Prints or Original Artwork. What is What in the World of Art

Giclee’ Prints, Artists print, Limited Editions, Open Editions

Understanding the Madness of the Print Market


Art is sometimes ambiguous, but understanding what you are buying should be crystal clear. In my earlier days when I showed my artwork at outdoor art venues I saw a lot of customers and patrons purchase items without understanding the difference between original art, prints, editions, and essentially poster or wall art. Artists sometimes don’t help in clarifying these things. Maybe it’s because they are too busy trying to eek out a living selling their wares and making a meager living through their artwork. However I have never believed it’s a good idea to sell something based on assumptions or to keep the consumer in the dark about what they are really buying. I believe by not clarifying what artists are actually selling they are hurting themselves, their fellow artists and the consumers. I know many people that buy giclee’ prints or another words canvas prints. Because of how far printing on canvas has come people buy these canvas prints thinking it is a one of a kind original painting instead of a reproduction. This causes problems when the purchaser finds out his original painting is in fact a copy. This realization erodes confidence not only in the artist who produced the canvas print but the art world as a whole. It’s bad for artists and the art buyer. However canvas prints are not a bad thing, many artists produce a series of artist approved canvas prints. So what does it mean when you buy a copy? What is the difference between a copy and an original painting? These questions and others are answered in this article.

It’s not only canvas prints that muddy the waters for art buyers. I also know people who purchase open edition prints or another words posters thinking that they are buying original works of art or another words original prints. Original prints are a series of prints approved by the artist for production or for reproduction. These prints are known as original prints. Again knowing the difference between open edition prints, limited edition prints, and artist proofs or artist prints will help you know what it is you are buying or how you are labeling your artwork.

Let me start off by saying that you should never buy art hoping it will increase in value. That is never a sure thing. There is never a guarantee that the artworks you purchase will even capture the same price you originally paid for them. So don’t buy art with a mindset that its value will increase. Instead, buy what you love or what moves you as a person and inspires you when you look at it. Art is created to lift our souls and enrich our lives. Even though art has no guarantee of becoming a gold mine, original artwork purchased from professional artists will hold a certain amount of value in most cases. It is always best to buy original art when possible. It is like buying antiques.

Artwork that isn’t original is some referred to as poster art or wall art, artwork that isn’t original. This type of art can bring you a lot of enjoyment but has essentially very little to no resale value. Some may describe this as décor or reproduction art. Whatever you call it, it is essentially “copies” of original artwork that was never signed and numbered by the artist. So what is an original? An original is any one of kind or series of images the artist has approved as original artwork or copies of original artwork that the artist has approved, signed, and numbered to be reproduced a certain amount of times.

Let’s start with paintings. With painting originals are any artwork produced by the artist where the subject, color, and scenery is different from one painting to the next. Paintings can be somewhat similar in subject as long as it is clear that they are different from other another, each painting is a one of a kind original painting. If however the artist is painting, not printing, the same painting over and over again essentially he is creating multiple copies of the same image or an edition. Editions are the same image multiple times. Editions are still originals but demand that the artist declare the number of item in the series and how many images there are in the series in total. So you should see in the corner of any edition print, painting, sculpture or what have you the number of the item and the number of originals. It would be in a fraction like 5/250 this means you have the 5th image of a 250 image edition (each of the 250 images are original and of the same value). With paintings anything that isn’t numbered should be a one of a kind original piece of artwork. If there are multiple copies that exist of a particular painting and they aren’t identified with an edition number it is classified as wall art. They are not original.

Sometimes the print market can be a little trickier. It is the same rules though generally. There are two types of prints what is referred to as original hand pulled prints and limited edition artist approved prints. Hand pulled prints are originals created by an artist that was meant to be created in multiples. They are signed and numbered by the artist. The entire series is considered original. In this category you have woodcuts, etchings, engravings, serigrahs and lithographic prints(not offset litho). Limited edition prints are created by original works of art from paintings and hand pulled prints. These are still signed and number by the original artist giving permission for these prints to be made. In this category you have limited edition prints and canvas prints. The important thing is the artist gives his signature to show these copies are approved and how many are approved.

If artworks are copied and not signed or numbered then it is considered a poster, wall art, or décor art and not original or assumed to have been copied without permission of the artist is therefore an open edition copy and has no value. Open editions are the same as posters they are reproductions or copies only without any value. Any prints outside an edition are also posters or décor art. This includes artist proofs or prints outside the original number of approved print run number. This understanding this will help you the next time you visit an art gallery or outdoor art venue.

