What Is a Lithograph?

What Is a Lithograph? (Meaning)

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.

What Is the Difference Between a Lithograph and Print?

Lithographs are works of art that are hand-printed by an artist (or artisan) that has been reproduced in small quantities from an original image, using grease, ink, water, and a special surface such as limestone.

In the art world, when you hear the word print*, it usually means reproductions of an original piece of art that was printed using a machine (usually a high-quality printer hooked up to a computer, as Society6 and Redbubble do).

With this printing technique, the artist doesn’t print the artwork by hand at all and the original artwork can be mass-produced at a rapid pace.

* Print also includes words like art print, canvas print, metallic print, etc.

You can see an example of what art prints are in the video below.

Society6 Art Prints – Start to Finish

How Can You Tell if It’s a Lithograph?

A common way to tell if a print is a hand-printed lithograph or a print made with a machine is to look at the artwork under a magnifying glass.

A hand-printed lithograph will show random marks and a dot pattern created by the surface the artwork was drawn on.

Are Lithographs Valuable?

A lithograph print is usually much more affordable than original art created by a well-known artist, but still has an air of exclusivity as the artwork is not mass-produced.

Factors that have the potential to increase the value of a lithograph prints are:

  • Has a limited quantity (limited edition)
  • Is numbered (another sign that it’s from a limited edition)
  • Is signed by the artist
  • Was hand-printed by the creator of the original artwork

So now that you know what lithograph prints are, go ahead and buy art (my two favorite spots for finding affordable lithographs are Etsy and Saatchi Art), support independent artists, and HAVE FUN shopping!