Is Lithograph a Print?

Let’s dive into the world of lithography – a popular printing technique that involves a complex process of transferring an image onto a flat surface.

While there has been debate among artists and collectors about whether lithography can be considered a “print,” I’m here to explore the topic in-depth and help you understand the truth.

Are lithographs considered prints? Let’s find out!

Understanding Prints & Their Categories

Let’s dive into the fascinating world of prints and their categories. Prints have been a popular medium for centuries, and understanding their categories is key to appreciating their nuances.

Fine art prints, for example, are highly prized for their rarity and the human skill required to create them. Lithographs, etchings, and engravings are all examples of fine art prints created using the hands of a skilled artist or printmaker.

What makes lithographs so unique is that each print is one-of-a-kind. No two prints are exactly alike due to the transfer process from plate to paper, resulting in slight variations. This variation makes lithographs valuable and highly collectible.

On the other hand, reproductions (copies) of artwork made using a mechanical printer like a digital printer lack the variations and human touch of fine art prints. While they may look similar to the original artwork, they are often less valuable.

How Does Traditional Lithography Work?

As a printing technique that has stood the test of time, traditional lithography has been utilized for centuries to create stunning, high-quality prints. With this process, artists use a printing stone or metal plate to transfer an image onto paper or another substrate.

To get a better understanding of how traditional lithography works, let’s take a look at an artist creating a lithographic print using a lithographic stone:

The Lithographic Process

As you can see from the video, the lithographic process relies on the fact that oil and water do not mix. The first step is to create a printing plate, which is done by drawing the desired image onto a flat stone or metal plate using a greasy substance like a lithographic crayon. Next, the plate is treated with a solution of gum arabic and acid, which helps to fix the image onto the plate.

With the plate ready, it’s time to apply ink. Oil-based ink is used to ink the stone or plate, which adheres to the greasy areas while being repelled by the non-greasy areas. After inking, the stone or plate is placed onto the printing press, and the paper or substrate is placed on top of it.

When the press is operated, pressure is applied, and the ink is transferred from the stone or plate onto the substrate, usually lithograph paper. The result is a breathtaking print with sharp lines and vibrant colors.

To create multiple copies of the same image, the process is repeated with a new sheet of paper or substrate for each impression. This makes traditional lithography a highly versatile and efficient printing technique.

If you want to see another example of an artist creating a lithographic print, take a look at this video of an artist using a metal plate:

Plate Lithography | Edinburgh Printmakers

Although digital printing has become more widespread in recent years, traditional lithography remains an essential and valued technique in the art world. The distinct characteristics of lithography, such as its rich, velvety tones and sharp, detailed lines, make it a popular choice for artists and printmakers alike.

Moreover, the physical interaction with the materials involved and the tactile nature of the process can be deeply rewarding for those who practice it. Whether you’re an artist, collector, or simply someone intrigued by the history and techniques of printmaking, traditional lithography is an engaging and fascinating subject to explore.

Traditional Lithography Vs Offset Lithography

Let’s explore the fascinating world of lithography a bit more.

In the previous section, I talked about traditional lithography, also known as stone lithography. But, did you know there’s another popular type of lithography called offset lithography?

Let’s take a look at it.

Lithographic Offset Press | Printing Offset Prints

Offset lithography is a more modern printing process that uses a metal plate with a rubber blanket. The image is transferred from the plate to the rubber blanket and then onto paper or another material. It’s a speedy process that allows for the production of large quantities of prints quickly and efficiently.

While both traditional and offset lithography involve transferring an image onto a surface, there are a few differences between the two processes. Traditional lithography involves hands-on creation of the image on the stone or plate, while offset lithography relies on mechanical transfer of the image. Moreover, traditional lithography creates prints with a unique quality due to variations in the transfer process, whereas offset lithography produces identical copies of the image.

When it comes to classification as fine art prints or reproductions, traditional lithographs are considered to be fine art prints as they are created using an artistic process involving the hands of the artist or printmaker. The unique qualities of traditional lithographs make them highly collectible and valuable

Offset lithography, on the other hand, is usually considered to be a reproduction since it’s a mechanical process that produces identical copies of the image. However, offset lithographs can still be of high quality and can resemble traditional lithographs in appearance.

Traditional Lithographs & The Art Market

Lithographs have made their mark in the art market throughout history and continue to do so even today. These prints have served a variety of purposes such as reproducing famous artworks, promoting political propaganda, and documenting important historical events. In today’s art market, both traditional and offset lithographs can be in high demand among collectors and enthusiasts.

The scarcity of a lithograph is a crucial factor that influences its value. Limited edition lithographs that have been signed by the artist or printmaker are particularly rare and therefore highly valued. A lithograph’s condition also plays a significant role in determining its worth. Prints that are in excellent condition, without any signs of wear or damage, tend to command higher prices.

The reputation of the artist who created the lithograph is another important factor in its value. Prints produced by well-known and highly-regarded artists typically fetch higher prices than those by lesser-known artists. The historical significance of the lithograph can also impact its value. Prints that document significant events or cultural movements are often highly prized by collectors and historians alike.

The demand for a lithograph also influences its value. If a particular print is in high demand among collectors, its price will rise accordingly. The popularity of the artist or subject matter can also have an impact on the demand for a lithograph. For instance, prints of famous musicians or movie stars are often highly collectible.

Additionally, traditional lithographs provide a glimpse into history and are a valuable piece of art that is still relevant in today’s art market. Whether you are a collector or just an art enthusiast, the unique qualities and history of traditional lithographs make them a worthwhile addition to any collection.

Conclusion: Are Lithographs Prints?

Yes, lithographs are considered to be prints. However traditional lithographs which are made with the hands and skills of an artist or printmaker are considered “fine art prints” and “original prints” because no two lithographs are 100% alike. Plus, lithographs are typically produced in limited editions, signed and numbered by the artist or printmaker, which adds to their value.

Traditional lithographs are a unique form of printmaking that has evolved over time. There’s no denying that lithography has played an important role in the world of art and printing.

Whether it’s a fine art lithograph or a reproduction like an offset lithograph, lithography has the ability to capture the essence of an artist’s vision and bring it to life in a tangible and beautiful way. So the next time you come across a traditional lithograph, remember that it is indeed a print, but one that requires skill, craftsmanship, and a keen artistic eye to create.