94 thoughts on “Prints or Original Artwork. What is What in the World of Art”

  1. As a budding artist and student I would just like to say, thank you. You have made it very clear and understandable.

    1. If you paint another painting you would probably want to change it enough to be an original, then you would want to change the title. If you paint more than one painting and use the same title you would need to number it as an edition.

    1. If you make a copy of another artist’s painting. It isn’t an original and should be labeled for instance, since you used the example of Vincent Van Gogh, “A study of Vincent Van Gogh by “your name””

  2. Helen Batsalkin

    Can the same artist produce two originals of the same painting? We bought an original painting signed by the artist a while ago and now I saw the same exact painting on their website also signed and judging by the price, it looks like original. None of them have numbers, which means it’s not a copy. Not sure I understand this situation. Please help. Thank you.

    1. This is a good question. Paintings are a little different because an oil painting has to be created from scratch and therefore is one of a kind and only needs a signature. So they are always original even though they may be similar. The only exception would be if I was planning on painting a series of the exact same painting over and over again to create dozens or even hundreds then they should be technically numbered. This is fairly rare except with a few unscrupulous companies I am aware of or mass produced paintings from other companies. You do have to be careful in the art market. I don’t know the painting but artists sometimes produce similar paintings sometimes the viewer may not be aware of subtle changes the slight differences of the paintings or sometimes the format is changed a painting is enlarged. So the answer is yes an artist can produce two originals of the same painting. Now if he is producing dozens then that is another conversation entirely.

    2. I am an amateur artist. How do I get copies made of my artwork. I am looking for a company that produces quality prints. Can you help me?

  3. What is it called if you have a copy of a painting done on the heavy poster board with the brush like strokes in it the poster board but it has the artists original signature on the copy?

  4. Hi there. Looking at buying from a local artist 1 of a limited edition of 25 prints. The original is priced at 600 and the print is 120. Is there a rule of thumb for price comparison? Seems this artist has gone a factor of 5x. We are thinking the original is pretty good value and might be worth shelling out a few more bucks for it.

    1. Steven, I am not in the habit of giving purchasing advice but if I saw a painting I really enjoyed for 600.00 and a print for 125.00 I would seriously consider buying the original. There isn’t a rule of thumb comparison that I know of personally. Enjoy your new piece of art no matter which direction you decide to go.

  5. I have a question about selling prints that I have altered with pastel. I had some prints produced and due to a time limitation, didn’t have a chance to adequately colour proof them. Eventually this will be corrected. However, I do have 4 prints which I felt were too yellow. I thought to try adjusting them with pastel and was quite happy with the result. So, my question is, how do I sell this. Eventually the rest of the edition will be colour corrected. There will be 100 in the edition. So, do I number these as part of the edition? Or do I call them A/P….obviously the 4 will be somewhat different from the rest of the edition.

  6. We have a pencil sketching of “Englishman at Paris 1767, done by T.J.Bretherton. There is a notation on the left side that sates: M.V. Bunbury del. On the back is written: 395. We assume this is merely a pencil sketching of the original by Bunbury, although there are several missing items in the sketch. If so, this would be considered a print of little value, correct? Thank you.

    1. Most of the things I talk about in relation to prints are procedures and definitions from the 20th century. Once you get back before 1890 it can vary in many ways. If you are really wanting to know more about this artwork I would contact a seasoned professional appraiser and they will be able to give you a very good idea of its history and value. Either way, it sounds like a fascinating sketch.

  7. I have what I assume is a George phippen print on canvas with oil paint. It has the skull valley phippen studio sticker and a Scottsdale Arizona gallery sticker on the back. How can I get information about this.

    1. It sounds like a fascinating piece. I would try to contact the gallery whose sticker is on it or contact the George Phippen Museum in Prescott, Az and see if they might be able to help you find out more about it.

  8. Hi Kevin,
    I have an issue with a gallery asking me for prints, I make editions already (normally 10). These are hand assemblage/collages of digital photos on art paper(Giclee) , they CAN’T be rolled so shipping is costly. The galley asks if I can do ‘flat’ roll-able prints. (which i could)
    How do i go about this without devaluing my art – can I have ‘signed ‘ open editions of these limited editions???is that weird?
    I though of making sure they are smaller by 30%, is the a way to write that they are open edition? ie ; ‘OE’

    Am I digging a hole here?

