitten by the acid bath, in this process whole areas are exposed to the acid to give a texture to the surface of the plate. The area to be etched is first lightly dusted with powdered resin and heated to melt it so it will adhere. It is then placed in the acid bath to etch away the tiny areas not protected by the granulated resin. This results in a sandpaper like texture which prints as shades of gray, or tints of color if colored ink is used. Most often aquatint is used in combination with engraving or etching. However there are occasional rare examples of pure aquatint. It is a demanding and difficult technique that can take years to master but the end result is a print that can have a light and transparent quality like a watercolor. 

 Collagraphs are a form of intaglio print related to etching and engraving. They should not be confused with collotypes which are a form of planograph. Sometimes they may be referred to as collage prints or collage intaglio. Collagraphs differ from etchings and engravings in two ways:

  • Etchings and engravings are done on metal plates, usually copper or zinc. Collagraphs can be done on cardboard, paper, wood, metal or plastic plates, or just about anything else that can be run through a press.

  • Etching and engraving plates have incised or cut into surfaces to produce the textures from which the image is printed. Collagraphs are collaged, that is, the printing surface is built up from other added materials.

Collagraphs are printed in exactly the same way as etchings and engravings. They can be printed either as intaglio or relief. They can also be printed as a viscosity print in the same way as the others can. Depending on how they are printed and from what material they are made, the plates may last to produce editions as large as 150 prints, but usually editions of much smaller size are produced by artists working in this medium.

Planographic Process:
In this type of print the image is printed from a completely flat surface. It is a chemical process based on the principle that oil and water don't mix but resist each other. Another seldom used name for this type of process is resist process. There are only two types of prints in this category: lithographs and collotypes (not to be confused with collagraphs). Original lithographs should not be confused with photographically reproduced offset lithography. Original lithos are done entirely by hand, while most offsets are a common everyday type of reproduction print.  Newspapers and magazines, for example, are printed this way. Fine art posters are produced by the offset process as well, but more care is taken in their creation. Sometimes extra color runs are added to improve the quality, but they still remain photo-mechanical copies untouched by the artist's hand. 

Original Lithographs: 
Lithography was invented by Aloys Senefelder in 1798 and immediately became immensely popular as an artistic medium. In this technique the artist actually draws on a specially prepared flat piece of limestone or a metal plate made of either aluminum or zinc. The artist uses a grease or wax crayon or a greasy drawing ink called tusche to create the image just as if he or she were drawing or painting on a piece of paper. In fact, the way the surface is prepared (it is abraded down to a velvety texture by the use of abrasive carborundum powder) makes the stone or plate feel like you are drawing on a very heavy drawing paper. In the case of stone lithography it is a VERY heavy paper substitute; some stones can weigh as much as 300 or more pounds. Forklifts must be used to move the artist's drawing materials around. Stone lithography has gone out of favor in recent years mainly because of the physical demands involved. Also, a much easier and relatively new process called "mylar transfer" (see below).  Metal litho plates are very lightweight and portable, but do not produce as fine an image as stone. A good stone lithograph print is almost indistinguishable from an original drawing.

After the drawing is finished on the stone or plate it is then treated with a mixture of gum arabic and dilute phosphoric acid which reacts with the waxy drawing materials to produce a type of water repellent soap that will accept the oil based printing ink. During printing the stone is alternately kept damp with water and then rolled up with the oil based ink. This is another extremely demanding process. If the stone isn't kept damp enough, or the water is either too acidic or too basic, the whole image can be lost irretrievably and all the time spent developing it wasted. The print paper is placed on top of the freshly inked stone or plate. A specially constructed press has to be used not only to bear the weight of the stones, but to support the extreme pressures needed to print the image. Instead of a press with a metal roller on top and on bottom like an etching press, the litho press uses a narrow wooden or plastic scraper bar above in contact with a greased sheet of metal or plastic over the print paper. Pressure of up to two thousand pounds per square inch is applied to this stone, paper, and plastic sandwich as it is cranked by hand through the press. As in most other print media, if more than one color is used separate plates or stones must be made for each color. Each new color must be printed again on top of the previous runs through the press. 
An offset plate can also be drawn on by hand just like a stone or flat metal plate and then printed on an offset press.  This creates a hybrid print known as an Original Offset Lithograph.  The images is drawn by hand, but is printed mechanically.  In the 19th Century there were presses that produced offset prints from hand drawn litho stones.  There is a great advantage to using this process, especially if there is any text included in the image.  Most print processes reverse the image on the plate, including hand lithography, but by printing the image on a rubber "blanket" or a roller and then transferring that wet ink onto a sheet of paper, a double reversal of the image is achieved and the print is an exact copy of the plate or stone instead of being a mirror image.  The only other print process that does not reverse the image during printing is Serigraphy. 

