What Is a Print in Art?

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What Is a Print in Art? (Meaning of “Print”)

What Is the Definition of Print?

A print is any work of art that is copied/reproduced (like art prints, canvas prints, poster prints, metallic prints, etc) or a process that involves transferring an image to another surface (like lithographs, etchings, serigraphs, monotypes, etc.

Today, most people think that all prints are mechanical copies (reproductions) of original artwork. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are two types of prints:

  1. Fine Art Prints
  2. Reproductions

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 reproductions are made.

Examples of reproductions are prints that can be mass-produced like posters, art prints, and canvas prints.

You can see images of reproductions by visiting iCanvas.

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 handmade by the artist and often have original marks from the printer used.

Examples of fine art prints 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 handmade by the artist and they’re considered original works of art.

Basically, to make a fine art print, the artist must first draw, paint, or carve a printing surface. The printing surface can be a multitude of different materials, like stone (lithographs), screens (serigraphs, also knows as screenprints), and metal plates (etchings). When the ink or paint is transferred from that surface to a sheet of paper (or whatever material the artist chooses), the final product is called a fine art print.

Check out the links below for more details on how different types of fine art prints are made:

Common Mistake: Fine Art Prints vs Art Prints

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

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 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, Redbubble, and Minted, 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.

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

Product Video: Society6 Art Prints

Are Prints Worth Anything?

Prints are often seen as mass-produced copies of original artwork that aren’t valuable. But I totally disagree!

Prints, especially limited editions like you see on Minted and Saatchi Art can be highly valuable.

Here are some factors that will increase the price (and value) of prints:

  • Limited editions: If the print is a limited edition (like they sell on Minted or Saatchi Art), this means there are only so many prints of the original artwork that will be made. This increases the value of the print.
  • Well-Known Artist: If you’re buying a print of artwork created by a well-known artist, you’ll be paying more than a print made from the work of an emerging artist.
  • Premium Materials: Uses high-quality printers and materials (archival papers and inks) that will make your print look amazing and last for decades.
  • Popularity: If the artwork is featured in the news, books, museums, catalogs, websites, or other media, the price will go up.
  • The Story: If there’s a really cool story behind the artwork (like a famous person used to own it or was featured in a TV show or play), then a print will probably go up in price.

But keep in mind that prints are more than the monetary value associate with it. Even if you’re not buying prints as an investment, art can bring life into your home or office!

With art, you can express yourself or change the mood of any room. And prints are much more budget-friendly than original works of art, so ANYONE can enjoy art at a fraction of the price!

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Cheapest Place To Buy Top-Quality Prints?

Here are my favorite places to get the cheapest, high-quality prints.

If I’m looking for more super inexpensive prints, I’ll usually browse through Etsy and Amazon Handmade and read the reviews until I find something I like with a 4 or 5-star rating.

My other favorite places to get prints is iCanvas, Society6, Redbubble, and Inktuitive. These companies are all known to be high-quality producers of prints that do not look cheap at all.

iCanvas have high-quality art prints and canvas prints at discounted prices. Plus, they have free shipping in the contiguous United States!

Another place I like the buy prints is Minted (you can also get custom art prints made from a Minted artist). You’ll end up paying slightly more for these prints, but they’re of premium quality and are limited editions, so they’re more valuable than most prints.

And, last but not least, if I’m looking to buy prints as an investment, Saatchi Art is where I go! Just like minted, these prints are usually limited editions, they’re curated by a team of professionals, and are usually more valuable (but a little more expensive) than the prints from the sites mentioned above.

So, go ahead and buy prints, support independent artists, and HAVE FUN shopping!