What Is a Fine Art Print? (A Simple Definition of Fine Art Prints & an Artist’s Role in Fine Art Printing)

What Is the Difference Between Fine Art Prints and Reproductions?

Today, most people think that all prints are copies (reproductions) of an original design made by a mechanical printer (a printer similar to the one you might have at home). But that couldn’t be further from the truth!

There are 2 main types of prints:

  1. Fine art print (or original print)
  2. Reproduction (or copy)

Fine art prints are original artwork while reproductions are copies of an original work of art.

To really understand the difference between the two, let’s take a closer look at what reproductions and fine art prints are.

What Are Reproductions?

Reproductions are copies of original works of art. There is no creative process involved from the artist when the copies are made.

Reproductions can easily be mass-produced (e.g. contemporary wall art prints like posters, art prints, and canvas prints).

What Are Fine Art Prints?

A fine art print is a print that’s also an original work of art. In other words, fine art prints are prints handmade by the artist.

Examples of fine art printing are those found on Etsy, including etchings, lithographs, and serigraphs.

Fine art prints are printed using different techniques and using different materials but they all have one thing in common; all fine art prints are considered made with the artist’s own hands so each print is essentially unique (an original).

Basically, to make a fine art print, the artist must:

  1. Draw, paint, etch, or carve a printing surface (the fancy term for this printing surface is “matrix”). The printing surface (matrix) can be a multitude of different materials, like stone (lithographs), screens (serigraphs, also known as screenprints), and metal plates (etchings).
  2. When the ink or paint is transferred from the matrix to a sheet of paper (or whatever material the artist chooses), the final product is called a fine art print.
  3. Even if an artist uses the same matrix to create a series of prints (limited edition), each print still has unique marks on the images and no two prints are alike, so they are all fine art prints.

Learn more about different types of fine art printmaking by checking out the links below:

What Is the Difference Between a Print and a Fine Art Print?

A print is any work of art that has been created by printing, either manually (e.g. printing press, stamping) or with a machine (e.g. mechanical printer), on paper or other similar material.

The medium used to create the print can be anything from woodblock printing and screen printing to sending digital artwork or photos to an inkjet printer.

In other words, a print is any work of art (including photography) that has been created by:

  1. making a unique image,
  2. then transferring that image onto another surface.

So, a fine art print is a type of print.

Fine Art Print vs Art Print

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

While a fine art print is considered original artwork, an art print is a commonly used term used to describe a type of reproduction (a copy of an original work of art).

Art prints can be easily mass-produced without the aid of the artist who created the original artwork and they’re typically printed on white, premium, cotton rag paper with high-quality inks. Usually, the paper used for an art print is matte and can be smooth or lightly textured.

If you go to popular art sites such as iCanvas, Society6, and Redbubble 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.)m

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

Society6 Art Prints | Product Video
What Is Fine Art Printmaking?

Fine art printmaking is a form of art that dates back centuries. It involves the use of various printing techniques where an artist creates a print by hand. The final product is unique, so the print is considered an original work of art (also called a fine art print, or an original print).

There are many different types of fine art printmaking, including etching, lithography, and screen printing. Each type of fine art printmaking has its own unique process and results in a different type of print.

Fine art printmaking is an important part of the art world and has been used by some of the most famous artists in history, such as Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol.

What Is a Fine Art Canvas Print?

Today, many artists and companies wrongfully market high-quality canvas prints as “fine art canvas prints”. However, if the canvas print is not directly handmade with the aid of an artist and is not one-of-a-kind, the canvas print is a reproduction (copy) and not a fine art print (original print).

Conclusion: What Are Fine Art Prints?

In a nutshell, fine art prints are a type of print. But they are not copies of an original work of art because they are original works of art.

Fine art prints are original, unique, one-of-a-kind prints that must be made by an artist and their skilled hands. The artist may use various mediums and techniques to create a fine art print, but the end result is always an original piece of art.

Even giclée prints, the types of prints that are created to be as close to the original artwork as possible, aren’t fine art prints.

* Giclée prints are some of the best reproductions that you can get.

They typically are made from:

  • archival, acid-free, fine art papers or canvases,
  • top-quality pigment inks,
  • and they’re printed using high-end, high-resolution, large-format printers,

And even those prints aren’t “fine art prints” because they’re reproductions (copies of an original work of art).

If the print doesn’t require the aid of an artist’s hands and talent to create, it’s not a fine art print.