The extraordinary Pablo Picasso shows one of his masterly linocuts - he is holding both the linocut block and the printed image which is hot off the press. At some time in their careers, the world's greatest artists have turned their hand to making original prints, which to be authentic must be hand drawn, numbered and signed directly by the artist and not reproduced from a painting or photograph - this is the essential difference between investment grade limited edition prints and the ubiquitous reproduction prints which don't appreciate in value.
The world's most celebrated artists produce limited edition prints at some stage in their career and these genuine, signed and numbered editions provide collectors with the benefit of purchasing blue chip fine artworks at a lower entry point than a painting or drawing. This easy affordability has led to original limited edition prints being called "the democratic form of art". The wide variety of printing methods and the technical jargon associated with them can be daunting for the uninitiated. As the name implies, limited edition prints are created in multiples which are therefore more affordable than a one-off painting, drawing or sculpture. What defines an original limited edition print is the involvement by the artist in the making of the plates, often working with an artisan printmaker, and the actual printing process, which ranges from completely hand produced prints to digitally produced (giclée) prints. To be considered original works, prints must be produced from a surface, such as a copper plate, stone, woodblock, linocut or - increasingly - an electronic Cintiq tablet or iPad that is directly worked on by the artist. Another determining factor is the size of the edition. As a general rule you should look for low editions although if the artist is highly desirable then an edition of up to 100 is still a good investment. Once the edition is complete the plates used to make the print are destroyed to ensure the unique investment value of your print. Genuine fine art limited edition prints are produced by hand by a master print maker. The image is unique to that particular edition and not a copy or reproduction of a single original work (often a trap when purchasing giclée works). The hand made process used also means that each print in the edition, although of the same image, will be slightly different from the next. One should also make sure that the print has been produced by a reputable and well known print maker or print house, and that each work comes with a certificate of provenance and authenticity, is individually numbered, and hand signed by the artist. Each print usually has an embossed mark on it which is called a "chop mark" and which is the logo of the print maker or publisher.
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