What is a limited edition print?
A Limited Edition Print is derived from an image produced from a block, a plate, a stone, on zinc, copper or some similar surface on which the artist has worked closely with a print maker or master printer. Unlike paintings or drawings, prints exist in multiples. The total number of impressions an artist decides to make for any one image is called an edition.
Each impression in an edition is numbered and personally signed by the artist.
An image may be based on an original painting, ‘after an oil’, or the artist (as in the case of Arthur Boyd) may paint ‘maquettes’ specifically for prints. The artist may also create an image directly onto the plates, depending upon the chosen medium.
Each of the various methods of printmaking yields a distinct appearance. Artists choose a specific technique in order to achieve a desired result. The choice made by the artist to produce an image ‘in print’ is the same as choosing to work in oil or any other medium. The only difference in print lies in the possibility of producing a number of near identical images.
The following are some of the principle printmaking techniques and terminology.
A publisher is one who underwrites the printing and marketing of an artist’s prints. An artist may be his own publisher but this is no longer as common as it was. A publisher brings together artist and printer (assuming the artist does not do his own printing). The printer may also himself be a publisher. This is not a new idea. There were print publishers already in the sixteenth century and the great majority of original prints made in the nineteenth century were commissioned and brought to market by publishers.
Here the artist sketches a composition on a wood block or other surface and then cuts away pieces from the surface leaving only the composition raised. Ink is then applied to the surface with a roller and transferred onto paper with a press, or by hand burnishing or rubbing. Since the recessed cut away areas do not receive any ink they appear white on the printed image. Relief prints are characterised by bold dark-light contrasts.
Screenprinting is a technique was made famous in the 1960s when artists such as Andy Warhol exploited its bold, commercial look to make ‘Pop Icons’. To make a screenprint, an image that has been cut out of paper or fabric is attached to a piece of tautly stretched mesh. Paint is then forced through the mesh (or screen) onto a sheet of paper beneath it by means of a squeegee. For works with more than one colour, a separate screen is required for each colour. This technique is often referred to as ‘serigraphy’, a term coined to distinguish between commercial and artistic screenprinting.
The primary relief techniques are woodcut, wood engraving and linocut. Woodcuts were first seen in ninth-century China however Western artists have also been making woodcut prints for hundreds of years, most notably in the sixteenth, late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Wood engraving is made from the end grain surface of blocks – an area that has no grain and consequently lends itself to great precision and detail.