Understanding Your Fine Art Print and Its Value
When you step into the world of fine art prints, you face a lot of terms and acronyms that can be confusing. There are so many questions you need to answer.
What makes a print valuable?
How can you decide which one to buy?
The world of collecting should be for everyone. That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide, allowing you to understand the terminology of fine art prints and determine how much a print is worth.
What is a fine art print?
Prints are works of art created using a transfer process. Artists can use them to replicate an original piece, like a painting, or they can create original prints, like the works of Andy Warhol.
Prints can be made using a scanner and inkjet printer, screen printer or lithograph, among many other methods.
What’s the difference between a limited and open edition?
An edition refers to the total number of prints made using the same plate or printing process.
When artists create prints, they go through an arduous process to get them just right. Once they have that figured out, everything they print using that set-up they’ve developed is in an edition together.
So what makes an edition limited or open?
Limited Edition: These are editions that the artist will only make a certain amount of prints of. Prints in limited editions will have a marking on the back showing its place in the series and the total number of prints that have or will be created. For example, you might see “1/20” — that means this is the first print in a limited edition of 20.
Open Edition: Open editions have no limit on how many prints will be made. The artist reserves the right to continually make more copies as needed. Open editions are necessarily larger than limited editions, but there is no guarantee on the amount that will be printed.
Is a limited edition print worth more than an open edition?
Because limited editions have a cap on prints, they are almost always worth more. That scarcity helps them maintain and even increase in value over time, depending on the market.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money and are looking to buy a print for personal enjoyment, open editions are typically a much better option. But if you think you might resell the print in the future, a limited edition is generally preferable.
What factors affect the value of a fine art print?
Several factors play a part in the value of a print, including:
Quality: Prints are worth more when they are on high quality paper with archival (long lasting) ink. Quality also includes a print’s ability to replicate the original artwork if there is one.
Notoriety of the artist: As with everything in the art world, the more popular the artist is, the more valuable their prints will be.
Rarity: If you have a print from a small limited edition (say, a size somewhere between 10 and 50), these will be worth more, everything else being equal.
Condition: Tears, stains and other defects will lower the value of a print.
Being in a series: Multiple prints that represent an entire series of works will increase the value of each individual print, as long as you have all of them.
Representing the artist’s most valuable work: If a print has the style and/or subject matter an artist is most known for, it will be worth more.
Chop mark: A chop mark is a mark or seal made with an embossed tool that signifies the publisher of the print — either the printmaker’s personal studio press or a separate master printmaker’s. This helps prove authenticity, and so it increases value.
Artist’s signature: The presence of the artist’s signature helps prove authenticity and increase value.
Certificate of authenticity: Like the chop mark and artist’s signature, this increases value by ensuring provenance. In today’s market, this is seen as a necessary standard.
Lifetime and late impressions: A lifetime impression is a print that was made during the artist’s life, while a late impression was created posthumously. Lifetime impressions are usually more valuable.
While these factors can help you estimate the value of a print, you can never perfectly predict what the market will do. That’s why we encourage you to buy a print at a price that makes sense to you and only if you love the work. You never know how the market will change down the line, but if you get art you love at a price you deem fair, you’ll always get your money’s worth.
Fine Art Print Acronyms Explained
Fine art prints employ a language of their own. Prints will often carry mysterious acronyms on the back, denoting their use for the artist. Wrapping your head around these acronyms gives you the ability to understand exactly what you are buying.
AP (Artist’s Proof) or E.A (épreuve d'artiste): These are prints made by the artist while perfecting the printing process. They usually end up in the artist’s personal collection but can also be released for sale. Some collectors love these, others do not.
BAT (bon a tirer): Coming from the French for “good to pull,” a BAT print is marked to show that it is the standard that the rest of the prints will be held to.
CP (Color Proof): Before an artist signs off on a BAT, they will make several test runs to try out different colors. These test prints are CPs.
HC (hor’s d’commerce): These are prints that the artist uses for promotional purposes — it’s name is French for “outside the trade.” These are often given out to galleries or dealers.
TP (Trial Proof): These are prints made by the artist to test out minor changes to the intricate details. They aren’t the exact same as the final edition, making them valuable to some collectors for their uniqueness.
PP (Printer’s Proof): This is a gift or payment of a print from the artist to the printer. Many times, a printer will sell their PP as part of their payment for the work they’ve done.
This should get you started, but if you’d like a more in-depth resource, check out our glossary of printing terms here.
The World of Fine Art Prints
Now that you can judge the value of a print and read the acronyms on the back like a pro, you are ready to confidently navigate the marketplace.
Prints are a great way for artist’s to make a living from their work while also offering collectors lower-priced alternatives to collect art.
Are you interested in buying fine art prints? You can explore our drops here.