Mylar Transfers: 
In this technique the artist draws the image on a sheet of transparent mylar plastic.  The image is then exposed on a photo chemically coated aluminum plate and then printed either by hand or on an offset press.  This process is a very useful shortcut to getting precise registration of color in multiple plate images and an added benefit is that the artist does not have to draw the image backwards as in the traditional process.  A mylar transfer lithograph has no halftone as a photo mechanically produced poster would, and is almost indistinguishable from a lithograph drawn by hand on a plate. 

Collotypes: Not to be confused with collographs. In this extremely rare and miserably difficult photographic medium the prints are printed on either a regular etching press or litho press from glass plates (yes, real glass...) coated with a thick gelatin based photographic silver salt emulsion. The image is exposed on the plate and developed just as a regular photograph would be using all the same chemicals. But instead of printing the image on light sensitive paper, the gelatin plate is kept damp in a humidity controlled room (controlled to tropical jungle levels of humidity) so the gelatin will absorb moisture from the air where there is no black silver image protecting it. Some of the few artists working in this medium go ahead and use sponges very gingerly to keep the gelatin damp because the act of printing works up enough of a sweat as it is without resulting to subjecting the printer to drudge away in a sauna. The plate is rolled up with an oil based ink which, with luck, sticks to the silvered areas and, with luck, is repelled by the damp gelatin. 
Obviously there are many potential drawbacks to this process, the worst of which is the delicacy of the printing surface. If there is just a little bit too much moisture in the air or if the sponge is too damp the whole gelatin surface will dissolve causing the image to simply peel off the plate. Another problem is the pressure of the press. If there is any irregularity or bump in the press bed, or if too much pressure is used on the glass plate... well, you know. 

Stencil Process: 
 A stencil is simply a hole or an opening through another material through which ink or paint is applied to a surface underneath. It can also be the opposite: a solid shape around which the ink or paint is applied, creating a shadow effect. Each color must be applied separately through other stencils cut or blocked out to allow the color to line up where wanted on the design. The stencil process along with offset lithography is one of only two print media in which the image is worked as it will be seen when printed, not backwards mirror image as in all other forms of printing. 

 Serigraphs, also known as silk screen prints and screen prints, are a form of stencil printing. It is a process that first appeared shortly after 1900 and gained popularity among artists by the 1920's. It is one of the most common forms of printmaking today. The silk screen printer prepares a screen of finely woven fabric (usually orlon, nylon, or silk) or sometimes very fine steel screen for large editions, stretched over a wooden frame. The areas not to be printed are painted out with a glue or varnish that will not be dissolved by the type of ink to be used. This protects these areas of the paper that are to remain untouched by the ink. Photo emulsion films are also used extensively today replacing the older hand painted process. The ink is squeezed through the screen onto the paper by a rubber squeegee. Large editions are possible in serigraphy because of the speed and ease (compared to other printmaking processes) with which they can be printed. Many artists can do editions with as many as 100 colors or more because of this.  Some multi-color serigraphs can resemble paintings more than prints.  Unfortunately however the screen process requires the use of many highly toxic solvents during the course of printing an edition, especially when vinyl based inks are used. 

Pochoir Prints: 
 This is an uncommon process, first appearing shortly before 1900 in France. In one version of this technique ink or paint is lightly brushed through an opening cut through a heavy paper or metal plate creating a kind of feathering effect. In the other version a screen is used as in serigraphy, but with a much coarser weave. Paint is then air-brushed through the stencil onto the paper. 

Mixed Media Prints: 
 In recent years there has been a trend toward incorporating multiple print media in the production of original prints. Prints that combine two or more unrelated print processes are called combination prints. Some examples are: an intaglio print with colors rolled into different areas of the plate through stencils; a lithograph printed on top of a colored serigraph background; a woodcut mixed with serigraphy; a collagraph used as a color plate behind a woodcut. The list goes on. Artists traditionally test the limits of their preferred media, and printmakers have always been known to experiment, as well. The inherent unpredictability of printmaking leads the artist to explore in new directions. Most printmakers have chosen such a demanding form of expression simply because the visual effects made possible with the many print processes cannot be achieved by any other means. 

