How to Fake It: What to Say About Printmaking

In our How to Fake it series, we seek to simplify art topics into bite-sized nuggets to enable you with the tools to be an art conversationalist.

For this ‘How to Fake it’, we present to you the mind-boggling world of Printmaking. Sometimes, prints are indistinguishable from works done in other mediums, which can lead to much confusion. Let us dive headfirst into this topic, and give you some broad pointers on what exactly printmaking is.

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What is Printmaking?

Think of it as a stamp, where you cover a rubber stamp with ink from an ink pad and easily create multiple images that are exactly the same. However, this ‘stamp’ has been painstakingly created by an artist through various means like carving or engraving of a surface. And instead of an ink pad, the artist uses a special type of paint that is slow-drying enough for the artist to manipulate the colours to suit the work he or she wishes to create.

 

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When did this all start?

It was actually Screen Printing that begun in China more than 2000 years ago that created the first prints. Starting with a stencil made from leaves stuck together to form a different shapes, they attached the stencil on a screen created using a wooden frame and human hair. It wasn’t until the discovery of silk, which then took over as the popular medium. Ink is applied onto the frame where the stencil is attached, and pushed through the mesh. Below the mesh would be a piece of paper or cloth to receive the ink. Screen Printing in the West was popularized by Andy Warhol, especially with his Marilyn Monroe diptych.

Is digital printing also printmaking?

This is an ongoing debate as some may argue that Digital printing is not printmaking as it does not go through the labourious process of creating the artwork when compared with traditional printmaking processes. Digital printmakers utilise and embrace technology to create unique and original artworks that are more affordable with a short turnaround time. They can also be printed on a variety of mediums and has seen an increase in appreciation over recent years, largely due to animated films in the west and anime in the east.

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Why is there a number on my print?

In printmaking, a number written at the bottom of the print is called an ‘edition’. E.g 1/50, which refers to the number of impressions of the image that is made. A ‘limited edition’ print refers to a print that will only be printed a fixed number of times, while an ‘open edition’ print is a print that can be produced as many times as the plate physically allows.
Contrary to popular belief, the edition size is not relevant to the value of the print, but like anything, would go up in price should there only be a few prints left to sell within a particular edition.

In the second part of this series, we will explore the different types of Printmaking methods that we see today. Stay tuned!


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