Lithograph, Screenprint, Etching. Do You Know Your Art Print?
Art Terminology. What Does It All Mean?
Lithograph, serigraph, etching, screenprint… What do all these art print terms mean and does it make a difference in understanding and buying art? Well, yes… and no. It’s not an easy answer. When it comes to art, nothing is straightforward. But in this essay, I’ll try to give some insights into these printing processes and how all this might play in your decision-making when buying art.
The History of Lithography
Lithography is a method of printing discovered in the late 1700s and the artist Goya was probably one of the first to make truly memorable use of this printing method. The principle of lithography is rooted in the natural repulsion of oil and water, something we all understand. An image is drawn on a plate with a special pencil or crayon, or it is painted with a brush using a grease base ink. The plate has been prepped to absorb water everywhereexceptwhere the artist’s image has been drawn or painted. Then another ink is rolled onto the plate and absorbed only into the oil based ink. When paper is placed on the page and rubbed across the back, the ink offsets onto the paper, printing the artist’s original image perfectly. Since only one color is printed from each plate, it’s not unusual for fine lithographs to be printed with 15 or more plates. So when you see a description of a “20 color lithograph”, you know that a great deal of work has gone into creating that image with all the colors.
There may be no more famous a lithography printer than the French printmaker and art dealer, Aime’ Maeght. During his career, Maeght represented such leading European artist as Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard and George Braque, among others. He liked working with lesser known artists and once said that he chose Giacometti over Picasso because Picasso was too demanding!
Joan Miro, Lithograph Exhibition Poster by Galerie Maeght
Maeght’s first commercial venture into the art world arose somewhat by surprise. Pierre Bonnard had walked into his print shop and asked Maeght toprinta program for a Maurice Chevalier concert with a Bonnard lithograph, which Maeght accepted. After the programs were produced, Maeght’s wife Marguerite placed one of the lithographs in the print-shop window. One day, a man walked into the shop and asked her how much the program was. She didn’t know if Bonnard wanted to sell it so to put the man off, she quoted him an enormous price. The man agreed! She ran to Bonnard and told him that she had made a terrible mistake, but he was pleased with her and said“That’avery goodprice! If you want more paintings for the shop, take them with you and here’s a percentage for you.” It was the beginning.
TheMaeghtsmade their Paris debut with a gallery in the Rue de Teheran in 1945 featuring paintings done by Matisse during World War II. At this gallery, Maeght encouraged his artists to produce lithographs in his printing atelier (workshop). The city of Paris was booming at that time with the construction of millions of homes and apartments in the aftermath of the War and to Aime’ Maeght,thisequaleda lot of wall space that needed decorating.Maeghtsaw an opportunity and pursued it. He once said, “I got the idea that great painters should do limited series oflithosso that thegreatestnumber of people could buy it.” The rest, as we say is history. Lithography took off in Paris with Maeghteditionsandsoon thesebecameartof high importance for the post-war era of art. Lithography was the method of printing used by many Modern Masters of this period.
Henri Matisse, 1951, “Bush”, Lithograph
What is an Etching?
The etching method of printmaking can be traced back to the 1600s when artists such as Rembrandt brought thismethodto popularity and it still is popular today.While there’s a variety of ways to create an image on a plate in the etching process, the most common method is the use of the sharp etching needle (Burin) to draw lines into a flat copper plate through a coating of black wax or acid resistant varnish.When the metal plateis immersedin acid, only the lines that aren’t coated with wax or varnish are then “etched” into the plate by the acid’s burning. The length of time the acid remains in contact with the metal determines the depth of the “bite”; the deeper the bite, the darker the print will be. The art’s shading can be controlled by adding more or less varnish to certain areas of the image, so that when the plate is immersed into the acid again the bites vary as the artist desires.
Another expression you might hear about etching is carborundum, aquatint, and intaglio. These are all forms ofetchingthat are used to create texture effects.
Rembrandt, circa 1640, “The Windmill”, Etching
What is a Woodblock, Linocut, Linoleum?
Wood is one of the earliest materials employedby artiststo make prints. Easily cut to create a printing pattern or image this method nevertheless requires considerable skill to create fine images.
