Prints- Everything you need to know

Everything you need to know before making the decision to start collecting prints without the mysticism

Art’s Most Collectable Medium

The demand for prints has never been higher. Often available at a more forgiving price point, these artworks are beloved by established collectors, investors and those who simply love the image alike. But what exactly is a print?

In simple terms, a print is any piece of artwork created in multiple iterations. There could be an extremely limited number of them or they could be available in larger numbers. There are many techniques to produce prints- woodcut, lithograph, screen prints being amongst the most popular.

While there may be many copies of a particular work, they should never be thought of as ‘lesser’ than a standalone original:

Although printmaking involves reproducing an image, a print is more than just a copy of an original. Fine art prints are something else entirely, resulting from a close collaboration between the artist and the print studio. Printers — the people who work with the artist to produce an edition — are highly skilled technicians, and are often artists in their own right.



Prints are rarely made for solely commercial reasons- these are not mass production posters. Each is made in a limited run (known as an edition) with tightly controlled lines for the initial release- often a publisher, gallery or agent. Therefore, they should be considered as valuable to an artist as any other more traditional piece of work.

Each example from an edition is usually given a number, presented as a fraction (for example 25/500 would be the 25th print from an edition of 500 copies). There may also be artists’ proofs (usually marked as such) which are identical to the final run. There may be even rarer versions with slight differences developed as the artist and studio experiment- these are known as stage proofs and can be very valuable indeed.

Some prints have been known to fetch astronomical prices- Christies recently sold one by Philip Guston for $52,500.

Why do people collect prints?

At it’s most basic level, collecting prints is more affordable than other media. They allow people to dabble as they first test the waters and give serious collectors thechance to add a big name to their collection at a fraction of the price of an original. For investors, they offer the opportunity to turn a reliable profit as demand grows.

There’s also the fact that it is relatively easy to find a print of a particular work that you desire, they’re easy to authenticate and, as online sales continue to rise, they present well in digital formats, making them ever more tempting.

Do they need to be signed?

Many artists do sign their prints- they’re works of art in their own right, after all. That being said, not having a signature doesn’t necessarily impact on the price of a print.

In 2020 Banksy’s unsigned prints actually grew in value faster than his signed ones. As he signs so few, the prices for these put them out of reach for most of the market which in turn drove demand for the unsigned versions.

Prints are relatively simple to authenticate, so don’t be worried by the lack of a name.

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