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Definitions of Terms and Types of Art Work on Shop BAIA Online

Original -- original - Any work considered to be an authentic example of the works of an artist, rather than a reproduction or imitation.

Mixed media --  in visual art, refers to an artwork in the making of which more than one medium has been employed. There is an important distinction between "mixed-media" artworks and "multimedia art". Mixed media tends to refer to a work of visual art that combines various traditionally distinct visual art media. For example, a work on canvas that combines paint, ink, and collage could properly be called a "mixed media" work, but not a work of "multimedia art."

Collage -- A picture or design created by adhering such basically flat elements as newspaper, wallpaper, printed text and illustrations, photographs, cloth, string, etc., to a flat surface.

Artist Proof prints (A/P) -- Common practice is that 10 to 15 percent of an edition is reserved for the artist. These proofs are identical to impressions in the edition in most instances. Print Marking example; A/P "1/35" is the first print of an edition of 35 Artist Proof impressions.

Archival Print -- A sophisticated printmaking process, today typically produced on an IRIS ink-jet printer, capable of producing millions of colors using continuous-tone technology. Also a print resulting from this process, also called an Iris print. Giclées are often made from photographic images of paintings in order to produce high quality, permanent reproductions of them. The extra-fine image resolution possible in this printing process permits retention of a high degree of fine detail from the original image, rendering deeply saturated colors having a broad range of tonal values.

Limited Edition Prints (L/E) -- A fixed number of identical prints of an image, signed by the artist, sequentially numbered, and showing both the print's number and the total edition size. Each print is referred to as a "limited edition print."

Medium -- Medium is the material or technical means of artistic expression. Examples include oils, watercolors, acrylics, ink, pencil and charcoal. Technical examples include lithography, serigraphy and giclee. Mixed media is the use of two or more materials and/or technical means.

Printers Proof (P/P) -- Common practice by many printers is that a small number of impressions are made for their review. These proofs are marketed and are identical impressions to the edition in most instances. Print Marking example; P/P "1/20" is the first print of an edition of 20 Printers Proof impressions.

Serigraph -- A print made by the silk-screen process involving the use of stencils. Paint is applied to a fabric screen, penetrating areas not blocked by a stencil. Several stencils are used to produce a multicolored print.

Signed and Numbered -- Prints that are authenticated with the artists signature, the total number of impressions in the edition, and the order in which impression is signed. Numbering example; L/E "5/350, indicates the fifth print of a limited edition of 350 impressions.

Solar plate etching process -- Solar plate etching was developed in the 70's as a non-toxic alternative to traditional copper or zinc plate etching.  The plate is thin steel, coated with a photo polymer.  A drawing on vellum, or a transparency of a drawing, is placed on the plate and exposed to uv-light - either the sun, or an exposure unit.  I have found that exposing the plate at the exact middle of the day, for exactly a minute and a half, on a day with no clouds yields the best result.  I've also gotten good results using an exposure unit.  Wherever the sun hits on the plate causes it to harden.  Wherever the drawing is causes the plate to stay water soluble.

The plate is then developed in a bath of lukewarm water brushing for a few minutes with a soft brush.  When done, the plate has grooves wherever the drawing was.  The plate is then inked, the ink wiped off, the ink staying in the grooves.  The paper is soaked in water, blotted with a towel, and then the plate is run through an intaglio press with the paper over it (using the traditional intaglio process).

What does estate issued/signed mean?

An estate issued/signed print indicates that the print was made after the artist's death and his signature was signed by someone that owns the estate of the artist. Example: The Bearden Foundation released a number of works after Romare Bearden's death which included "Early Carolina Morning" among others -- these are examples of estate signed/issued work.

What Is An Original Print?

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 proofs, trial 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, orstencils 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.


Not to be confused with collagraphs. 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 Offsets. 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.


A remarque is a small, personalized drawing or symbol that an artist adds (near his or her signature) on a print. The presence of a remarque increases the print's value. Originally, remarques were remarks made, in pencil, that identified the various stages a printing plate went through while in the process of being finalized. Whistler seems to have pioneered making remarques desirable to collectors, particularly in the case of his "butterfly" mark.

Nowadays, a remarque is primarily a "value-added" option for print collectors - meaning: You can have an artist's remarque added to your graphic edition, if you care to shell out some more money.

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.

Embellished Archval Print or Giclee

Sometimes artists paint over giclee prints. A giclee is a print created by a high resolution professional inkjet printer. Prints can be made on canvas and watercolor papers. When referring to embellished giclee, the work can range from a few brushstrokes to completely repainting over the print. There is no fine line between what constitutes an original and what is just a print when an artist paints over a giclee. Generally speaking a few brushstrokes cannot define a giclee as an original. On the other hand some artists photograph a scene, print it on canvas as a guide and paint completely over the fabric. Afterwards, they do not make any more. This is by all means an original. Also, there are digital artists and photographers who print just one giclee, which is by itself an original piece as it is the only means of representing the artwork.

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