Printmaking is a sometimes misunderstood aspect of visual art. In fact, the discinction between fine art prints and commercially reproduced prints (posters) is not always easy to make. Before you purchase  that lovely print you have been admiring, you should know what you are getting. Here are some basics. If you have questions contact Regina Held at New Grounds Print Workshop or Fermin Hernandez at Hernandez Fine Art.

Commercially reproduced prints or posters are reproductions of original paintings or drawings. They make is possible for anyone to own a Van Gogh or Renoir.

Fine art printmaking involves the creation of a master plate (or stencil) from which multiple images can be made. In this case the resulting multiple images are each, on their own, originals. Here are some types of fine art printing:

  • Relief printing involves printing from a raised surface. A woodblock print is a relief print.
  • Intaglio printing describes a process whereby an image or picture is cut into the surface of a printing plate. The areas that are cut away will have ink pushed into them. Etchings, engravings, aquatint, drypoint, photogravures, mozzotints, and collagraphs are all intaglio prints.
  • Lithography is the printing of a flat surface, usually a stone or metal plate (planographic).
  • Screen printing is where a stencil is made (or multiple stencils) and ink is forced through the openings onto the surface (paper, fabric. etc.). Sometimes called silk screening, serigraphy (seri means silk) is a type of stencil printing. The term hand-pulled screen print indicates that the artist not only made the stencil, he/she pulled the print.
  • monoprint is one of a series of prints in which each print has some differences of color, design, texture, etc. applied to a common underlying image.
  • monotype is a printed drawing or painting of which there are only one. The greatest innovator and practitioner of the monotype in the 19th century was Edgar Degas.
  • An iris print (also called Giclee) is a new process using advanced computer technology to create a digital print. Is this fine art? It can be …
  • Photographic prints may also be fine art – there are a number of print processes including Albumen printing (using egg whites in the emulsion), Daguerreotype (an early photographic process invented in 1839 where the impression made on a light-sensitive silver-coated metal plate is developed by mercury vapor and each is an original), Photogravure (an intaglio printing process), Silver Print (a generic term referring to all prints made on paper coated with silver salts), and more.

There are a number of factors involved in determining the value of a print apart from the artist, the process and the subject matter – the most important being the edition. An edition is a set of identical  prints, sometimes numbered and signed, pulled by or under the supervision of the artist. A limited edition has a known number of impressions, usually fewer than 200, that are numbered and signed. So, if your print is marked  6/150 that means it is number six in an edition of 150. The plate will not be used again. An open edition has potentially an unlimited number of impressions.