Viscosity Prints: 
 The viscosity technique was developed by Stanley William Hayter in France in the 1950's. It is a hybrid combination of the intaglio process and the relief process. In this process multiple colors are applied simultaneously to only one plate. To start, the artist creates an intaglio plate with several different levels. The plate is inked up with a stiff ink and wiped clean just as a normal intaglio print would be. But then it's rolled up relief print style with rollers inked with inks of different viscosities, or runniness. Depending on whether the rollers used are soft or hard, or whether pressure is applied while rolling-up or not, the ink rolled on to the plate can be made to adhere to its different levels. Inks of differing viscosities will not readily mix, similar to the way oil and water don't like to mix. So by experimenting with different combinations of soft roller plus stiff ink or hard roller with loose ink, or almost endless other combinations the artist can achieve a very rich and painterly effect with many colors in only one run through the press. 
The benefits of this are clear: printing is hard enough as it is without having to resort to multiple runs through the press for extra colors. The fewer the plates the better. The drawback is that this process is close to being uncontrollable. A regular edition always has some natural variation, usually minor, between the individual prints within it, but an edition of viscosity prints usually has wild variations of color and texture. 

 In this process the artist uses small pieces of colored or metallic papers instead of (or in combination with) colored inks to create a color print. The papers are cut into the proper shapes to fit within the areas that need color, then the backs of the papers are lightly painted with glue. While the glue is still wet the colored papers are placed glue-side-up on top of the appropriate areas of the inked plate. The paper to be printed on is placed on top of all this and everything is run through the press. The resulting effect is that of a collage. 

Transfer Prints: 
 This interesting cross between viscosity and offset printing, though unpredictable, produces some rather nice effects. In this first example the technique requires a minimum of two rollers, at least one with a large diameter, and two or more plates. Normally only one of these plates is ever run through the press and printed on paper, however. To give a basic example: the artist begins with a plate that has little texture and inks it as an intaglio print. The other plate is a relief plate and is rolled up with a stiff ink. Instead of printing this relief image on a piece of paper, though, the artist takes a clean un-inked roller with a circumference larger than the width of the relief plate. This roller is rolled over the surface or the inked relief and picks up the image, offset style, on its surface. The edge of the image on the roller is then aligned with the edge of the inked intaglio plate and the roller is pressed and rolled across that plate, neatly depositing onto its surface the image that was previously picked up from the other plate. Other looser inks may be rolled over this double image to add more color before it is run through the press and printed. The effect obtained is reminiscent of old frescoes or cave paintings. 
There is another form of transfer print in which the artist uses a recently printed magazine photograph or a very recently done color copy. This image is then coated on the back with transparent serigraph ink which contains a lot of acetone, a solvent. The coated picture is placed image-side-down on piece of printing paper and another piece of absorbent paper is placed over that. Acetone or lacquer thinner is brushed over the top sheet of paper and then the whole thing is run through a press several times with great pressure, sometimes applying more solvent between runs. The image is transferred to the printing paper, if everything works out all right. 

Photo-Mechanical Process: 
 This category includes mostly those types of prints intended to be used as posters.  It also includes the common processes used in book, magazine, and newspaper printing.

Offset Lithographic Reproductions: 
 The photo-mechanical offset lithos are the prints that comprise the bulk of the poster market (not to be confused with Original Offset.  Also, see above.). They are inexpensive to print in large quantities so they can be sold at affordable prices. Original prints are very labor intensive and therefore often sell for hundreds of dollars each, placing them out of the financial reach of most potential art collectors. The process is the same in principle as in an original lithograph, but offsets are printed on huge, high speed mechanical presses often in quantities of thousands of prints at a time. A big technical difference between the two media is the concept of offset printing. In a hand printed original litho the stone or plate is inked up and then printed directly on a piece of paper. In the offset process the plate prints, or offsets the image onto a rubber roller and then the image is printed from that onto the paper. This causes a double reversal of the image, so the plate appears just as the print will appear. The image on the plate is not a mirror image of the final image as in the other print media (with the exception of the stencil processes). 
 If you look very closely at an offset reproduction you will see a regular pattern of colored dots, similar to the dots in color comics in the newspaper.  The dots are called a "half-tone screen" or half-tone for short.  The only way to reproduce the colors of the original artwork that was photographed is to break down the colors into four components, the "four color process",  sometimes called the Pantone process and also CYMK.  The four primary colors in offset printing are cyan, yellow, magenta, and black.  If you look closely at the dots you will see that they are printed only in those four colors.  By printing the dots larger or smaller side-by-side with the other colors the eye is fooled into seeing the mixed secondary and tertiary colors.  The more dots per square inch, the better (and more expensive) the print, but it's still an offset reproduction and NOT an original print.  Original hand drawn lithographs and Mylar Transfers do not have the half-tone dots, unless for some reason the artist chose to use a photo process in part of the image.  In an original print each color is mixed by hand and is printed separately, and even under a microscope the drawing looks like a drawing, not a comic book page. 

