The Canadian Art Database


What is an original print?

The description of "Original Print" provided by Open Studio differentiates between an original print and a reproduction. Often these definitions are confused, and reproductions are marketed as original prints. The description below is provided to help determine and understand the difference between the two.

It has become necessary to qualify the description of a fine art print as "original" because of the development of processes that have enabled the production of exact replica images, particularly using offset lithography. These "copies" imply the existence of an original, of which the image is a facsimile.

Fine art prints are not reproductions...
Art reproductions are made by commercial printers, who take a photograph of a painting or drawing and run off thousands of copies on a printing press, employing the same technology that is used to reproduce pictures in books and magazines.

The printed images that result are sometimes incorrectly referred to as prints. However, they are not originals; they are merely copies of an image that an artist created in some other form.

Original fine art-prints are made from images an artist has created directly on a printing surface. The finished prints are collectively called an edition.

The artists will normally sign and number each fine-art print, and indicate the size of the edition in pencil on the face of the edition below the image area.

After the edition is printed, the image the artist created on the printing plate, silkscreen or stone is defaced to prevent more prints being made.

Thus, an edition is said to be "limited".
The virtue of the original fine art-print is that it employs means of production that allow the artist to control and manipulate the image at every stage.

The fine art print results from a constant involvement of the artist with certain tools and materials. It is an original that exists in multiple form.

A single fine-art print should, therefore, be described as a "proof" or an "impression" and not as a copy. This distinction has led to a great deal of confusion among art dealers and the public as to the definition and proper marketing of original works of art created using techniques that are hundreds of years old.

All original fine-art prints are created by pressing an inked matrix. a printing surface made of metal, wood, stone, or other material, against sheets of paper. There are four basic fine-art printmaking methods: lithography, screenprinting (serigraphy), intaglio, and relief printing.

Open Studio was created by artists for artists in 1970. Today, Open Studio is Canada's foremost printmaking centre dedicated to the production, preservation and promotion of contemporary fine-art prints.

This information was provided by OPEN STUDIO.

close window