How To Tell Lithograph From Print? (A Simple Comparison: The Difference Between Lithographs & Prints in 2023, & How To Choose Between Them)

As an art enthusiast, I know firsthand the joy of discovering new and meaningful pieces to add to my collection. However, with so many types of prints out there, it can be challenging to know what you’re really getting.

That’s why I want to share with you the importance of knowing how to identify a lithograph and how to authenticate it.

With this guide, you’ll gain the confidence to make informed and valuable purchases that you’ll cherish for years to come.

Lithograph: A Type of Print

As someone who loves art and has purchased both lithographs and prints, I understand the importance of knowing the difference between the two. While all lithographs are prints, not all prints are lithographs.

Let’s dive into the fascinating world of lithographs. Simply put, a lithograph is a type of print created using the process of lithography. This process involves using a flat surface, such as limestone or metal plates, and drawing or painting an image on it with a greasy substance. Chemicals are then applied to the surface to make the image areas repel water while the non-image areas attract it. When the plate is wetted, ink adheres only to the greasy areas and is transferred onto paper to create the final image.

To help you better understand, I’ve found this great video of an artist creating a lithographic print on a stone.

The Lithographic Process

While lithographs are a type of print, there are many other original, hand-crafted fine art prints to explore. For example, etchings and engravings are created by etching or engraving a design onto a metal plate. Serigraphs, or silk-screen prints, are made using stencils and a mesh screen, while woodcut prints are made by carving an image onto a block of wood and using the raised surface to print.

In addition to these traditional printing methods, there are also digital reproduction prints, including the newer giclée prints. These prints are made from high-resolution digital images, archival inks, and high-quality, acid-free fine art paper or canvas.

While each type of print has its unique qualities, there’s something special about the texture and depth of a lithograph that draws me in. They offer rich, vibrant colors that stand out and add character to any art collection.

Watch this video of an artist creating a colorful lithographic print using a metal plate:

Plate Lithography | Edinburgh Printmakers

That being said, it’s essential to do your research and purchase high-quality pieces from reputable sources.

Identifying a Lithograph

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of identifying a lithograph. Knowing how to distinguish an authentic lithograph from other prints is key to becoming a savvy collector.

The texture of a lithograph is a tell-tale sign of its authenticity. Lithographs have a distinctive texture that can be seen and felt on the surface of the print. This texture is created by the printing process, which typically involves a flat stone or metal plate. Look closely and you’ll notice a slightly raised surface that adds depth to the image.

Identifying Prints: How To Recognize Stone Lithography | Bruce Wood

Another clue that a print is a lithograph is the use of multiple colors. The process of lithography allows for the use of multiple colors to create a vivid, detailed image. The colors are applied in layers, resulting in a unique depth that is hard to achieve with other printing techniques.

When trying to confirm the authenticity of a lithograph, pay attention to the signatures or markings on the print. Original lithographs may have pencil or plate signatures from the artist or printer, as well as limited edition numbers or dates. These markings are a strong indication of the print’s originality and value.

How To Identify Markings on Prints by Dr. Lori | Dr. Lori

However, keep in mind that reproductions may also have signatures or markings, so it’s important to examine the print thoroughly. While reproductions may look similar to originals, they won’t have the same value or significance in the art world.

Lastly, consider the history and provenance of the print. Some original lithographs are highly sought-after and valuable, so it’s important to research the print’s origin and history. Reproductions can be a more budget-friendly option, but they lack the same historical and cultural significance as original lithographs.

Authentication & Value

If you’re an art collector, you don’t want to be fooled by fake lithographs when investing in valuable art collections. You need to know how to authenticate a lithograph, and several factors determine its worth.

When determining authenticity, start by examining the print’s features, such as the unique texture created by the printing process, and look for signatures or markings from the artist or printer. Reproductions can also have markings, but they won’t have the same value as original prints.

The value of a lithograph depends on several factors, including the artist’s reputation and popularity. Works by famous artists are typically more valuable than those made by lesser-known artists. Additionally, smaller editions are often more valuable than larger ones.

Condition is another crucial factor that can impact the value of a lithograph. Prints that show signs of wear and tear or damage to the paper, ink, or image will be worth less than pristine ones.

Furthermore, a lithograph’s provenance can also increase its value, particularly if it has a documented history of ownership by notable collectors or institutions. Documentation verifying the lithograph’s authenticity, such as certificates of authenticity or expert opinions, can also raise its value.

Conclusion: Should You Choose a Lithograph?

Now that you understand the differences between prints and lithographs, you may be wondering if a lithograph is a good choice for your art collection.

Lithographs offer distinctive qualities that make them highly sought after by art collectors. The texture and depth created by the printing process, combined with the use of oil-based ink, produce rich, vibrant colors that give each piece a unique character. The limited production runs of lithographs also add to their value and desirability.

However, it’s crucial to remember that the quality of a lithograph depends on the skill of the artist and printer, as well as the materials used in the production process. That’s why it’s essential to do your research and only invest in high-quality lithographs from reputable sources.

Overall, if you’re looking for a unique and valuable addition to your art collection, a lithograph can be an excellent choice. Just make sure to choose wisely to ensure that you’re making a worthwhile investment.