Prints are created by transferring ink from a matrix or mould through a prepared screen to a sheet of paper or other material. Common types of moulds include metal plates, usually copper or zinc, or polymer plates for engraving or etching; stone, aluminium, or polymer for lithography; blocks of wood for woodcuts and wood engravings; and linoleum for linocut. Screens or sheets made of silk or synthetic fabrics are used for the screen-printing process.
Multiple impressions or prints printed from the same mould form an edition. Sculptures can also come in editions. Producing limited editions means that the prints made by established or emerging artists, who may also work in other mediums such as painting and drawing, are made more accessible to a larger audience without taking away from the quality and rarity of the piece. The mould is then destroyed so that no more prints are produced ensuring the value of the work.
Each print produced is not considered a “copy” but is rather considered an “original”. This is because each print varies to an extent due to variables intrinsic to the artistic printmaking process and the individual style and talent of the printer maker involved in the process.
When buying prints check the quality and make sure there’s a signature on the work, and that the print number of the edition is also displayed. It’s also worth knowing that the lower the print run, the rarer the print. Limited-edition prints are a great way to start your art collection.