An art print is a reproduction of an original artwork, which you can get your hands on for a fraction of the cost of the artwork itself.
Art prints have thrived over the last decade, creating a more accessible art market where you don’t have to be a wealthy individual or corporation to display meaningful art on your walls.
The factors that make an art print
When browsing art prints, or if you’re considering adding an art print to your collection, there are a few factors to consider.
There are two types of edition:
- Open edition – This is when an unlimited number of prints are available. This doesn’t necessarily mean the edition will always be open as artists, or the gallery representing the artist, can close the edition, which means no more will be available unless they re-open the edition.
- Limited edition – When an art print is limited edition, it means there is only a select number of prints available, after which no more will be available of that same size and finish. For example, an artist might limit a print to 100 copies of a 20×20″ print. However, they can print a limited edition of another size, too. Most artists will have limited edition art prints available in several sizes.
Open edition art prints are typically cheaper than limited edition prints, which are considered more collectable due to their limited availability. Limited edition prints are also, typically, printed by the artist whereas open edition prints may be printed by a gallery or representative of the artist.
Art prints come in all shapes and sizes. The larger it is, the more expensive the print. When selecting an art print, you should be mindful of mounting and framing and how much space you have on your wall for the work; it can quickly become bigger than expected. Large or mid-size prints can be more collectable due to their versatility. Prints with widths ranging from 15-40″ are the most popular.
Finish or material
The world of art print finishing is a complex one; there’s so much to choose from.
This is when the print is printed on a canvas to replicate, or almost replicate the original artwork. It means you get a work of art that resembles the original without having to pay a price anywhere near to what the original would have sold for. Canvas prints can be expensive as, for a high-quality finish, the process is somewhat more difficult than other prints, but it’s well worth it.
Fine art paper
There are dozens of types of fine art paper available, however, brands such as Hahnemühle, who have been making fine art paper for hundreds of years, are the market leaders. Such paper provides a smooth finish with true-to-form pigments that ensure a life-like reproduction of an artwork or photograph. But, most importantly, fine art paper is of archive quality, which means the print will last for much longer than if printed on standard paper – over 100 years if it’s looked after properly.
On the internet especially, photo paper prints are widely available, but they may not always be the best option. They’re cheap, which means you won’t break the bank when buying art, but they don’t have the quality of fine art paper prints, for instance. Often, the image will not appear as smooth as fine art paper prints and it will fade quickly, especially if subject to harsh sunlight.
When you purchase an art print on paper, you’ll often need to consider the finish of the paper:
- Matte – This paper has a dull coating applied to the front so that it’s not shiny; it appears smooth with excellent clarity.
- Silk – Similar to matte paper but with a textured finish; it is also not shiny.
- Gloss – This paper has a glossy layer applied to it which makes it ultra-reflective and shiny with less colour clarity.
For most artworks, matte-finish paper is the preferred option.
Also consider how you may frame your art print. A standard gallery frame is an attractive option, and by far the most popular, but some choose alternative colours such as white and grey.
If you’re purchasing an art print as an investment, as well as something to enjoy, it’s crucial that you understand the ins and outs of what’s expected when re-selling work.
When buying a print of the work of a living artist from a gallery, it’s standard that the art print will be signed by the artist, which helps to improve its authenticity. The same can be said of prints sold directly by the artist. If an art print is not signed, you will find it very difficult to re-sell.
Certificate of authenticity
Most artworks come with a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist or gallery. It details the print, including its size and finish, and confirms where and when it was printed. That way, those buying an art print can understand the provenance of the artwork at a glance.
Never buy an art print of a work that can’t be associated to the original. It’s crucial that you understand what work the print is of, when the original work was created and its details, including the name of the original work and, if it’s the case, why the work is popular and/or famous.
Even though art prints are cheaper than original works of art, the price can still rocket is a print is collectable. #1 in a limited-edition run is usually more sought-after and, therefore, more costly than later editions. The bigger the work, the more expensive the print. You will also pay more for a print if buying from another collector who’s had the print for some time rather than if buying a new print directly from the artist – if the print has gone up in value, that is. Consider the price of the print you’re buying and weigh up whether you’d prefer an original before committing to the purchase.