limited edition pictures

The term “limited edition print” is rather vague. To understand the nuances involved in this term and make an informed decision in the world of fine art, it behooves us to understand the different meanings that are implied by this term. For that, it is necessary to be familiar with the processes involved.

Using his creativity and imagination, the artist creates an original print using a block, plate or screen. The artist’s skill is at work at this point because, most of the times, the image he creates on the matrix (the template from which the final print is made) is not the same as the finished work. It is a mirror image and the image is reversed in the printing phase.

The techniques of printmaking involved at this stage are broadly divided into the following types:

Relief: The image is carved out of the surface of the matrix and ink is applied to it. The materials used are wood, metal or linoleum and the famous artists who used this technique widely are Albrecht Durer and Hokusai.

Intaglio:  The image is carved into the surface of the matrix and ink is poured into the tiny depressions to make prints. Metal is the most commonly used material in this technique and Rembrandt and Goya are two famous artists who used this technique.

Stencil: In accordance with the artist’s vision, ink or paint is made to permeate through a specially prepared screen and prints are prepared with the help of a squeegee. Since silk is popularly associated with this technique, it is also called silkscreen or serigraphy. Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein have used this technique.

The process of making the prints made using any of the above techniques is personally supervised by the artist. Only a limited number of prints are made using these techniques. This is because the image on the matrix deteriorates after a certain number of prints are made. At the same time, the technique which is also called hand pulling a print is physically exhausting for the artist. Normally, the number of such prints is less than 200.

Traditionally, original prints are signed by the artist in pencil. Another historical tradition which is still followed is the numbering of each individual print. Each print is considered to be unique as the image on the matrix will be slightly different for each print run. The number is expressed as a fraction: 4/20. Here, the number 4 indicates the number of the print in hand and the number 20 indicates the total number of prints made. In the old days, it was thought that the lower numbered prints were superior as the matrix had not worn out.

Reproductions can and are made using these original prints. Using photographic techniques and ink jet printing, reproductions are made of these works of art. The quality of materials used is high and the artist even signs them. But it must be kept in mind that these are mass –produced works and the artist is not physically involved in their making. They too are brought out in limited numbers of 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 and so on. They are popularly known as giclee prints, a term derived from the French which means ‘to spurt’.

Normally, giclees cost much less than original prints and are considered to be of less aesthetic value. But since both these varieties are brought out in limited numbers, both are referred to as limited edition prints.

And both of them have their own benefits. If you are looking at art as an investment, it is wise to go for buying original limited edition prints by good artists as their value is sure to rise with time. But you are advised to be cautious before making a sale. There are art galleries which pass off limited edition reproductions as originals. There have been instances when people have spent considerable sums to buy what they thought were “original fine art investments” only to discover that the real worth of the work was nowhere near what they had paid for it. They tell their friends about their nightmare experience in the fine art business and they too turn their backs to fine art. In the end, art and the artist get a bad rap. So, it is best to proceed with caution.

On the other hand, if you really want to have a work of art for your home but your budget is a constraint, limited edition prints of reproductions are just right for you.