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The Imitation of Art: Originals vs. Prints



Written by: Jessica Berger

The holiday season is in full swing and with this time of year comes the pressure of finding a thoughtful gift for that special art lover in your life. The big question is-what do you get for the person who has everything? Originals works by up and coming artists are always a great gift idea and they support your local galleries and businesses. If Old Masters are the preference, originals will be hard to come across, not to mention a deep investment for the buyer. A great alternative alternative can be found in a fine print. They can be a great investment due the large selection still available by Old Masters. Within this genre comes a wide range of different types of fine prints. Before making that final purchase make sure to take the following factors into consideration:

1. The edition of the print

A fraction which shows the edition number (on top) of that specific work and the total amount (listing the total number of prints created from that specific plate) with the bottom number. Additional information listed near the bottom of the image may include the artist’s signature, watermarks, date and if it is an artist’s print (typically marked with A/P). A catalogue raisonné is useful as it helps identify the provenance and origins of a print. Artists included typically fall into those who are established in their careers or artists who are deceased.

2. The type of print

Printmaking has a long and rich history which has grown into various types and techniques in creating a work. Listed below are the most utilized prints with a brief description most identified with the process and final product.


The image is drawn directly on flat surface (typically stone) with an oil-based implement, then coated with a water-based liquid. When the oil-based ink is applied it repels the water, inking in just the image and allowing it to be transferred onto a paper surface.


This print is created from a relatively new print process believed to have been used in the late 1980s or early 1990s on IRIS inkjet printers.


A stencil is a created with a sheet of paper, fabric, plastic, metal or other material with designs cut, perforated or punched from it. Ink is forced through the openings onto the surface (paper, fabric etc.) to be printed. This process is also referred to as silk screening.


As a more modern version to woodcut, linocuts are made using linoleum. The softness of the material allows for cleaner, freer, and more fluid lines creating a nice, clean image.


This dichromate-based photographic process was invented by Alphonse Poitevin in 1856. It was used for large volume mechanical printing before the existence of the cheaper offset, lithography.


The image is produced by directly carving an image into a wooden surface, which is then inked and printed—leaving the carved-out negative image along with occasional traces of the wood’s grain.


artists incise (“draw”) a composition onto a wax-coated metal plate, then soak the entire plate in acid. The acid corrodes the exposed lines and leaves the wax intact, so that when the plate is inked and pressed, the paper absorbs the image in reverse.


The image is created directly onto a metal plate which is then inked and printed.


This is a catch-all term for process of transmitting images from one surface to another, whether by rubbing, tracing, pressing, or any other manual technique.

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