Woodblock, Linocut, and Linoleum are all examples of relief print where all surface that is not to be inked is gouged or chiseled from the block. When the block is then inked and pressed onto the paper, the printed image is only that of the raised surface.(Like a stamp? TM)
A linocut is a process of placing and mounting a sheet of linoleum on a woodblock to create the relief surface for an image. Picasso was well known for his linoleum block prints,especiallyseen in his “Heads” series of linocuts.
Pablo Picasso, 1958, “Portrait of a Young Girl”, Linocut
Screenprint, Silkscreen, and Serigraph.
The three terms, Screenprint, silkscreen, and serigraph are all terms for the same method of printing. Most art dealers and artists use the word “screenprint” while referring to the pop art from the 20thcentury to pop art of today. The term silkscreen was used early onbecause of the fact that, the screenwas madefrom silk. Today, a hybrid of nylon and polyester is often used because it’s both less expensive and easier to use. Any one of these terms is correct to describe this method of printing.
Robert Indiana, 1996, “Heliotherapy Love”, Screenprint
The earliest reports of silkscreeningcanbe tracedback to the Song Dynasty (960-1279)of China.The crude printmaking technique of that timewas later refinedby the Japanese, who introduced the process to European traders in the 1700s. It was in early 1900 when an Englishman named Samuel patented the screen making techniquethat he used primarily to makequalitycustom wallpaper or to print on silk or linen for the very wealthy. If the fellow only knew what a big hit, his wallpaper idea would become in the 1960s with Andy Warhol’s Cows and Mao! We can only wonder if Warhol got his idea from researching the longer history of silkscreening.
Andy Warhol and Gerard Malanga silkscreening the background onto a Flowers painting.
We do know that Warhol’s printmaking effortswere dominatedby his use of the silkscreen and its rise in popularity as a printing technique can clearly be attributed to Andy Warhol and his screenprintworks. He explained his personal process of silkscreeningperfectlywith the following comment. “The rubber-stamp method I’d been using to repeat images suddenly seemed too homemade; I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly-line effect. With silk screening, you can pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink acrossitso the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time.It all sounds so simple – quick and chancy.I was thrilled with it.My first experiments with screens were head of Troy Donahue and Warren Beatty, and then when Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month (August 1962), I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face.”
Andy Warhol, “Marilyn” portfolio of 10 screenprints
The history of Andy Warhol and the Pop Art revolution is compelling and important enough to be the sole subject of another essay in the future. Stay tuned.
The Importance of Printmaking
Sometimes, I get clients asking if a lithograph is better thanan etchingor a screenprint and I try to explain that this is not the right question. They are all printing methods for the artists, and no one method is superior to the other. But one method of printmaking can be more importantfor a particular artist or period of time.For instance, if you’re looking for pop art, silkscreeningmethod ishighlyrepresentative of the pop art era.Though Andy Warhol did create somelithographs, silkscreeningis quintessential for most of Warhol’s art, and itis widely agreedthat he used silkscreeningfor his mostimportantworks. If you’re looking for works by one of the modern masters, lithography will be the method most commonly used. And depending on the artist, etching was also an important method used. The method of importance generallycomes down to the artist and the period of their work.
Today, you may also encounter the term giclee. Giclee is the process of printing digital art images with an ink printer.The jury is out as to whether we should consider this to be a legitimate form of printmaking in the artistic sense, but we should recall that the jury was out when Warhol introduced his amazing silkscreeningtechniques in the 1960s.Who knows? We’ll have to await the jury’s decision.
