A print is a two-dimensional
work of art that is one of a number of identical or essentially identical copies. (A three-dimensional
work of art that is one of a number of copies is called a multiple
.) A print is produced ("pulled
") by various means of mass production
. Though certain elements of the print may be crafted by hand, the majority of the work is created by mechanical means.
Technically, anything from a xerox
copy to the poster on your wall to a photograph
is a print. In fine art
, the word print usually refers to a limited edition (500-1000 are common) created by and pulled under the supervision of an artist. The methods used range from the traditional (woodcut
) to the modern (lithograph
), and innovative printmakers are combining and inventing techniques. See printmaking
for more information on techniques.
In printmaking, in most cases there is no "original". Each print is an individual and identical work of art. Buyers may value prints with lower numbers in the edition, but this is an arbitrary distinction. Prints that are copies of an original work in another medium
(e.g., prints of a painting) are not considered works of art.
Though the artist usually does not pull the prints him or herself, the artist must be heavily involved for the print to be considered "authentic". The artist will sign each print (often in pencil
, which is perfectly acceptable) and they will all be individually numbered (e.g., xx/500). The print will usually bear the identifying mark of the studio which produced the series. In previous centuries, prints would bear Latin
abbrevations such as fec
, or excud
identifying the role of the person in the printmaking process, followed by the name of that person.
Ignorant and unscrupulous sellers can easily misidentify prints, and in some cases I’ve seen prints identified as painting
s! Prints advertised as "limited editions" are often little more than posters. Sometimes (Salvador Dali
is a notorious example) an artist will sign blank paper before the prints are pulled, or the signatures are simply forged. Buyers should be wary and purchase prints only from reputable dealers or the artist him or herself. Markets like ebay
are probably not the best.