Printmaking is a misunderstood aspect of visual art. The distinguishing between fine art prints and “limited edition prints”, which are actually commercially reproduced prints (posters which have been signed), requires an educated artists’ eye.
Fine art printmaking involves the creation of a master plate from which multiple images are made.
Simply put, the artist chooses a surface to be the plate. This could be linoleum, styrofoam, metal, cardboard, stone or any one of a number of materials. Then the artist prepares the printing plate by cutting, etching or drawing an image onto the plate. Ink is applied (in a variety of ways) and paper is pressed onto the plate either by hand or by way of a hand-run printing press. The finished print is “pulled from the plate”.
Often the first three or four prints of are different than the rest of the edition. These first prints are called artist’s proofs. The number of prints pulled from one plate is called an edition. Once a certain number of prints are pulled, the plate is destroyed so that more prints won’t be printed later, thus ensuring the value of the edition.
At the bottom of a print are two to three things always written in pencil. On the left is a number that appears as a fraction (e.g. 6/25), this means that the print is number six of a total of twenty five prints pulled from one plate. This number excludes the artist proofs which are designated with an A/P. In the centre of the bottom of the print is the title (if any). At the bottom right, is the artist’s name and sometimes a date.