When an artist sells open edition prints, there’s no predetermined limit on how many prints will be offered. This does not mean that an art print will be available indefinitely, so when you discover art you love, it’s always a good idea to act on it.
Limited edition prints mean that only a certain number of prints are available. These prints are created by the artist and sent directly to you. Some are signed, numbered and come with a certificate of authenticity. Because they are exclusive, limited edition prints are considered more valuable, and cost more than open edition prints. Giclee & Iris prints are most commonly printed on canvas or special printmaking papers.
If you love the look of paintings, consider buying a canvas print.
Normally, canvas prints are museum quality Giclee & Iris (Pronounced “gee-clay”) reproductions, created using an advanced ink jet printing process specially designed to capture the look of painted pigments, and capable of reproducing more than 36 million colors.
These artworks are professionally printed on quality matte bright white canvas, expertly affixed to wooden stretcher bars. High quality-end canvases are also coated with a UV protective layer, designed to shield your print from scratches and sunlight and keep your art looking its best.
Fine Art Prints on Paper
Fine art Giclee prints on paper should be printed on natural white archival quality European paper that features soft color fidelity on a slightly textured surface, it’s similar to watercolor paper. Each fine art paper print should include at least a 1-inch white border.
Printmaking Techniques and its History
When we’re speaking about prints, we’re normally referring to either lithographs, etchings, woodcuts, linocuts, silkscreens, or Giclée & Iris printing techniques.
Printmaking is believed to have originated as early as the 1st century AD during China’s Han Dynasty, and since its start, the medium’s ability to reproduce images and create unique visual qualities has influenced everyone from book publishers to graphic designers. Artists in particular have driven the medium forward by experimenting with its various processes, in which ink is moved from one surface to another.
Woodcuts became not only revolutionized printmaking processes, but also people’s ability to access literature and art. By the 15th century, people had started using the technique to print multiples of texts and images. The process of carving out every letter of a book from a block of wood, however, was a grueling task, so only popular works, such as the Bible and Buddhist sutras, were chosen for this type of reproduction. Prior to these woodcuts, books were almost exclusively available only to wealthy and royal individuals, but once texts and images hit the printing press, they became more common goods.
While the woodcut technique first became popular for its practical uses, such as printing books and decorating textiles, it eventually became an art form of its own. Woodcuts are a subset of relief printmaking—where you carve out negative space from a surface, leaving only the lines and shapes that you want to appear in the print. For example, an artist making a woodcut will carve into the surface of a piece of wood, then coat the remaining surface with ink. Next, they’ll typically place the inked surface on a piece of paper, and finally, they’ll create their print by placing pressure on the back of their block––with a roller, printing press, or other tool––to transfer the ink onto the page.
To alter the surface of a block of wood, many artists use special knives and other tools, such as gauges, to carve in the direction of the wood’s grain. One feature that sets woodcuts apart from other printmaking techniques is the residual wood grain texture the block leaves behind.
Woodblock printing utilizes a similar process; the main difference between woodblock prints and woodcuts is that the former uses water-based inks, which allow for more sensitive washes of color, and the latter uses oil-based inks. Japanese artists were using woodblocks to create Ukiyo-e prints in the mid-17th century. Ukiyo translates to “floating world” in Japanese, and in these prints, flowers, wrestlers, women, mountains, and other subjects were rendered with flattened planes of color, hovering in the composition.
Linocuts: Woodcuts and linocuts share a graphic quality because the relief process forces you to create images with flat planes of color and fluid lines. Linocuts, which emerged in the 20th century, also fall under the category of relief printmaking, but instead of carving from a block of wood, linocuts are made by cutting into a sheet of linoleum. This smooth material has no directional grain, so you are free to carve in any direction you like, and can use woodcut or engraving tools. Since linoleum’s surface is smooth, it only leaves a slightly spongy, grainy texture behind. One thing to note about its materiality is that while the surface’s soft quality can make carving much easier, it often hinders the ability to create fine lines.
Engraving is the oldest form of intaglio printmaking, and one of the most difficult to execute. Unlike relief printmaking (where the ink is placed onto the uppermost surface), intaglio involves making incisions or grooves in a plate, covering the plate with ink, and wiping the surface, so that the ink remains in the grooves. Then, the plate is placed in a printing press, which forces the paper into the plate’s grooves to pick up the ink. When the paper and plate are peeled apart, you’ll see that the ink has adhered to the paper.
