What Is an Art Print? (A Look at Unframed & Framed Prints, & an Artist’s Printing Techniques)

What Does Art Print Mean?

An art print is a copy of an original piece of artwork or photo that has been created by an artist or photographer. The original work could be a drawing, an oil painting, digital art, abstract collage, or other artistic works. The copied image is then printed on some kind of fine art paper.

Art prints can be either limited editions or open editions. Open edition art prints are produced in unlimited quantities, and they’re often more affordable than limited edition prints. Limited edition art prints are usually numbered and signed by the artist, and they’re produced in small batches.

If you go to popular sites that sell wall art such as Society6, or Redbubble, or iCanvas, you’ll quickly notice that what they call art print is artwork printed on medium-weight, cotton paper with a white border. It’s common for art prints to come with a white border around the artwork for framing, but it’s not a requirement.

An example of what most people call art print is in Society6’s product video (below).

Product Video: Society6 Art Prints

The term art print should not be confused with the term fine art prints.

Fine art prints are considered handmade artworks. They’re made with an artist’s hands, usually using some kind of printing press or other fine art printmaking techniques. No 2 prints are alike, which makes them unique, original pieces.

On the other hand art print is a commonly used term used to describe a type of reproduction made from a printer, like an Epson printer. An artist does not have to be involved in the art printing process.

How Is an Art Print Made?

Art prints are made by scanning the original paintings, photos, digital designs, or other artistic works into a computer file, and then printing the file onto high-quality paper. Independent artists may choose to print the art prints themselves, or they may work with professional printing services.

  • The artist first creates the piece of artwork, usually on a canvas, paper, or digitally using a computer.
  • Once the artwork is complete, it is then photographed or scanned.
  • The image is then typically printed on white, premium, cotton paper with high-quality inks. Usually, the paper used for an art print is matte and can be smooth or lightly textured to the touch.
  • Art prints are typically signed and numbered by the artist, and are often limited editions.

The most common type of art print is a giclee print, which uses archival inks and archival quality paper to create a print that will last for generations.

Today, most high-quality art prints are giclees, which means that they are prints that have been printed using an inkjet printer.

Typically, giclees follow these standards:

  • Inkjet Printers: Standard inkjet prints are made using dye-based inks. Giclees are made using pigment-based inks.
  • High Resolution and Colors: They have the sharpest detail and highest resolution, displaying a full-color spectrum. Giclees capture every shade of an original work.
  • Archival Papers: The paper surfaces must be acid-free and of archival quality to ensure longevity.

The standards mentioned above are what make giclees the best art prints that are very resistant to fading and yellowing.

What Is the Difference Between an Art Print and a Poster?

The main difference between an art print and a poster print is the kind of paper used.

Art prints are reproductions of original artwork of art or photography that are typically printed with high-quality inks on fine art paper, which is thick and sometimes has a lightly textured surface.

Posters are also reproductions of original works of art, but they’re usually printed on paper that is thinner, less expensive, smooth, and glossy or semi-glossy.

Posters are usually printed in high quantities and use lower-quality inks and sheets of paper. Its lower standards of quality are what make posters much more affordable than most other types of prints. But their lower standards in quality also limit their life span and careful attention to the true color of the image is usually not a top priority.

Conclusion: What Are Art Prints?

An art print is a high quality reproduction of original artworks or photographic works of art.

Art prints are typically made using a professional printing process called giclee printing. Giclee prints are considered to be of the highest quality and are used by thousands of artists, illustrators, photographers, galleries, and museums around the world.

Buying art prints can be a great way to start an art collection without breaking the bank. They also make great gifts for the art lover in your life.

Typically, art prints are sold unframed. However, they look so much better hung in frames (Amazon). You can find already framed art prints all over the Internet. My favorite places to buy art prints are iCanvas, Society6, and Redbubble, and Amazon (they offer a variety of sizes and frames).

Product Video: Society6’s Framed Art Prints

Whether you’re looking for a small print to hang in your home or a large print for a statement piece, there’s an art print out there for you.