 This is a 19th and early 20th century process and is rarely used today.  In this process photographically etched metal plates, usually copper, are wrapped around metal cylinders on a special rotogravure press and printed in almost the same way as an Offset Lithograph. They can even be printed as offsets themselves on a different version of the rotogravure press, or can be used to emboss special hard paper plates that are then used to print the image instead of the metal etched plates.  Most magazines and newspapers of a century ago were produced by this process, as well as art prints and posters. 

Color Copies and Giclee' Prints: 
 Many artists are experimenting with color copy machines as an additional tool for producing an image. Theoretically, original prints cannot be produced in this manner because of the lack of a matrix made by the artist that physically produces the image. The copy machine does just what it says. It makes copies, not originals. However, a copy can be the basic image which the artist then adds to and modifies into a mixed media print. Giclee' prints are another type of color copy produced with the aid of a computer on a large, special ink jet printer. Like other color copies they can be printed in quantity or one at a time.  Unlike offset lithographs however, they do not have the half-tone dot pattern, but a smoother and random array of tiny dots of color.  Unfortunately, many if not all of these Giclee's are printed with a water based ink, and if any water ever gets on them they will be ruined.

Bill Wheeler is a printmaker producing hand-printed viscosity collagraphs, usually editions in suites of from 2 to 10 related images. A native of Southern California and a graduate of Otis Art Institute, his art reflects the bright sunlight and colors of the Southwest. The Postmodernists, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee influence his work as well. His paintings are large dimensional wall-reliefs, more like sculpture than paintings. The largest is a grouping of 22 panels covering two 10' x 32' walls, commissioned by AMOCO for their Learning Center in Illinois. Numerous other private and corporate collections around the world also include his works. For more information: http://www.studio1617.com/fineart/Wheeler/BillWheeler.htm

Do I Have an Original Painting, a Copy or Reproduction?

Original art has been copied for centuries. Students would learn how to paint like a master by emulating a masterwork. Often reproductions have been used to provide a less expensive version of a popular painting. While only one individual or institution can own an original painting, thousands of people can own a copy or reproduction of that painting. With the advent of computers copying techniques such as giclee prints have become popular and are often hard to distinguish from the original.

Here are some basic tips that you can use to try to determine if your work is an original or a reproduction. If you’re still unsure please get the best photographs you can, forward them to us, and we will attempt to help you.

Please note: The Caldwell Gallery’s area of expertise is for original American and western European artwork created up until 1970. We are therefore unable to help evaluate, assess, appraise, buy or sell prints, copies or reproductions of original artwork. If you need assistance with this type of artwork we suggest an internet search for dealers who specialize in those specific fields.

You’ll need:
Magnifying glass or Jewelers loupe 
Good light (preferably sunlight)

• Original paintings are most often executed on canvas, panel, paper or wood.
• Copies of original artwork is typically done on stock paper or cardboard. Occasionally reproductions can be printed on canvas and varnished in an attempt to emulate brushstrokes.

• With oil paintings you can often see and feel the texture of the paint. Watercolor paintings typically have impressions from the brush that shows up under magnification. Original paintings also can often have paint colors that overlap one another.

Upon close examination, you can see the differences in the layers of paint thickness which is one indicator of an original painting vs. a copy.

• Look for pencil sketches under the painting (especially watercolors). Many artists sketch out their idea before they pick up a brush. 
• Often there can be a rough or uneven application of paint at the edges of the work with the anticipation that this would be covered up by a frame. Older canvases are attached to the stretcher using nails.

Uneven paint along edge with nails anchoring the canvas to the stretcher are both indicators of an original canvas.

• Copies of original artwork are typically flat and smooth. 
• Sometimes copies are printed on textured paper that has “brushstrokes” pressed into the paper. Look closely to see if the brushstrokes match the painting image. For example if there is one brushstroke that goes from a white cloud and continues into the blue sky then that is most likely a texturized print, not an original painting as an artists would have had to change paint colors and therefore the brushstroke would have ended with the cloud. 
• Photo-mechanical copies can often have a “dot matrix pattern” which is visible under magnification.

