DEFINITION of Original Print

A work of art that is created using a master image carved into a durable material, such as stone. The artist uses the master image to create one or more impressions of the image. There are several methods of print making, including intaglio, relief, and planographic.

BREAKING DOWN Original Print

Prints are one of the oldest forms of art, and original prints are prized by art collectors. The original print itself is considered a unique work of art, and is not a copy of another artistic work. If the original print is not used by the artist to create copies, the artist will often still provide supervision and sign off on the impression once made.

This type of print is often inherently a limited edition print due to the wear and tear placed on the plate used to make copies. Each copy is signed by the artist and given an edition number indicating how many total impressions were made, and which impression number the particular copy is. The master image is either destroyed or marked so as to prevent its reuse. It should be noted that artist's signature on a reproduction simply verifies that it was authentically touched by the artist him or herself—much the same way that an author's signature substantiates that an individual copy of a book passed through the hands of the author.

The original print can be made of various materials, including stone, block or screen. Each impression yielded by the original print will be slightly different due to the fact that each image is individually hand-pulled.

In the past, the original art work was photographed and reproduced by an offset press, however today, reproductions are done with inks on large format printers. These images are typically marked as “giclee” (phonetically pronounced “gee-clay”, and are often can be printed on water color paper or canvas to make them resemble the original creation.

The quantity of numbered impressions in an edition is typically determined by the artist and the printshop before the edition is printed. But the number of prints made is rarely more than fifty, and often quite smaller than that. In any case, after the artist signs and numbers each impression in the edition, all stones and plates are effaced, then the stones are resurfaced for future use.