top of page

Volume 1 Issue 2 - The Language of Fine Art

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

You Have To See It, To Be It

As a publisher and distributor of fine art, it is incumbent upon us to listen, inform, and be informed by our clientele. To that end, we believe buyers, dealers, wholesalers, investors, and other stakeholders should have a common understanding of fine art terminology and the print making process. The list below includes a glossary of some of the more widely used terms.


Any work considered to be an authentic example of the works of an artist. An original may be a painting, sculpture, a performance work, or one of many other kinds of media. It is not a reproduction. Originals tend to be much higher in cost and value as they are unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of work.


This is a common printing technique in which the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket and then to a printing surface.


An art print is a graphic image that has been duplicated one or more times. There are various techniques used to create an art print, such as lithography, serigraphy (or silk screening), etching, giclee, etc.


The primary difference between an art print and a poster is the level of quality. Posters are typically printed in larger volumes on less expensive thinner paper whereas fine art prints are printed with careful attention to true color reproduction using higher quality inks on thicker art paper.


A predetermined number of impressions are produced from a master plate, stone, or other method. The edition size is the sum of all numbered pieces and proofs. Each print is individually numbered and often signed by the artist. The exclusive nature of a limited edition print effectively raises its value and price.


In a limited edition, the artist pencils in his signature and a number on the bottom of the print. The number appears as a fraction, such as 20/100. This would indicate edition number 20 from a total print run of 100 editions.


In addition to the regular numbered edition, the artist usually selects a specified number of identical proofs for either his or her own use, for a museum, or as the artist chooses. These proofs may be designated as artist proofs.


Unlike limited edition prints, open edition prints may be endlessly reproduced. Because there is no limit to the number of prints that can be made, an open edition print is priced lower than a limited-edition print.


Giclée (pronounced "jhee-clay") is a sophisticated inkjet printing process that combines pigment inks and archival quality, acid-free paper to produce gallery or museum quality fine art prints. The giclée printing process provides outstanding color accuracy. It is currently considered to be the pinnacle of printmaking technology.


A lithograph is created using a printing technique based on the principle that oil and water do not mix. Using oil-based ink or a grease crayon, an image is drawn on a flat stone or metal plate. Water is applied to the surface and is repelled by the areas where oil-based images have been drawn. The entire surface is then coated with an oil-based ink that adheres only to the areas drawn in oil, ink, or crayon. The image is then printed on paper. Lithography became a popular printing technique because thousands of exact replicas could be made that were like drawings on paper, without degradation of the image.


Offset lithography is an industrialized version of the same printing technique as lithography. By using modern printing presses, high-quality reproductions are produced faster and in higher volumes than with manually produced lithographs.


A serigraph is an original silk-screen color print. Serigraphy (or silk screening) is a stencil process. The artist prepares a tightly stretched screen, usually of silk, and blocks out areas not to be printed by filling the mesh on the screen with a varnish-like substance. Paper is placed under the screen and ink is forced through the still-open mesh into the paper by means of a squeegee.


In terms of resolution, a giclee print has the highest resolution and color range. Giclee printmaking provides a luminosity and brilliance that represents the artist's original work better than any other reproduction technique that is available today. A serigraph is created when paint is 'pushed' through a silkscreen onto paper or canvas. A different screen is used for each color in the print, and this results in a print with great color density and many qualities of the original in terms of color saturation. This process also adds some texture to the final product. A lithograph is the least manually intensive reproduction technique, and in turn, it is not as expensive as a serigraph or giclee. Although images can have a high resolution, and excellent appearance, they will not have the same degree of resolution or color density as a serigraph or giclee.


A sharp needle is used to draw a design on a metal plate which has been coated with an acid-resistant substance. The plate is then put into an acid-bath and these exposed parts are etched, producing sunken lines. In printing, the ink settles in the sunken areas and the plate is wiped clean. After this process, the plate is covered with damp paper and passed through a roller press, forcing the paper in the sunken area to receive the ink.


Acid-free paper has been treated to neutralize its natural acidity to protect fine art and photographic prints from discoloration and deterioration.


A canvas print is the result of an image printed onto canvas which is often stretched onto a frame and displayed.

We hope you found our 2nd column, “The Language of Fine Art” to be informative. You deserve the best, and we are absolutely committed to giving you our best!

Dexter R. Merritt Sr.

52 views0 comments


bottom of page