    1. Hello Sandy,
      This can surely be a dilemma for artists wondering if they should make prints of their work. If you do editioned prints you can control the number of reproductions. With of course open editions they are essentially posters. It really boils down to how you feel about your branding. I think making them smaller is a good idea so as not to be confused with the other edition. Since you already have the other edition I would be tempted to make this one an open edition. I Think you are on the right track. I don’t know if that helps. Best of luck.

    1. Hello Carlos, If you need a particular image evaluated for it’s estimated or market value I would encourage you to seek out a professional appraiser. The “general rule of thumb with original prints” and original paintings, the painting will be worth more than the prints. There can be exceptions to the rule of course.

  9. Thank you for a v good post! I bought what a gallery claims are limited edition prints of an oil on canvas, printed by the approved printer of a deceased artist, and the prints have the artist’s signature but no edition numbers. Is that still considered an original limited edition print? Also, can the approved printer continue to print more copies, if they have the approval of foundation of the artist?

    1. Hello Patricia,
      This blog post covers general guidelines. There are always exceptions to the rules. For specific questions about a particular artist, you would want to seek out an art appraiser familiar with that artist’s work.

  10. Hi Kevin,
    Great that you share your knowledge to help out artists. I’m currently doing an ink pen drawing but want to keep the original and have a series of 10 – 20 prints (yet to decide number of prints) reproduced by a professional printer and sell the prints. I will number and sign the series 1/10 etc. Is it possible to do 2 extra prints as A/P ….. Artists Proofs… as I wanted to gift these two to family members. I read all of the above replies but still a bit unsure how to proceed as I’ve never done this before. Your advice will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hello Judith, Sorry for the delay in responding. You can do as many “artist proofs” as you want but understand those are not part of the edition. They certainly would make great gifts.

  11. I have a picture that nay be a watercolor original. Is there a test to use on the picture to determine? I have seen a damp q-tip swabbed lightly mentioned somewhere. Thx Dan

  12. Thank you for your helpful website. In cleaning out my recently deceased mother’s home I have found several prints of etchings by Kent Hagerman. Three of them have a pencil signature on the bottom right. The left bottom has the name of the etching in the same handwriting. There is no print number. Exactly what do I have? Thanks so much.

    1. I have to say up front I am not an art appraiser or anything like that. I am a professional visual artist with training in printmaking. If it isn’t editioned it’s not a part of a particular edition and the value can be affected. Now since I am not a professional appraiser I would recommend you take them to a professional to have them looked at to know exactly what it is that you have. Best of luck!

    2. Hello, thank you for you article. My question is if I have done a small original artwork that I like and decide I want to paint a similar one that is larger, would I have to clarify the larger on as a copy or may I call it an original?

      1. In my understanding as long as they are not exactly the same image it is an original. If one creates a studio painting from a smaller field study they at least in my experience aren’t the exact same. That being said I know many artists that won’t sell the study. For those artists that do sale both they inform the buyer that it was a field study that became a larger painting. What the article is trying to address is there are artists the have created 30, or a 100 or even a 1000 paintings of essentially the same image. In which case there might an argument that they should be numbered as part of a series of images.

  13. Hello, I bought a limited edition print of 20 but when I recieved it it wasn’t signed 19/19 . I call the company where it was signed and screen printed and told me it was a mistake by the artist . They’ve sent me a new one which was signed and marked 4/20 . My question is , does the one that was mistakenly signed and numbered 19/19 worth the samen as the one marked correct?

    1. Hello Eric,
      Yours is a great question! Unfortunately, I am not qualified to answer the questions. The post here contains general guidelines and I am not a qualified or accredited art appraiser. The answer is I am not entirely sure. I am sorry I couldn’t be of more help. An art appraiser would be a good place to get those questions answered. Thank you again for your comment.

  14. i recently found next to a trash bin an artwork
    done on canvas with a three digit number(+673) on the back of the large wooden frame.does it qualifies as an original,an edition,or is it a reproduction?
    the big canvas surface feels lumpy,and the art piece
    i assumed was created by a late artist named margaret (boehner) wendell huntington.her signature,is on the top left corner of the painting.
    i would like a real expert to clarify it for me.
    thank you i would truly appretiate it.

  15. one thing i left out is that painting was
    framed in 1988. there’s a $259.00 price
    written on the back of the large frame.
    and it also has no AP or ARTIST APPROVED,
    written nowhere in the canvas or frame.
    i’m a little confused about that.