The term “intaglio” comes from the Italian word intagliare, which means “to cut in.” The various intaglio techniques: engraving, etching, drypoint, mezzotint, and aquatint, among others, are largely differentiated by how the incisions are made.
The incisions in an engraving are entirely produced by carving into the plate by hand, which is why it’s one of the most challenging printmaking methods to master. The technique typically calls for the use a burin––a steel rod with a sharp, oblique tip attached to a rounded top for the hand to firmly grasp onto––to draw into a metal plate. As you dig the burin across the surface, curls of metal will peel back as a V-shaped groove is created.
Etching is one of the most commonly used intaglio techniques. Unlike engraving, where you gauge out lines with a burin, etching involves incising marks into a plate through a process called “biting.” First, you cover a metal plate with a thin wax-like layer called the “ground.” Then, you draw your design onto the plate with a needle; you don’t have to press hard when making these marks, as you only need to scratch through the surface of the ground. When the drawing is finished, you coat the back of the plate with a varnish, then immerse the plate in a bath of acid.
Since the ground and varnish are impermeable to acid, the acidic bath will only affect the metal where lines are drawn. As the plate lays in the bath, the acid will eat away at the marks you made, creating fine incisions.
Artists have been known to render delicate effects on these plates by playing with the bath’s level of acidity, the amount of time it bathes, and a technique called “stopping out.” To stop out, you bathe the plate until the lightest parts of the print are properly incised, then remove it from the bath and cover those areas with varnish before placing the plate back into the bath. This technique allows you to achieve a range of shallow and deep grooves; where an incision is shallow, the ink will be more faint, and where the incision is deeper, the ink will be more prominent.
Lithography, like the monotype, is a subset of planographic printmaking - but their similarities all but end there. Lithographs, which were created in 1798 in Munich, are made with a large slab of limestone or metal plate, and require an intensive process of developing an image on the stone or plate.
The basic principle that guides the lithography process is the fact that water and oil don’t mix. To begin making a lithograph, you prep the surface of the stone with grit, a sand-like dust, and a levigator, which is a heavy circle of steel attached to a handle. With a fair share of elbow grease, you start spinning the steel across the surface to grind it down a millimeter at a time. This step is crucial for leveling the surface of the stone, which will provide even prints, and removes the previous drawing from the stone. (If the previous drawing is not completely ground off, a faint ghost image will appear when the new drawing is printed.)
Next, you sensitize the stone by dampening it and applying an acidic liquid across the entire surface. Then, the solution is rinsed off; when the stone is dry, you apply a substance called “gum arabic” around the edges of the stone to create a border for the image area. Now, you may begin drawing your image onto the stone with greasy tools such as lithographic crayons or ink.
Once the drawing is complete, you begin transferring the image onto the stone through an intensive process that involves layering talcum powder, resin, liquid-etch solution, gum arabic, and mineral spirits. Each of these steps plays a role in transforming the surface of the stone, so that wherever a mark with greasy material was made, ink will stick to the surface of the stone. Finally, the artist will ink up their stone and print their image with the help of a press.
Screen printing (also known as silkscreen printing) is a unique medium because the print isn’t made directly from the surface of a block or plate; instead, images are printed through a screen mesh using stenciling techniques.
Artists will use a knife to cut out a design from a sheet of self-adhesive plastic film. Then they adhere the film to the bottom of a mesh screen and place it on top of a piece of paper. Using a squeegee, the artist will pull ink across the top of the screen, and wherever a shape is cut out from the film, ink will slide onto the page.
Another popular way of creating a screen print is to coat the entire screen with light-sensitive emulsion. This liquid material will harden and fill in all of the screen’s holes; then the artist can use a computer to print the negative of the design onto a piece of transparent plastic. Next, the design is placed onto the surface of an exposure unit. When the exposure unit is on, bright light will pass through any place where there is no design, subsequently exposing the emulsion. Light will only pass through the negative space of the design, and once the screen is exposed, a high-power washer blows out the emulsion that the light exposed. This method allows artists and designers to quickly achieve finely detailed screens and has long been used in creating clothing and advertising. The technique’s ties with commercial signage was one of the reasons Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein favored the medium.