Tomas Rut, “Unica II”, Giclee on canvas
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Is a lithograph the same as a screen print? ›
Materials used: In screen printing we use stencils (originally silk screens) interposed between an ink and its support. In lithography, gum arabic is used and the drawing is drawn in oily ink or in oily pencil on a limestone before transferring the image to paper.Is a lithograph the same as etching? ›
Both are prints, but they are made using different techniques. In a lithograph, the image to be printed is drawn or painted on a stone or metal plate using a crayon or grease-based ink, rather than being engraved on it, as in an etching.How can you tell if a print is etching? ›
If it is a true etching, you'll notice the lack of dots in the picture unlike in photos, or images that come from a printing press – think photos in a newspaper. In addition, etchings are generally hand-signed in pencil by the artist. Prints or fakes usually have signature copies.Is an etching more valuable than a print? ›
Authenticity: An original etching print that is created directly and personally by a particular artist is worth more than an imitation or a copy (print) made by a mechanical printer. Provenance: A record of who the etching belonged to can also be used as a guide to authenticity and quality.Does a lithograph have dots like a normal print? ›
Another good way to determine a hand or offset lithograph is to look at the print using a magnifying glass. A hand lithograph will show a random dot pattern.Are lithograph prints worth anything? ›
An original piece of artwork by a famous artist is expensive. A lithograph print is more affordable but still carries a tag of exclusivity, quality and value as there is almost certainly not going to be many copies. It's not something that is mass produced.What type of print is a lithograph? ›
Lithography is a planographic printmaking process in which a design is drawn onto a flat stone (or prepared metal plate, usually zinc or aluminum) and affixed by means of a chemical reaction.Does lithograph mean original? ›
The short answer is that a lithograph is a form of print, a type of printing process during which original works of art can be printed and reproduced. The final product is also known as a lithograph, which is an authorised copy of an original work created by an artist or other skilled craftsmen.How do I know if my art is a lithograph? ›
A common way to tell if a print is a hand lithograph or an offset lithograph is to look at the print under magnification. Marks from a hand lithograph will show a random dot pattern created by the tooth of the surface drawn on. Inks may lay directly on top of others and it will have a very rich look.What is the difference between a print and an etching? ›
All etchings are a form of print, though not all prints are a form of etching, as they include works completed with the use of woodcuts, lithograph, transfer paper and printing presses. A print is the final product, while etching is the entire process by which the etching print is produced.
Which is better etching or engraving? ›
Etching is faster than engraving because it requires less energy from the laser beam. You may need laser etching if: Your part is made of any metal, except stainless steel. You want the fastest laser process.Is an etching an original? ›
Most modern etchings are then signed and numbered to establish an edition. While this process is fairly easy to describe it requires a high degree of skill on the part of the artist. Even though there is more than one etching, each is considered an original work of art because it is not a copy of anything else.How can you tell if you have an original print? ›
The pressure from the press will produce a characteristic rim around the edges. Usually the edges will not be wiped clean of ink, so you might be able to see a faint line. This process is specific to printmaking, so it is a sure way to identify if the piece is an original or a digital print.What happens if you over etch? ›
Over-etching:Over-etching can demineralize too deep a zone. Most hybrid zones are about 10-20 microns in depth, over-etching can lead you to demineralize up to 80 microns in depth, which is too deep for hydrophilic resin to penetrate.How do I know if my print is worth anything? ›
Consider finding an appraiser to determine the value of your artwork. Appraisers are trained specialists who work for a fee. They evaluate your piece and give you a written statement of its value.Do etchings have value? ›
The value or price of an etching by Icart depends on the rarity and desirability of the work. To a collector, the value also depends on its condition. Etchings done before 1920, generally were published in smaller editions, but in many cases are less desirable to collectors and thus have a lower value.Is an artist proof worth more than a lithograph? ›
Who Buys Artist Proofs? Even though artists proofs are often presented as a gift, time and again, they're often sold. They are typically bought by collectors. Due to their scarcity, they're often deemed more valuable than a limited edition print and, often costlier.Does the number on lithograph matter? ›
Artists typically now number their prints so that collectors will know that this print edition is limited and that their print is part of the official edition. The numbering of a print does not in itself make that print any more or less valuable, but it does give collectors some important facts about the print.What do the numbers on a lithograph mean? ›
A numbered print is also called an edition number. The edition number dictates how many copies of each print exist. Artists will typically sign the print on the bottom right-hand side of the print and put the edition number on the bottom left-hand side or center.How do I find the value of my lithograph? ›
The value or price of a lithograph depends on the quality of the art work, the quality of the paper and how successfully the print was made. The reputation of the artist who produced the print sometimes has a bearing on the price and so does the reason the print was made.