    1. Hello Jorge,
      I want again to clarify for the record I am not an art appraiser. I am an artist in the art world and the article is about accepted norms. For anything beyond the general idea of the article or specific questions about a particular piece, it would be necessary to contact an expert appraiser. There isn’t enough to go on with this image. The rule of thumb with art is to buy and keep what you enjoy. If you are collecting to make money it’s like the stock market or the lottery nothing is a sure thing but those that do collect for money have a team of professionals tracking the careers and marketability of specific artists and so on. For 99.9 percent of us that isn’t our paradigm. With a painting with such a low price tag with numbers that don’t specify an edition. If it were me I would assume the thing is decor art something to be kept if I liked it but otherwise I wouldn’t assume it would be worth anything. To be clear that is my speculation since I am not an expert. I hope that helps.


    could i take a picture off a calander and do an etching on a headstone . would it be an original?

    1. Hello Coleen,
      Once you start talking about using someone else’s image you are getting into copyright areas. It becomes a gray area such as can a solely created image done by an artist that was copied or plagiarized from a different source still be an original? Again now you are entering the realm of copyright and you would want to research your use of the image to make sure you are not infringing on the image’s copyright because it can end up being very costly.

  17. Linda wohleber

    Hi Kevin,
    I am an oil painter, and recently painted two oils, 36 x 36 each. I would like to make a limited number of smaller prints of these paintings to give as gifts. What is the best way to do this, and what type of paper should I use? Is there a company that specializes in producing prints from original art that you could recommend?

    1. Hello Linda,
      I appreciate you reaching out. I don’t do many prints at all. I have a local photographer makes prints for artists and he does a great job. The company is Evermore Prints in Boise. I would reach out to someone who does a lot of prints they would probably have more insights for you.

  18. Good day
    Can you help me please i recently found a large painting, at the back of the painting is written 55489/910 does this mean is has 55489 copies? also the signature is in white on a very yellow landscape painting, does it means it is a print?
    Thank you

    1. Thank you for contacting me. I appreciate it. In terms of the painting, you would be well served to research the artist, edition numbers are supposed to be written on the painting but some have put them on the back. That number on the back could also be an inventory number so some research would be a good idea. The white signature may or may not mean anything. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough information to make a definitive decision but it’s a little strange so I would find out what you can about it.
      Have a great day

  19. I have an original painting by a local artist in my hometown. I was told that there are no copies nor prints of this painting. The artist has passed away. The family wants to me to allow them to have prints made of the painting. Do I have any rights to this painting?

    1. Hello Dale,
      This is a really good question. We are talking about intellectual property rights. So this is just my understanding I am not a lawyer but after years of negotiating production rights for illustrations and paintings I understand some industry norms, I can tell you when you purchase a painting you don’t purchase the intellectual property rights of that painting unless otherwise negotiated by a special contract giving you the rights to the image. You purchase the right to possess the painting but not to the rights of the reproducing the image, or selling the rights of the image to anyone else. These rights remain with the artist.
      Since the artist has passed away I would assume the intellectual property rights transfer to the family. Again this is pure speculation because there can always be special circumstances so you would want to talk to a lawyer that specializes in intellectual property rights to see what yours and the family’s rights are to the image.

