Art 101

Guide to Prints

Learn how to tell a print from a painting, the different types of prints and how to tell if a print is valuable.

By Rise Art

Getting to know your prints is a good first step for those looking to expand their art knowledge. This guide to answers some of the most commonly asked questions about prints. If you're looking for prints for sale, take a look at our collection here.


What kinds of prints are there?

In essence, a print is an image that is created on one surface and then transferred to another, meaning that it can be reproduced multiple times. Throughout history, artists have experimented with various kinds of printmaking processes, making it a diverse and exciting art form to discover. Here are some of the most common processes:

1. Screenprints

This is a variety of stencil painting that makes use of fabric which has been stretched out across a frame. The areas on the fabric that are not to be printed are blocked out with a stencil that may be created with film or paper. Paint or ink is then forced through the screen and onto the surface of the artwork.

Get to know the medium by exploring the work of Barbara Rae, a British artist whose visual language captures nature in interesting ways, making use of block shapes and bold colours to create a world that is easy to lose yourself in.

Quarry Edge by Barbara Rae, 2010, silkscreen print with metallic ink and glazes, 90 x 98cm


2. Lino Prints

In lino prints, the plate is cut into linoleum which is then inked and run through a printing press. By applying pressure, the image can be transferred from the linoleum to the paper beneath. Many lino prints are made with one colour, but it is possible to create multicoloured prints using different blocks of colour. Caroline Nuttall-Smith has created an exciting series of lino prints depicting different vehicles, conveying a sense of motion with roughly drawn lines.

Jess by Caroline Nuttall-Smith, 2017, linoprint on Somerset 100% cotton rag paper, 30 x 28cm


3. Digital Prints

It's one of the more modern methods of printmaking. It refers to any process that involves the transfer of an image from a digital source directly to a medium such as paper or canvas. This tends to be done with either laser or inkjet printers.

Get to know the fantastical world of Kristjana S Williams, a digital printmaker whose works depict exotic worlds of flora and fauna.

Ceylon Leopard Circular Solsetur by Kristjana S. Williams, 2020, Matt Smooth Fine Art Cotton 300gsm, giclée inks, 80 x 80cm


4. Woodcut Prints

Woodcut printing is viewed as one of the oldest forms of printing, originating in China over 1,000 years ago. Originally, wood lettering and symbols were individually cut out, dipped in ink and then pressed onto materials to transfer the subject onto paper. By the 15th century, woodcut blocks were developed for whole images or texts to be carved, ink spread and then reproduced onto paper. 

Barbara Kuebel crafts life-sized woodcuts by hand that serve as a whole-body experience to the viewer. These portraits offer visual scenarios shaped by spontaneous emotion, aggression, affection, isolation and social density.

Night Cats/ Nachtkatzen by Barbara Kuebel, 2021, wood, paper, heavy paper 300 gsm, oilbased colour, 160 x 144cm


5. Monoprints

Unlike other printing styles, monoprints cannot be reproduced. The print is created from a material such as a carved woodblock or etched lithograph, yet the substances used to print the block have only one printing capacity. Discover Chowwai Cheung's geometrical scenes that explore and emphasise the boundaries between shape and form and the tensions between depth and surface.

Combesgate Rocks by Chowwai Cheung, 2021, Collagraph print with acrylic on Somerset satin white 300gsm paper, 74 x 92cm


How can you tell a print from a painting?

First of all, take a look at the surface for the artwork. Paintings are much more likely to be produced on canvas, while prints are often made on paper. However, this is not always the case, so it’s good to take a closer look with a magnifying glass and in different light conditions. If you notice any brushstrokes or texture then it’s likely to be a painting. On the other hand, prints tend to have a flatter appearance and will often have a pattern of dots or pixels.

Discover Sophie Green's award-winning photorealistic painting of wildlife animal prints. Sophie's highly emotive works highlight issues surrounding animal welfare and the environment, drawing our attention to both the beauty and vulnerability of nature.

