Understanding Different Types of Artworks: Originals, Prints, and Printmaking Techniques

Understanding Different Types of Artworks: Originals, Prints, and Printmaking Techniques
Art Log

Both collectors and art enthusiasts must understand the different types of artwork. This is a detailed description of the different types of art:

1. Original Artworks

Original art is a unique piece created by an individual artist. There are usually no copies. Paintings, sculptures or drawings are all examples of original artworks. The original pieces are usually the most valuable due to the uniqueness of their creation and the personal touch by the artist. Oil paintings, watercolors, and hand-drawn drawings are examples.

2. Prints

Prints are copies of original artworks that can vary in terms of quality, price, and technique. Here are some of the most common types of prints.

a. Limited-Edition Prints

Limited edition prints come in a predetermined number. Each print is signed and numbered by the artist. The number of prints in the edition determines its value. The smaller the edition is, the higher the print's value. A print with the number "15/50", for example, means that it is the fifteenth print in an edition of fifty.

b. Open-Edition Prints

The number of copies that can be made for an open edition print is unlimited. Open edition prints are usually less expensive because they do not have a limit on the number of copies. Open edition prints can be easily accessed and are perfect for mass market sales.

c. Artist Proofs (A/P)

They are usually reserved for the artist to use personally. These prints are more valuable because they are rarer, and are sometimes considered to be closer to the artist’s vision.

3. Serigraph (Silkscreen)

Silkscreen printing or serigraph is a method of printing wherein ink is forced through a screen, but only in areas that are blocked by a stencil. This technique can be used to produce vibrant artworks with layers. Serigraphs are labor intensive and often valued higher than other print formats because each color is printed on a separate screen. Andy Warhol and other artists popularized the technique.

Abstract serigraphs painting titled 'Sapta Ras', 60x60 inches, by artist S. H. Raza on Paper


Oleography is also called chromolithography and it's a way to make multi-color prints. Oil-based inks are applied to a metal or lithographic plate. The result is a rich texture that looks like oil paintings. Oleographs, which reproduce artworks in the 19th century and early 20th century, were particularly popular.

Religious oleograph painting titled 'Sri Krishna As Envoy', 21x15 inches, by artist Raja Ravi Varma on Paper

5. Intaglio

Intaglio printmaking is a group of techniques in which the image is incised onto a surface and the incised lines or sunken areas hold the ink. Intaglio printing includes:

a. Etching

Etching is the process of coating a metal surface with a waxy substance that resists acid. The artist first scratches away the waxy ground to reveal the metal. He then dips the plate into acid which attacks the lines exposed. The plate is then inked, wiped clean and only the lines etched with ink remain.

b. Engraving

With a burin, or engraving tool, lines are cut directly into the metal plate. This technique produces images that are very detailed and precise, as seen on fine art prints or banknotes.


The process of aquatint, which is similar to that of etching, allows the creation tonal effects. The plate is coated in resin and heated to create the pattern. The artist uses acid to bite the plate to create a variety of shades and tones.

6. Lithography

Lithography is an art form of printmaking based on a principle: oil and water don't mix. A greasy substance is used to draw an image on a flat metal or stone lithographic plate. The surface of the lithographic stone or metal plate is treated with a chemical to ensure that the image areas are attracted to ink, while the other areas are not. Artists use lithographs to produce fine details.

7. Giclee

Giclee, a printing technique that utilizes inkjet printers for high-quality prints of art, is a newer method. These prints can be created using digital scans of the original artworks. They can also be printed on a variety of media including canvas or fine art paper. Giclee prints have a reputation for color accuracy and durability.

8. Monotype Monoprint

Monotypes and monoprints both produce unique prints but their methods are slightly different:

a. Monotype

Monotypes are created by painting directly on a smooth surface such as metal or glass and then pressing the image onto paper. Monotypes tend to be unique since most of the ink transfers in the first press.

b. Monoprint

Monoprints are characterized by a repeatable feature, like a carved plate or etched surface, but they are altered uniquely by the artist. This is often done through hand coloring and adding details.

9. Woodcuts and Linocut

Relief printing techniques, both woodcut and Linocut, are relief prints.

a. Woodcut

Woodcut printing involves carving an image into the surface of wooden blocks. The raised areas are then inked and transferred to paper. This method dates back to ancient China, and was widely used in the Renaissance.

b. Linocut

Linocut uses a linoleum instead of wood. Linoleum, which is softer and easier for artists to carve than wood, has become a popular medium in contemporary art.

10. Screen printing

Silkscreening or screen printing involves creating a stencil onto a silk screen or fine mesh screen, and then pushing ink into the screen to print the surface. This versatile method can be used in a variety of applications from fine art prints to posters and t-shirts.

11. Digital Prints

Digital prints are produced using digital technology. They often reproduce artwork created digitally. These prints are usually more affordable and can be of varying quality.

12. Photographic prints

The photographic technique is used to create photographic prints. Prints can be made using traditional darkroom techniques, like silver gelatin, or digitally on archival papers. The printing method can have a significant impact on the value and quality of the print.

The conclusion of the article is:

Each type of art and printing technique has unique characteristics which can influence the aesthetics, value and collectibility of an artwork. Understanding the differences is essential for both collectors and artists to make informed decisions.


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