What is an example of a lithograph? ›
The definition of lithography is a method of printing from a flat surface where unnecessary ink is turned away from the surface, generally by grease. An example of lithography is printing a message on a stone using grease to repel unwanted ink.What is another name for lithograph? ›
Lithographic reproductions can be copies of any type of art across any medium. To create a lithographic reproduction the artist will take a photo of the original piece. Then, a color separation is produced using the photograph and this information is transferred to lithographic plates that are photosensitive.What is etching art? ›
Etching is an intaglio printmaking process in which lines or areas are incised using acid into a metal plate in order to hold the ink. In etching, the plate can be made of iron, copper, or zinc.Are lithographs signed by the artist? ›
A signature in stone: the artist has signed directly on the lithographic stone. With signatures in stone, there are sometimes two signatures on the same work: one from the stone and the other affixed in pencil after printing by the artist.Are all lithographs numbered? ›
Most modern lithographs are signed and numbered to establish an edition. An offset lithograph, also known as a limited edition print, is a reproduction by a mechanical process, in which the artist has in no way contributed to the process of making an original print: that is, he has not designed the plate.What is an advantage of a lithograph? ›
The greatest benefit of litho printing is that it prints on a variety of surfaces and is not simply limited to paper. If a surface is smooth and practical, images can be printed on it using lithography.What is an etching print called? ›
Like engraving, etching is an intaglio technique. Intaglio refers to all printing and printmaking techniques that involve making indents or incisions into a plate or print surface which hold the ink when ink is applied to the surface and then wiped clean.What are the two types of etching? ›
The etching process of using liquid chemicals or etching agents to remove material from the substrate is called wet etching. In the plasma etching process, also known as dry etching, plasmas or etching gases are used to remove material from the substrate.Can you print etchings without a press? ›
Use an etching needle to scratch into the plate. Any other tool sharp enough to score a mark without cutting the cardboard will do the trick – try a nail. These scratched lines will hold ink and print as a positive mark.
What artists use etching? ›
The art of etching is one of the oldest printmaking mediums—originating in the 15th century and evolving out of techniques developed by armorers to decorate their wares. You can see innovative examples of etching in the works of master artists like Rembrandt van Rijn, Albrecht Dürer, and Francisco Goya.How much does etching cost? ›
There are three main ways to get this done. First, check to see if local or county law enforcement is hosting an event to provide this etching as a free service. If not, you can do it yourself for around $20 or pay $200 or more to get it done at a dealership.Are etchings more valuable than lithographs? ›
How the Printing Technique Affects the Price of a Print. Prints made in more labour-intensive techniques are considered more valuable than prints that are easier to make. That means that etchings and woodcuts are usually priced higher than lithographs and screenprints, as they demand more of an effort from an artist.What is the difference between an etching and engraving? ›
However, there is one major difference between the two: etching is a chemical process while engraving is a physical process. The former uses an acid solution (etching agent) to etch lines into a surface, often leaving behind intricate and detailed designs.How can you tell if a lithograph is valuable? ›
The value or price of a lithograph depends on the quality of the art work, the quality of the paper and how successfully the print was made. The reputation of the artist who produced the print sometimes has a bearing on the price and so does the reason the print was made.Are etchings numbered? ›
Most modern etchings are then signed and numbered to establish an edition. While this process is fairly easy to describe it requires a high degree of skill on the part of the artist. Even though there is more than one etching, each is considered an original work of art because it is not a copy of anything else.How do I know if I have a valuable print? ›
When identifying a valuable print, look for a quality of impression and good condition of the paper. Look at the paper and see if there is a watermark or distinguishing marking. The condition of the paper—tears, creases, stains—will also impact value.Is a lithograph and print of original? ›
The short answer is that a lithograph is a form of print, a type of printing process during which original works of art can be printed and reproduced. The final product is also known as a lithograph, which is an authorised copy of an original work created by an artist or other skilled craftsmen.What does a original lithograph look like? ›
A common way to tell if a print is a hand lithograph or an offset lithograph is to look at the print under magnification. Marks from a hand lithograph will show a random dot pattern created by the tooth of the surface drawn on. Inks may lay directly on top of others and it will have a very rich look.How do you number etchings? ›
On the left hand lower corner of the impression is where you should place your edition number. These are two numbers that are divided by a slash and look like a fraction. The number below the slash is the size of the edition or how many prints are in the series and the upper number is the number assigned.
Is a numbered print more valuable? ›
As far as print run numbers are concerned, the rule is simple: the smaller the number the bigger the value. First impressions in the print run usually reach higher prices since they are considered to be the closest to the artist's original idea.