  20. Hi, I read your article and the questions/answer but did not see my issue covered and am hoping you can help. I recently purchased a storage unit that went to auction, the person who owned the unit had an art gallery in Wisconsin previously. Among several other works of art which I was able to find documentation and Certificates of Authenticity for, I found 14 different Gary Saderup Charcoal “images”. I say “images” because I do not know if they are prints, original charcoal sketches, lithographs or wall art. I have seen on ebay and other gallery websites very similar if not identical pieces of some of the ones I have, listing them as “Pencil Signed Charcoal Lithographs”. A few pieces I have not been able to locate anywhere for sale online. All pieces have the artist’s signature on the bottom which appears to be in pencil. All except the oldest one have the signature “Gary Saderup”, the oldest one, which is of Charlie Chaplin, just says “gary” with the copyright symbol and 76. Dates on them range from 76 to 2004. Interestingly the Charlie Chaplin date is written as just 76, with only the first name signature, all lowercase, and I have one of Santana that has the same full name signature as all of the others, the copyright symbol and only a 2 digit year of 96. All others have a 4 digit year, including the ones in between years of the two that use a 2 digit year. They are all individually shrink wrapped in plastic, and have a piece of cardboard behind the paper keeping it flat. One of the images, of Princess Diana, is signed twice, once with the copyright symbol and 1997 below the signature and the other signature is above that one with 427/450 underneath it. The signature on top is much darker than the one below it. Does this mean that the numbered sketch was actually hand produced with charcoal by the artist and is an original and the others are reproductions (wall art)? I want to add that the one of John Wayne, the only one I have that does not have the copyright symbol next to the year, the signature seems darker on this particular one than the others. It looks very much like the darker signature on the Princess Diana one. The John Wayne also seems to be much more realistic looking than the ones I have seen online. The detail and variation of shades on mine far exceed what I see being sold online. However, I guess that could be due to the camera quality the seller is using to photograph theirs. I wouldn’t think the detail mine seems to show would be that great of a difference based on that though as I photographed mine in the plastic with my cellphone camera and it still looks amazingly detailed and sharper than what I can find online to compare it to. I was afraid to remove the shrinkwrap from them for fear if they are original charcoal works I would smudge them. Any help and/or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Thank you Alison for your questions. I would take to an apraiser or a gallery or print shop familiar with this man’s work. That is the only way to be sure. Thank you again.

  21. I recently bought a large painting at a garage sale, in the bottom left corner it is signed Sarah Mcgregor 1913.on the back is a stamp that says ‘Vanguard Studio’. My question is this…. Do I have an original, a limited copy, or a very pretty poster? P.S. the painting is titled “stringing of the beads” any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  22. Hello,

    I have a print that has M/P, the title of the work and then the artist. I have looked online and can not find what M/P means.

    Thanks in advance for your help with my question.

  23. I have a George Phippen oil painting on canvas. It appears to be a print and not an original. It has his studio sticker and a gallery sticker on the back. How can I find information and value?

  24. Hi, Kevin – I recently purchased, what I thought was an “original”, hand sketched work by a prominent entertainment / pinup artist. After my bank account moaned a little from this purchase, I retuned to the artist’s online shop to discover he had added the exact same sketch to his inventory, again promoting it as an “original”! I don’t even know how anyone could be so accurate to sketch something a second time or more, leading me to believe what I bought is essentially a poster. These works are not numbered, only signed. I feel like I’ve been deceived. I’m not even concerned about resale value, but I was just happy to know this was something special and unique – one of a kind – but I guess that turns out not to be the case. I want to confront the artist, but I want to know that I’m right to do so, not being as familiar with the art world, and it would be great to have your advise on how to confront him in the most positive way. Thanks!

    1. Hello Tommy,
      It can certainly be a dilemma to purchase something and then wonder if what you have purchased is original. If you are concerned about whether the item purchased is actually a giclee’ or drawn by hand, I would certainly contact the artist and ask him.

      1. Hello Kevin!

        Recently I asked a mural artist If I could get a copy of a particular mural he painted about 1.5 years ago. This “copy” is to be a gift for my boyfriend. The artists showed me the piece and it looks different from the original mural. Not too different, but what is noticeable is that the face of the main image is bigger in width than the original face on the mural and small other differences are present. The artist said that this piece is a special limited edition for us (me and my boyfriend). What does that mean? I am kinda disappointed as I wanted it to look almost identical to the mural. Is that what he means by a special limited edition…that it is made special “different”? I don’t want to offend the artist, but I am kinda bummed. Thoughts?

        1. This is a tricky question. Most artists will try to modify artwork slightly so that it will still be original. In terms of a special limited edition, I am not sure if he means. It sounds like you need to talk to the artist. I am sorry the image didn’t meet your expectations. Again I would try to express your concerns it possible. I wish you the best.

  25. I’ve noticed a ‘copyright’ sign after some of Bev Doolittles’ signature limited edition work; does that make the print any less valuable?

  26. Hi, If artist paints from someone else’s photo, the painting is orginal or not? My question is about realism painting

    1. There is certainly copyright grants the artist would need from the photographer to use his image. If you create a painting from a photograph doesn’t affect if it’s considered an original or not. If that was true a lot of famous art in the art history books wouldn’t be considered original.

    1. That’s a good question. If you are creating exact replicas of a particular artwork to create a series then yes the artworks in the series should be numbered. Like a series of bronze sculptures.

