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What different print types are commonly used by artists?

Here are some of the main print types that artists use to display their work. techniques, with a brief explanation of the process.

  • Giclee prints Also known as professional inkjet prints. Giclee prints involve using a very highly calibrated and fine resolution inkjet printer to print using pigment inks onto professional art papers. The main choice for fine artists, painters and illustrators who offer print editions.   
  • C-type (Chromogenic) prints This is a professional photographic print either from a negative or a digital file. This involves exposing a light sensitive silver paper and it produces a detailed, lifelike photographic images with subtle tones and a 3 dimensional feel.  
  • Lithographs. Also known as offset or litho printing. Invented at the end of the 18th Century, this is where plates are made which are then coated in inks. The material receiving print is placed against the plate and the inks are absorbed. It tends to be used for print runs of posters or books
  • Screen prints. Also known as silk screen printing. Invented in China around 1,000 years ago. This is a printing technique where ink is pushed through a fine mesh onto a substrate (the surface to be printed). It is a manual process and is used by visual artists, particularly street artists, who want a hand-made feel to their prints.  
  • Digital prints. This encompasses a whole range of printing from books, cards to printing direct to media such as metal and wood. Developed and perfected recently, i.e. since the advent of computers, the great advantage to digital print is there are no setup costs to a print run, so printing one copy is as cost effective per copy as printing thousands. GiclĂ©e printing is a very specialised, detailed form of digital printing.    
  • Etchings. This is similar to lithographic printing where a plate is used to transfer ink onto the paper. However whereas that plate in litho printing is made using a photographic reproductive process, the plate in etching printing is made by hand etching a design or picture into the pate itself. This gives it a very organic feel

Updated on 25 November 2020

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