• Copyright information in small letters is a good indication that the work is not original.

• Original works sometimes have labels from shows or galleries that are not removed because they help to tell the history of a piece. Some artists may also sign, title and date their work on the back (the back of a painting is know as verso).
• Lithographs, print series or limited editions are often labeled as such on the back.

Written by: Jay Caldwell, The Caldwell Gallery, 4574 Meadowridge Road, Manlius, N.Y. 13104. Main Gallery: 800-331-1278, 315-682-6551

Why Buy Original Art?

The Value of
Authenticity – Why
Buy Original

We live in an age in which we are saturated with images.  They stare at us from billboards and the pages of magazines, they flit across our television and computer screens, they adorn our groceries, our clothes and accessories. Whilst many of these images are purely commercial, the ubiquitous image has not left the art world untouched. Andy Warhol declared the death of art and stood for the democratization of painting – advertisements can be high art, art can be advertisement. The widespread nature of images has only increased the demand for art in peoples’ homes. Cheap full color reproductions and posters of paintings can be found from student dorm rooms to hotel restrooms.

In the decades after the explosion of mass-produced images, many artists moved away from traditional formats and embraced a broader and more all-inclusive package of subjects and mediums. Art lovers followed suit, buying ever more extravagant pieces that moved further from the traditions of yesteryear, constantly searching for the newest sensation. Where then does this leave painting?

Contrary to the popular view of contemporary art, many of the newest and brightest young artists on the scene have fully embraced painting, reviving it and transforming their canvases into extraordinary works of skill and talent. This renaissance of painting can be seen in galleries worldwide. However, when one can buy a very pleasing color print for five dollars, why should one buy a piece of original art?

A painting is unique – you are the owner of a work, the only one of its kind. So much more substantial than a print, you have a piece of heritage. When buying paintings, you must only choose that which you truly love and can imagine yourself living with. Paintings come at a price, but a high price is no guarantee that your painting is a good investment. As with all things, fashions and tastes change.  Paintings that were once immensely popular can fall out of favour rapidly, whereas unknown artists can shoot into the spotlight overnight. A painting you love can be treasured by you and your family for generations to come, irrespective of monetary value.

The qualities that an original painting possesses cannot be replicated even by the most advanced print technique. Talking to owners of original paintings, they often say that the real painting is so much more vivid, more alive than any reproductions they have seen, but often they cannot put their finger on why exactly this should be. Perhaps the ephemeral superiority lies in the details that come together to make the whole: The look of the paint - a soft translucent sheen or the crystallized pigments that change subtly as you move through the room; brushstrokes, the textures of the paint, the surface created by movements of brush, palette knife and sponge; The three-dimensional quality of a painting on canvas or board, which gives it a tremendous sense of presence. When displayed, an original painting will transform a room, altering the space around it. A painting is so much more than just an image. It is the unique mark of an artist, a document of their creativity and energy. 

In a world full of reproductions, watered-down visions and genuine fakes, an original painting stands as a capsule of authenticity – a direct link to humanity and the spark of creativity of another human being. Paintings are personal in an impersonal world, a token of love and passion that reconnects us to ourselves.

This article was written for ARTmine by Tilla Crowne.

17 Unique Wall Art Display Ideas That Aren't Another Gallery Wall

17 Unique Wall Art Display Ideas That Aren’t Another Gallery Wall

BY: Amethyst Wang ·

So you’ve collected works by your favorite artist and are ready to start decorating your home. But before you hammer and nail anything to the walls, why not go over all of your options first? We know (and love) how art can look amazing when hung up on a gallery wall, but just in case the Pinterest-popular decor trend isn’t for you (or your landlord has a strict “no nails” policy), we tracked down all the cool and alternative ways to spice up your art collection. Read on and get ready to decorate with these unique art display ideas that’ll have you saying “gallery wall, what?” in no time! Read more…


Why I Paint, and Why You should Buy Original Artwork.

Excerpt of a blog by artist Deborah O'Rourke

Photographs aren't enough for me because I can only look at them. By painting I can "experience" the color and texture and light, in a whole new way. And then I can share it with you.

 I paint because I have to. I see something and I just have to.

