Michael Atkin Printmaker  etcher - lino printer - wood engraver - letterpress printer

What are original prints?

        The artist printmaker makes the print, be it an etching, Lino- cut, wood engraving, lithograph, silKscreen, woodcut. Whatever the medium only one person creates the image, others might print the finished article, but normally and quite often in England the artist is also the printer.

        There are specialist printers who for a fee will edition your etching/ lino print / wood engraving etc , making sure that each print is as near as possible to the original print supplied by the artist.

    The artist will make the block or etching plate and 'proofs' it, as the image progresses, these are called 'states', there can be several states of an  before the finished print deemed right by the artist.

States of a plate

         These normally are titled, 1 state, 2nd state, 3rd state etc, until the artist is satisfied with the image there can be many different 'states'.

        Traditionally the artist prints a small number, usually 10% of the final edition number these are titled 'artist's proofs. The plate can then be taken to one of the specialist printers who will 'edition' the plate, to whatever number the artist requires.



        Quite often the arist will 'edition' his/ her print, depending on the condition of the plate the artist will decide on the total number of prints he/ she wishes to form the edition. I have recently reduced the number in my editions to 30 copies with another 3, or  (10% as Artist's proofs) so allowing me more time to create new fresh images.

         A  editioned print number 1/30 should look like the last print in the edition, i.e. 30/30, they should be identical in every way. Paper and ink are identical, there can however be slight differences in distribution of ink, this is a hand printing process ( see how to etch) excess ink is removed by hand and hand polished (if the plate requires it). I have up to date never known two etched plates to print in exactly the same way, each plate by nature of its design, will have greater or less ink.

Distinguishing Marks on a finished print

      Once the edition has been printed, the print dried under pressure, the artist will then sign and title the prints in numerical order.

                  Starting from the bottom left had corner, firstly the edition number, then the title and finally the artists signature. It is customary to deface the plate so that no more prints can be printed, either a corner cut off, or lines scored through the plate, one more print is taken and is called the 'cancellation print'.

So the 1st print will look something like this:- example of my print 'The lambretta boys'

                                                                           6/30                'The lambretta boys'                            Artist's signature

Steel facing of etching plates

       Copper etching plates are notoriously soft; delicate aquatints can become feint quite quickly, so another process called steel facing can be employed; which uses an electrolysis process, the plate is covered with a microscopic layer of steel, this hardening the plate and consequently the edition could be much larger.

       Steel facing can be repeated at any stage and the life of a plate can be extended indefinitely, these are called 'open editions'.

Giclee prints ( these are NOT original prints)

The word Giclée ("g-clay"), is derived from the French verb gicler meaning "to squirt or spray", Giclée, is used to describe a fine art digital printing process combining pigment based inks with high quality archival quality paper to achieve Giclée prints of superior archival quality, light fastness and stability.

          There has been an incredible rise girclee prints.

          Girclee are basically posters of an original artwork, be it an oil painting, pastel, watercolour or drawing.      The process does not involve the artist in any way; a digital photograph is taken, then loaded into a 'top of the range printer' via a computer and printed onto just about anything, cup, saucer, paper, cardboard, canvas. The total number of these digital prints can be thousands and should in theory be decided before the start button is pressed, and ends when it is switched off.

              Quite often high prices are asked for these digital prints (copies), but there is nothing original at all about them, they are copies of an original, or posters if you like. The artists will then sign and number these 'copies' of their pictures and market them as limited edition prints. The limit being how many times one pushes the button on the printer.  

                         The cost of 1 giclee print  is quite inexpensive.  A recent internet quote I obtained being the following:-

                                                Image size: 450 x 500 mm on Bockinford watercolour paper costs just £11.89 for 1,  

                       The more one prints the cheaper they become, same picture same paper for 50 the cost dropped to £5.50 per print.

  I am constanttly seeing many artists promoting their work as 'limited edition prints' which have been printed in the above manner. The prices they charge for a 'copy of an original painting' can be very expensive. I appreciate that artists have to try and make a living, and by reproducing their artwork in digital form they can vastly reduce the price that they would ask for an oil painting. But please do tell the truth about what it is your trying to sell. They are digital prints or copies of an original picture. Certainly not the same as an original print.

Artist's proofs