  27. Elizabeth Threlkeld

    I have a numbered print by Mary Vincent Bertrand but the numbers looked copied. I thought the numbering has to be done after the printing so it looks original. If the numbered copy is printed again…is this legal? Thanks for any information. I only paid 5 dollars…but it is in a beautiful frame with expert matting.

    1. Hello Elizabeth,
      This is a good question. If you like the image enjoy as much as you can and don’t worry about it. Sounds like a good deal for 5 dollars either way. In terms of your questions. I don’t know the legalities of copying a limited edition. However if a numbered edition had a particular image in the edition copied, the “copy” is outside the original certified edition. It is similar to “kit cars” they used to sell where you could find a kit car and build it to look like say a 65′ Corvette. It was a “copy” of a particular brand and therefore these cars don’t have the same value as the cars produced by Corvette because it is a “copy” and not a part of the originally approved run of cars made by Corvette that year.

    2. Hello Elizabeth,
      In terms of legal that would depend on the artist and whether they gave consent or who owns the printing rights ect. Usually printing a print of a numbered print would not normally be done so as to not muddy the water. It would lead to a lot of confusion. That of course doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done.

  28. OK I’m still a little confused I have a Thomas Kincaid “Sunset on lamplight Lane” Lamplight Lane VII. 278/350 P/P on canvas. On the COA, It explains artist proof, gallery proof, publisher proof, it explains what they all mean. I have seen this series designated P/P “offset litho on canvas.” The COA has me confused because there’s two how do I know if I have an offset litho- on canvas? I hope my question makes sense.

    1. Hello Channing,
      So this article is written for a very general overview of prints versus original work. For specifics on value or how the image is created I would seek out a professional. That being said if you image is on canvas it is most likely a giclee’ print or another words created using a big printer. Lithos are done on paper for the most part but not always. With something like a Thomas Kinkade I would talk to a professional framing and print shop to see if they can shed some light on it. He had so many lines and different reproduction processes that were used a professional would be your best bet.

  29. Hello we are making a giclee print this year of a painting made in 2011. How do we date the prints? Do we state 2021 print of 2011 artwork? Looks a bit clumsy! thank you

    1. Hello Nick,
      Thank you for your questions. Usually,unless things have changed, you would write the edition number and signature on the print. Then save the dates for the certificate of authenticity. The date would be the year the edition was created not the original artwork.

  30. I bought a painting recently and after several months of effort have just now got my money back. The painting turned out to be a print where the seller a dealer added a glaze or epoxy to give ridge detail or painting like texture to the image. My question to Kevin is would materials like epoxy, varnish or mod podge be easy to see under a black light?

    1. Thank you David unfortunately I don’t know that answer. You would have to ask a person a professional art restoration individual. This article is just a very broad overview of the ideas of original art.

  31. I purchased an original artwork/painting that said one off artwork, no prints made. When I looked at their website a couple of months later they had prints of my painting. Should that be allowed?

    1. In the U.S. at least and as I understand it and I am no lawyer in general when you purchase a painting you are not purchasing the intellectual rights of that painting. You have purchased the image to own but you don’t own the intellectual rights to reproduction or usage unless you signed a contract with the artist giving you the intellectual property rights to the image. That means the artist is free to create prints, calendars, mugs or whatever from that image.

  32. Hi. I purchased art (“original painting on paper) in 1998, for which I received a certificate of authentication. It is signed by the artist and has a title and number (#6) on the front. However, no other numbers are shown so I cannot see if it’s number 6 of X number in an edition, if that’s the case. The art has been framed since I purchased it so I cannot see the back. Is there any significance to the lack of the total number of paintings in the edition? Thanks in advance for your response.

