Glossary of Prints and Original Graphics Terms

20 easy-to-understand terms to help you become
a more discerning collector of fine artwork on paper

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Artist's proof One of a small group of prints set aside from the edition for the artist's use; a number of printer's proofs are sometimes also done for the printer's use

Chop The impression made by the artist's or the printer's seal on the paper

Collograph A print made from an image built up with glue and sometimes other materials. The inked image is transferred from plate to paper and is simultaneously embossed. The name derives from "collage."

Edition A set of identical prints, sometimes numbered and signed, pulled by, or under the supervision of the artist

Open edition An unlimited number of impressions

Limited edition Has a known number of impressions, usually fewer then 200, that are numbered and signed

Giclée A new process using advanced technology to create a lustrous, continuous-tone digital print that meets or exceeds the quality of traditional ligthography and screen printing. Organic, water-based multi-color inks are applied to the surface of archival papers from tiny jets one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. Also referred to as an Iris print

Lithograph The process of printing from a small stone or metal plate on which the image to be printed is ink-receptive and the blank area is ink repellent. The artist, or other print maker under the artist's supervision, then covers the plate with a sheet of paper and runs both through a press under light pressure. The resultant "original print" is of considerably greater intrinsic worth than the commercially reproduced poster which is mechanically printed on an offset press (see "limited edition" above):

Chromolithography A process using several stones or plates--one for each color, printed in register. The result is color prints, to be distinguished from colored prints that have the color hand-applied after printing

Intaglio (Italian for "cut in") a method of printing in which the image is carved into a flat surface, usually copper, so that the areas to be inked are recessed beneath the surface of the printing plate. Damp paper is placed on the plate and run through a press under great pressure forcing the paper into the engraved areas and thus transferring the image. The main intaglio processes:

Line engraving The image is produced by cutting or gouging a metal plate directly with a sharp tool

Drypoint Drawing on the metal plate with a hard steel "pencil" that produces a burr by displacing, rather than removing metal, causing the printed line to be somewhat fuzzy thus adding a richness to the image. Because this wears during printing, editions are usually limited to 50 or fewer prints

Etching A metal plate is first covered with an acid-resistant ground, then worked with an etching needle. The metal exposed by the needle is "eaten" in an acid bath, creating the recessed image

Mezzotint A tonal, rather linear, engraving process made by first roughening the surface of the plate with a mesh of small burred dots and then producing the picture by flattening and burnishing selected areas which print as highlights. It is rarely practiced now since photographic methods have superseded it

Aquatint Another tonal process where a porous ground allows acid to penetrate to form a network of small dots. Any pure whites are stopped out entirely before etching begins, then the palest tints are bitten and stopped out, and so on as in etching. This process is repeated 20 to 30 times until the darkest tones (deepest recesses in the plate) are reached

Monoprint One of a series in which each print has some differences of color, design, texture, etc. applied to an underlying common image

Monotype A one-of-a-kind print made by painting on a smooth metal, glass or stone plate and then printing on paper. The pressure of printing creates a texture not possible when painting directly on paper

Photogravure A photomechanical process invented in 1879 for fine printing. An image is transferred to a copper plate which is chemically etched. For each print the plate is hand-inked

Serigraph/silk screen print A form of print making utilizing stencils attached to porous screens that support delicate areas of the cut design. Most often issued in signed and numbered editions

By Pamela Michaelis, founder of The Collector's Guide and former host of “Gallery News” radio show on KHFM 95.5 remote, classical radio in Albuquerque.

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe and Taos - Volume 9

Related Pages

Contemporary Lithography article
Digital Fine Art article
Glossary of Photography Terms

Reproduction or Print: What's the Difference? article
The Tamarind Institute Goes Global
Tamarind: Dynamic Past — Promising Future article

Collector’s Resources


Susan J. Zimmerman rem By Appointment in Corrales | 505-280-4755
Gallerie Imaginarium rem 301D Central Ave NW |
Leich Lathrop Gallery rem 323 Romero St NW - Suite 1 | 505-243-3059
Fermin Hernandez Fine Art rem 328-B San Felipe NW | 505-243-0333
Las Cruces Museum of Art | 575-541-2137
Josie's Framery | 575-257-4156

Santa Fe

Arroyo rem | 505-988-1002
GF Contemporary | 505.983.3707
Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art | 505.986.1156
Hasson Gallery rem 225 Delgado St at Canyon Road | 505-990-2133
The Johnsons of Madrid Galleries of Fine & Fiber Art | 505-471-1054
Robert J. Kelly rem 229 Camino Del Norte | 505-983-3590
LewAllen Galleries | 505-988-3250
Nuart Gallery | 505-988-3888
The Owings Gallery | 505-982-6244
Nausika Richardson rem County Road 0064 #30, Dixon | 505-579-4612


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