 And after a while I have a lot of paintings and I try to sell them. And it hurts to sell one of my paintings. I feel a loss when I sell it. What makes it ok is that I know that the person who is buying it looked at it and felt something about it that I was hoping to convey. Maybe they fell in love with the yellows in those lemons or the way the light and shadows fell. I envision the buyer hanging it on their wall and getting joy from it each time they pass by. So that makes it ok to sell. I still miss each painting because there is so much of me in each one.And that is why we buy art. Because we see something that evokes an emotion in us and we want to take it with us.

 Almost everyone has art in their homes, but many, many people don't have original art. Many people have prints of old masters and manufactured art that they bought at a store.

The colors go well and of course the famous artists are famous for a reason. But all you are doing is supporting big manufacturers and not the small artists who are trying to sell their art and maybe one day will become big artists. People who are putting their heart into their paintings.

If you see a piece of art you like, you should buy it. Not because it matches your living room or because you have an empty spot. But because you might feel joy when you look at it each day. And your emotions are from you. If you see an artist you like, feel free to like them even if they aren't famous.

 The biggest objection I get to buying art is "I have no room in my house". Well, how about rotating your art seasonally? How about getting rid of a piece that you never really cared much about in favor of a piece you just fell in love with. How about hanging art in the bathroom, the hallway, the stairwell, or an unusual place. We've had a piece of art hanging in our garage for over 30 years. We love it there. It fits.

How much should you pay for artwork? At my last show I had a lizard painting which got a lot of attention from a lot of people. The price was $75. People said "I'd buy it but the price is too high". But think about it for a minute..... it isn't a manufactured piece that can be sold cheaply because a machine prints thousands of these. This is an original, hand painted piece. I spent hours designing it and painting it. I had to pay for the canvas, the paint, the frame and the booth to sell it. $75. And you will get to enjoy that painting every day for the rest of your life. It's a bargain! Much of my art sells for more than $75. I price it with a mind to how much I spent on supplies, framing, the size of it, and other considerations, but I can never get paid enough for the time I put in or the years of experience and learning it took me to get to where I can make that painting.

 If you look at art in a gallery, remember that galleries typically take 40 to 50% commission on an artists work, so if a painting is listed at $400, the artist might get $200 and if they had to pay $100 to frame it, and $30 for the canvas their net profit on the painting is only $70. There's a reason they call us "poor starving artists". And framing is usually expensive.

 So think carefully the next time you pass an artists booth.   We paint because we feel.   We paint because we have to.  We sell because we want to share and we need to paint more.  Please support us.

10 Quick Do's and Don'ts of Decorating with Art

You’ve got blank walls and you’re not sure what to do with them.  Decorating with art can be intimidating and tricky, so sometimes we just leave the walls blank.  Here’s a few tips that will save you time and effort and get you started.

1. Art is not just made for one room—hang it in every room of the house.  There are no rules about what kind of art goes where.  You don’t have to use beach/nautical themes in the bathroom and fruit in the kitchen.  Try different pieces in different places.

2. Plan your wall in advance.  One small piece of art can get lost on a wall.  Put several pieces together, grouping them on the floor first until you find an arrangement you like.  Or, make paper templates and tape them on the wall to determine the right arrangement.

3. Be sure to use picture hanging hooks, not just nails or screws.  Not only can they handle more weight, but they won’t damage your walls. 

4. Like to take photos?  Use your own photography as art.  Many companies specialize in mounting   photos and will produce high quality photographs.

5. At what height is art to be hung?  Guidelines are based on an individual that’s 5’8”.  The middle of the artwork should be at this individuals line of sight.  Even groupings of art should not be too high, but balanced with the 5’8” line of site guideline.

6.  Make your artwork appear larger.  You have a piece of art that you want to put in a certain room, but it’s just too small.  Utilize a reputable framer and add matting, even double matting and a one inch frame to grow the piece.

7.  Feel free to mix different styles of art.  You can put a landscape in the same room with an abstract.  Place your art for your enjoyment; it belongs where you can see it and appreciate it.

8. Buy art that makes you happy and creates a pleasant emotion.

9. It’s okay to change your art periodically.  Not only is it fun to move art around in your place, it’s also great fun to buy new art.  Supporting artists is always a great option!

10.  Don’t be afraid of large pieces of art.  Small artworks can be grouped together to create a large arrangement but don’t limit yourself to 8” x 10” pieces.  If you find a piece of art that’s a bit larger, don’t be afraid to take up wall space with a piece you love.  A piece of art that’s 36” x 36” is a statement piece but it can be a nice addition to a hallway, over a bed, in the dining room, living room or even in the entry way.

By: Rebecca Firestone