Are you confused and intimidated by searching for prints on Etsy? Here's a quick guide to the types of prints- ranging from limited edition, hand-pulled originals to quick copies. Narrowing down your search by specifying the type of print you want can help you find what you're really looking for.
image by Bowerbox Press
A "Print" implies that there is more than one copy of an artwork. There are 2 very different types of prints that are often referred to in the same way- reproductions and originals.
A REPRODUCTION print is simply a copy of an original work. This can be a high-quality inkjet print, or GICLEE, usually printed on a soft acid-free paper. This is a good way to purchase an image of an original artwork you may not be able to afford, or a digital image. Be sure to ask the seller about the archival quality of the inks and paper- some inks are guaranteed to be fade-proof for over a hundred years! The quality of giclee printing just keeps getting better. COLOR LASER prints are also becoming better and better, and are used to make copies of artworks for greeting cards and longer, uneditioned runs of copies. DIGITALLY PRINTED PHOTOS are also great quality, usually printed by an inkjet printer on special photo paper. Paper choices can range from glossy to satin to matte finish. Photos can be adjusted for color, resized, and cropped on the computer before printing. A PHOTOGRAPHIC print is made from a negative, and printed on light sensitive paper. (Remember getting your vacation photos back as a kid, on the paper with "Kodak" all over the back?) Photographic prints can cost a little more than digital prints, because of the cost of the paper and developing chemicals. The artist has more of an opportunity to control the exposure and colors in the developing process, which can create unique effects and one-of-a-kind prints.
The other type of print is sometimes referred to as a "FINE ART PRINT", although some apply this label to reproductions as well. A print can be made from any number of traditional printmaking processes. Usually the image is pulled (printed) in a limited edition of exactly the same print, along with a few artist's proofs, and numbered and signed. The plate that it was printed from is sometimes destroyed to insure that no more copies will be printed. A signed print may read, 4/50- which means, this is the 4th print pulled in an edition of 50. The title and artist's signature accompany the number, usually underneath the printed image.
Types of hand-pulled prints include: Screenprint, Etching, Woodcut or Linocut, Monoprint, Lithograph, Letterpress, and Engraving.
A SCREENPRINT is made by creating a stencil on a fine mesh screen. The screen is placed over the paper to be printed, and ink is pulled across the surface. Screenprints are flat on the paper, and can be many layers of color. Also called a SERIGRAPH. A GOCCO print is very similar to a screenprint, on a very small scale.
image by Alyoisiusspyker silkscreened prints
Enjoy browsing the world of prints on Etsy with your newfound print knowledge!
Val Lucas is the owner of Bowerbox Press and is a printmaker working in woodcut, linocut and letterpress.