  33. Kevin Browning

    Hello, and thank you for your very informative article.
    I am not a professional artist. I am also not a very good sales person. My questions are;
    I have done a collection of postcard size drawings, mostly in ink, and I would like to try selling some of them online as (blank inside) note cards. Can you tell me what may be a better option for me as the seller of my work? Some of them are simple drawings that I could sell as originals because I could quickly recreate them yet they wouldn’t be exactly the same. On the other hand, some are quite intricate and I worked on them for days. These I don’t even know that I could reproduce, and certainly not on demand. I’ve looked online at prices being asked for notecard sized “original” art and I can’t bring myself to part with something I worked on for days or even hours for 5 dollars. Some items I’ve seen posted as “Original, Hand Painted Cards” then in the full description they mention that they’re prints. Some say reprints. I’m not sure if there’s a difference with that. Some say in all caps “THIS IS NOT A COPY OR A PRINT” as if being a copy or a print of someone’s original art makes it far less worthy. Like Ewww…we’re not that.
    Please understand I’m not trying to over value my work, nor do I fancy myself some master of fine art. I just like to draw. I’ve been told that some of my drawings are okay and I would just like to maximize any monatry return I may, by chance, get for my art. Also, I would like a buyer to feel as though they were spending their money on something original and unique. Even if it is just five dollars. Would it be better if I offered buyers only the absolute originals and be well pleased that anyone even looked much less made a purchase. Not concerning myself with time, material and efforts. Should i have some type of print made? And if so of what sort? I went to a local print shop just to find out prices and if they did that type of work and so on but I haven’t given them anything to print yet. Should I try to sell, as true originals, only the ones that can be readily produced? Should I signe them? Should I number them? Should I limit the edition? Should I make an edition at all? If so, should I artist approve it? I’m not quite sure about what that means or what that is.
    Or,, should I stop imagining they’re worth a cent, abandon any foolish money making notions, and wait till after I’m dead and gone like any real, self respecting artist would do?
    Seriously though, I do enjoy creating these little drawings. I also enjoy looking back through them as I’ve mainly been doing them consistently since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. They got me through some long days. It’s probably not worth worrying about signing and numbering and editions and all that sort of thing. I feel kind of silly asking about these things for little note card size drawings that at best sell for very little. But I like them and find joy in them.
    I have hope that someone else could too.
    I’m sorry for the long comment and so many questions. Any advise you could give would be most gratefully accepted and appreciated. Thank you.

    1. You have many questions in your post. First you have to decided if you want to sell them or not. If so you have to make a profit or it’s not worth your time. Then you have to find yourself a market and decide where to sell your product. Now I am going to refer to your art as a “product.” We need to put on our business hats. Now some people may take 20 minutes to create a splashing watercolor card and sell it for 5 dollars but at the end of the day they are not making a profit if they add up the time and materials needed to create it. So you have to look at ways to maximize your profit for the image you have created. Most people that I know the sell in art fairs or outdoor venues, use this sort of method. Lets say I have 5″ x 7″ image that it original. The artist usually will make the original available for say 100 – 150 dollars. They then may offer limited edition prints(print run of 500) of the image for say 25.00. Open edition(meaning there is no end to the amount printed) for 15.00 and then printed cards(open edition) for 4 to 5 dollars a piece. This is a very good way to go about trying to sell for profit. There are all kinds of variations of this but you have series of price points for different buyers and in general as to how artist will sell their work. I would talk to artist that sell at these venues to get a better idea of what would work for you.

  34. Hi Kevin,
    How informative and helpful reading your answers to all the questions. I wonder if you could help me work out the best way forward.
    I have started to paint and sell art over the last few years, mostly recommendations via friends, family and social media, and am hoping to keep growing.
    I have just had giclee prints made on hahnemuhle german etching paper (going with what seemed highly recommended). I got some A5,4,3 and 1 A2 sizes to account for different budgets, but not sure how to mark/sign them… so came across this thread. I hope the questions aren’t too daft – the previous answers still left me a little unsure.

    As a first timer, I thought it seemed a little premature for me as an artist to do a limited edition, but perhaps not?

    Can I still sign and name the print if it’s an unlimited edition – is their etiquette on this? Obviously would need to choose a limited edition number if choosing limited edition. Is there a standard starter artist number? Would I number them all from A5 to A2? Is it mandatory to give authenticity paperwork too, or is the number on the print enough as evidence?

    Many thanks indeed for the time and attention you have taken to all the questions up to now – very much appreciated! Jill

    1. Hello Jill,
      Now I do have to say I was trained in printmaking over 2 decades ago. At the time the tradition was to only sign prints in the edition and to not sign poster or open edition prints. Some people would make “artist proofs” and sign them but “artist proofs” actually were not part of the edition and so shouldn’t be signed either. This was to help clarify what was editioned and what wasn’t. I believe that is still proper but you might want to check that. Thank you for your comments.

  35. Hi and thanks for this post. I recently found three A.J. Casson lithographs signed and numbered with sc beside the number. Do you know what sc means?

  36. Hiya Kevin,
    I am just starting out with watercolours. On an authentication cards dimensions, do I put the image size or the mount size?
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge

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