Feb 022010

Tips on how to buy Giclee fine art prints and limited edition art

Hand engraving

Hand engraving

Limited edition prints are prints of creative work done by an artist. Some printing techniques have become a medium for the art itself. Whether used for art prints or as an artistic medium, fine art prints are high quality art forms. They are numbered in order of creation. Here is a little information on how to understand limited and open edition print numbering.

All fine art print editions are numbered, whether they are versions of original paintings and drawings, photographs or direct printing art like intaglio etchings or engravings. Open editions are not limited in number or size. There are more advantages to open editions for photographers as they can hone the printing technique over time and improve the quality of the image without being limited by how many images can be printed. They can also change the size of the photograph.

Most fine art editions, like giclee prints, for example, recreate the original art work in fine detail and will not deteriorate with quantity. (A giclee print is a very high-end form of digital ink jet printing used for reproducing quality art.) Since most fine art paintings and drawings are valued for their finite availability, limited editions that can run from just a few to thousands, are numbered and more valuable. The lower number of prints pulled in an edition will usually make each print more valuable. Mass produced prints, by the way, are simply considered reproductions with little or no value.

In hand-pulled printing, there is no real use for open editions as the plate, block or other medium on which the artwork is directly done will lose its quality as the surface is worn down over the printing process. As a result the first prints are likely to be the clearest and best. Hand-pulled prints are done manually and the art is part of the medium. Art can be manually done with silk screening, hand drawn on lithographic plates or stones, etched or carved into metal, linoleum or wood, or many other methods. The artist often does his or her printing one careful piece at a time. These are almost always limited editions and you will see the number on the print along with the artist’s signature. Larger editions may be printed by artistic printers who are experts in hand printing. The artist will work directly with the printer doing trial runs until the desired effect is retained and stabilized for the rest of the edition.

Numbered limited editions have a top number and a bottom number. The top number states the number in order of coming off the press of this particular print. The bottom number is the total number of the edition printed.

There are other letters traditionally established to describe the early prints tried out before the final colors and print settings are achieved. TP is often used for trial proofs. These are likely one-of-a-kind as the image is still being experimented with. Printer’s proofs (PP) are the first proofs used for printing reference. AP stands for artist’s proofs (also known in French as √©preuve d’artiste, or E.A. or as bon √† tirer, BAT). Any of these marks signify that these are the first approved prints on which the edition will be modeled. Some of these prints can end up highly valued as they are rarest of all.