What is a Limited-Edition Print?

Apr 12, 2021 • by S&P Gallery

What is a limited-edition print?

A limited edition print is a finite run of prints that are produced from an original artwork. These prints will either be hand numbered directly by the artist or artist estate, and once printed, no further copies will be made.

A restricted production

Once the number of prints are produced that is the end of the run. No further copies will be made. This is what makes limited edition prints so valuable to the collector, and why art seems to always hold its value.

Limited edition prints are priced and valued through many factors. This includes the number of prints produced in the series, the price of the original work on which the print is based, proof of authenticity and quality of the print.

Are limited-edition prints more affordable?

Collectible limited-edition prints cost significantly less than other forms of highly coveted art. Very few can afford an original painting by French impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926).  

The limited-edition Monet prints we sell are affordably priced, allowing everyone to capture the beauty of this art for themselves. Here are two based on the artist’s lovely gardens in Giverny, France.

The Waterlily Pond With Japanese Bridge 1899, is one of a limited-edition print series of only 60. In this medium sized print, the bridge over his lily pond appears at the very top. Monet’s focus is on the hundreds of waterlilies resting in the pond, in pretty pastels of pink and purple. While an original Monet cost upwards of millions, a limited edition print is only a fraction of the cost.

Claude Monet, The Waterlily Pond With Japanese Bridge 1899

Monet’s extra-large limited-edition print, Le Pont Japonais, is one of only 50. It is a close-up of the left side of the beautiful bridge, with a riot of purple lilies beside it, and a backdrop of generally swaying willows and other large trees. Available in our on-line store.

Claude Monet, Le Pont Japonais

How are limited-edition prints made?

To create a limited-edition print, the artist works in collaboration with a master printer, in studio. While the artist has the creative ability to capture their imagination on the page, the master printer has the technical ability to apply it professionally to print.

This teamwork ensures the very highest quality, in workmanship, ink and medium. It also ensures the artist’s work is represented in the best possible way. 

Once the image is approved by the artist, or if the artist has passed, the artist family or trust, the printing can begin. Once each print is approved for quality, it is signed and numbered.

Image source: https://www.somervillearts.com

How many prints will be produced in a series?

So, just how many prints will be produced in a series? In general, artists choose between 20-250, although some artists will go up to 500 or even 1000. It is entirely a personal decision for the artist. 

The number 100 is what those representing Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980) chose for many of her print series. The artist who thrived in the era of art deco, and a glamourous lifestyle, would later live and work in both Paris and United States. Her work was art imitating life!
In our collection you will see Self Portrait, in which de Lempicka depicts herself driving a green Bugatti.  In it she is fashionably dressed: Hermes scarf, long leather gloves and red lips. 
Tamara de Lempicka, Young Lady With Gloves

Young Lady With Gloves, illustrates a young woman in a green dress, elegantly holding down the wide brim of her hat, with a white gloved hand. In Portrait of Ira Perrot, an elegantly dressed modern flapper, with a shorn Bob, hold a bouquet of impossibly large calla lilies. Each series is limited to only 100 prints.

Tamara de Lempicka, Self Portrait

How does the series size affect the price of a print?

An artist may decide to sell the work in a series of sizes. The larger works fetch the highest price, so less will be printed. This will create demand in the marketplace. The smaller, more price accessible prints, will be produced in larger quantities. 

What types of traditional printing methods are there?

In traditional methods of printing, each print is hand made and therefore considered an original piece of art, with slight variations in each. Examples of traditional printing methods include etching, lithograph, silk screen, serigraphy engraving, linoleum, and woodcuts.

Etching

In an etching, the artist draws the image on a metal plate with a stylus. The design is burned into the metal in an acid bath. This plate is then used to print the impressions. 

Lithograph

Likewise, a lithograph requires the artist to draw on stone or metal. This time, a crayon or greased pencil is used. When the printer ink is rolled on, it then adheres to the areas that are drawn only.

Silkscreen

Silkscreen or serigraphy, was developed in 1900, for purposes of advertising. By the 1950’s artists were utilizing the method. This technique uses a stencil cut from paper through which paint is rolled, rubbed, or sprayed.

In our collection, Andy Warhol’s Paolo Uccello, St. George and the Dragon, is a vividly stunning example of silkscreen. Warhol transformed Paolo Uccello’s 1460 masterful work St. George and the Dragon, and transferred it into modern day Pop art. Here, Warhol chose his colour pops from the orange tones of the young maiden’s early Renaissance gown, in Uccello’s original work. Warhol’s cropped composition of the maiden’s face, in profile, and the menacing body of the dragon, make this a not-soon-to-be-forgotten work.

Andy Warhol, Paolo Uccello St. George And The Dragon

What types of contemporary printing methods are there?

Giclee

Giclee prints are the highest quality digital prints imaginable. Giclee, is a French word meaning “to spray”. Producing these prints requires the use of large model professional printer. These printers utilize between 8 and 12 cartridges, to produce a wide array of exacting colours.

Giclee can reproduce any two-dimensional artwork. Think water colour, acrylic or oil. In the hands of a skilled printer, giclee produces the closest representation of the artist’s original work available.

First the work is scanned or photographed using a high-resolution camera. The files need to be a minimum of 300 DPI or dots per inch, to create vast detail in the finished print. Once the work is approved by the artist, a digital file is created. This file provides the colour, density, paper finish, print space, and white space along the edge of the border. 

Source: http://jeeclay.com

Image source: http://jeeclay.com

Archival paper and paints are used. This means 100 per cent cotton fibres in canvas, gloss paper, mat paper, velvet paper, and special artisan papers. For paint only pigment based are used. Both the paper and paints used ensure the quality and the longevity of the work.

Once the final print in the series of limited-edition prints is produced and approved, the file is destroyed. No further prints will be created.

How can you tell a 'genuine print'?

Limited edition prints are signed with a sharp pencil to prevent forgeries. On the print, you will find all the information you need to know. Learn how to read the pencil marks. Most artists and printers mark in the same systematic way.

One of our limited-edition prints, Look Mickey, 1961, by American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), is a primary colour portrait of the world’s favourite cartoon mouse. It is also one of 100 printed.  

In the bottom left-hand corner, you will see the number the print was given. So, the tenth print produced out of 100 would be indicated as 10/100, in this series of limited- edition prints, that are 26 by 16 inches in size.

At the bottom right-hand corner of any limited addition print, you will see the signature of the artist/ printer. In the middle will be the title, if any.

What is an AP?

Additionally, A/P stands for Artist’s Proof, a subsection of limited-edition prints. This will be noted beside the number. These are prints given to the artist to keep. The total print run will also be indicated as the bottom number. This means the first Artist’s Proof in series of three will be written A/P 1/3. 

Image source: https://www.sothebys.com

Another copy will go to the printer and is noted as P/P or Printer’s Proof. The studio will also have a copy marked R.T.P or Ready to Print and will later become property of the studio.

There are many types of limited-edition prints. This makes the market accessible to first time buyers as well as seasoned, avid collectors. All are accompanied by a Certificate of Authentication. Visit our online store to choose something you love.