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Oleograph vs Lithograph (A Simple Comparison: The Difference Between Oleographs & Lithographs, & How To Choose Between Them)

Difference Between Lithograph and Oleograph

An oleograph is a type of lithograph.



What the heck is a lithograph? (Keep reading and find out).


Lithograph is a term that originates from the Greek words for “stone” and “to write”.

This particular printing technique works on the fact that water and grease repel each other.

Take a look at the video below, where they show how lithographs are made and what a lithograph looks like.

How Lithographs Are Made

So, basically, a lithograph is a printing technique that requires an artist to first draw their artwork on a prepared surface like a bavarian limestone (or a special kind of textured aluminum) with a greasy crayon, pencil, or another similar tool.

The drawing is then covered with a thin layer of water and then quickly applied with ink. When ink is applied to the stone, it sticks to the grease and but is repelled by areas where there’s only water present.

After some chemical processing, the drawing is placed in a press and the image is transferred onto a piece of paper, creating a mirrored picture.

The artist can create as many hand-printed copies of the same original artwork as he or she wants.


So now let’s look at a more specific type of lithograph, the oleograph.

First of all, oleographs is often defined as a lithograph textured to resemble an oil painting.

An oleograph is a colorful lithograph produced by preparing a separate stone by hand for each color to be used and printing one color over the other.

Sometimes as many as 30 stones are used for a single print!

Usually, the print is placed onto canvas and then varnish is added to mimic the look of an oil painting.

Oleographs are often mistaken for oil paintings because of their texture and it being attached to a canvas. But, it looks even more like an oil painting as it ages and the varnish starts to yellow.

If the oleograph is very well done, you’ll often need to find a professional, like a conservator-restorer, to see if the artwork is an oil painting or an oleograph.

* A conservator-restorer is a person who’s responsible for the preservation of artistic artifacts

So now that you know what’s the difference between lithographs and oleographs, go ahead and buy art (my favorite spot for finding affordable lithographs is Etsy and Saatchi Art), support independent artists, and HAVE FUN shopping!