Majesty by Sophie Green, 2022, Giclée print on Hahnemühle photo rag 308gsm fine art paper, 102 x 72cm


How do you know if a print is valuable?

It’s a tricky process to figure out the exact value of a print, and many different factors come into play. First of all, take a look at the edition of the print. If it was produced as part of a small edition (less than 200 prints) then it’s likely to be more valuable. Secondly, consider the technique and materials that were used. If there are many colours or it’s a particularly large print, then it’s likely to be more valuable. Next, it’s important to evaluate the condition of the print. If there is any fading, stains or other damage then it will have an impact on the price. Finally, and this can be the hardest part to define, you need to consider the career of the artist who produced it. Prints from better known artists will of course fetch higher prices, and a signature increases this price tag further.

Have a look at  Bruce Mclean, a stablished British artist whose simple yet bold artworks are making waves.

Shades of Grey, Cerulean Blue by Bruce McLean, 2017, silkscreen with collaged elements, 114 x 97cm


What terms do I need to know to understand the printmaking world?

When browsing Rise Art, you’ll see some terms that highlight the way our prints are made, ranging from the type of printing method to the paper used. To help you understand the nitty-gritty of printmaking, here are some of the common terms we use across the site:

1. Archival

This refers to materials that are guaranteed to stand the test of time. There are many standards for archival materials, but we follow the guidelines set by conservators and museums. The ultimate goal is to produce a print where the inks and paper are in perfect chemical balance, to assure that the art piece will look just as brilliant now as it will in the future.

XL by Leigh Bagley, 2021, Digitally printed using high quality acrylic inks onto archival 330gsm Somerset Velvet paper, 100 x 70cm


2. Archival Pigment Print

The name describes all fine art prints produced with the aid of ink-based digital printers. The medium produces extremely high quality prints and its technology allows levels of control that have never before been available to artists. This merging of new and traditional technologies allows beautiful tonal renditions, and is widely used by artists and galleries alike.

Off His Head by Magnus Gjoen, 2020, archival pigment inks on 308gsm cotton rag, 55 x 45cm


3. C-Type Print

Also known as Colour Coupler Print and Chromogenic Colour Print, a C-Type print uses paper that contains light sensitive silver halides. Once exposed to a light source, these halides record the different spectrums of light, but require the application of chemicals in order to develop and fix the photographic image. This process is the most popular method of reproducing colour photographs, and now produces prints that have archival ratings of over 100 years according to some manufactures.

Elton John by Andy Gotts, 2010, C-type, 41 x 31cm


4. Embossing

An embossed print is a print that has been stamped in order to assure its provenance. The stamp is usually placed on the lower part of the print, and it contains information that identifies the printer and the edition number.

When I Fall In Love and Gold Stars by Belmin Pilevneli, 2017, gold leaf and Embossing on Handmade Paper, 60 x 42cm


5. Limited Edition Print

It is the practice of limiting the number of copies produced of a specific print. This is done in order account for all the copies that are produced and to assure collectors that there is a finite inventory of specific artworks, hence making them more desirable and exclusive. All of our prints are hand numbered and come with a signed certificate of authenticity by the artist to guarantee your print is unique to you.

Mega-Byte Me (data) - Limited edition print by Rebecca Mason, 2019, hahnemuehle photo rag 308gsm paper, 74 x 40cm


6. Paper

There are lots of types of papers being used by artists of varying quality. Our artists usually use papers that have a heavier consistency, from 270gsm onwards (gsm stands for ‘grams per square meter’), in order to avoid waves and ripples that may result from the large amounts of ink and other wet media applied during the printing process. Depending on the artwork and medium, the prints may be made with Glossy or Matte paper. The paper type used is always displayed next to the artwork.

Goddess of Autumn by Viet Ha Tran, 2019, Hahnemuhle William Turner 310gsm fine art paper, 90 x 60cm

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