General information on the differences between prints and reproductions


Prints are made in multiples. The total number of prints hand-created of one image is called an edition. Lithographs and other multiples hand-made by the artist -- considered original works of art -- usually have an artist's signature and the number of the work out of the series, e.g. 5/15, meaning the fifth work of a series of fifteen in total. The signature and numbers are hand-written by the artist.

A reproduction, sometimes called a reproduction print, is made without an artist's involvement and is not considered a print. A reproduction may be mounted on cardboard or another kind of board. Borrow a high power magnifying glass (the kind jewelers use) or a microscope and look at a color picture in a magazine. If the magnification is powerful enough, you will see microscopic colored dots in a pattern. Next, use this same magnifying glass or microscope and focus on the image you are studying. If you see the same type of array of dots in your picture you have a machine-made reproduction.

Some reproductions are very well done and may have no dots to see with the naked eye. They can be on canvas or paper on board and even be embossed to duplicate the brush marks of an original painting. A Giclee (ghee-clay) print is a machine-made reproduction of very high quality made by an Iris digital ink jet printer. A Giclee print has extremely small pixels of color, with no perceptible dot pattern, that may equate to resolution of a digital print at 1,800 dots per inch. Machine-made reproductions usually do not have hand-made signatures and often have stock identification numbers on the back of the work.

The difference between prints and reproductions is made fuzzy by the practice by some well-known artists of signing reproductions to give them extra value. Also there are some reproduction "factories" in which artists add minor painting touches to reproductions in order to add value.

A copyright symbol followed by a date and name of creator is not a sure sign of either a reproduction or an original. Some artists place a copyright symbol and date near their signature on original works. Paintings which are believed to have been created prior to common use of the copyright notice and symbol should be absent the copyright notice. According to About Inc. "Copyright notice was required under the 1976 Copyright Act. This requirement was eliminated when the United States adhered to the Berne Convention, effective March 1, 1989." If a reproduction was made years after the original work was created the copyright symbol and date relate to the reproduction work.

Also see Reproduction or Print . . . What's the Difference? from Collector's Guide, Reproduction Print Sales Impact Artists in a Big Way by Alan Bamberger and "What to look for" in Fine Art vs. Reproducitons from The San Diego & North County Printmakers.

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