What is a Limited Edition Print?

Each of my artworks in my online gallery can be described as a “Limited Edition” print. But what exactly does this mean?

Creating a Limited Edition Print

When I create a limited edition print I have to first make a printing plate to print from (This is essentially like a giant rubber stamp). I then ink up the printing plate and use pressure to transfer the ink onto archival paper. The plate can then be re-inked and pressed multiple times onto more sheets of paper.

I now have multiple copies of the same image. From these I will select the best and most consistent prints to use as part of an edition. For example I might have created 10 copies of an image, and I am happy with the quality of 6 of them. This then becomes a limited edition of 6 artworks. The printing plate is discarded or defaced and so no more artworks from this plate can be created. These six prints would be labelled: 1/6, 2/6, 3/6, 4/6, 5/6, 6/6.

Do you keep copies of an edition for yourself?

When making a limited edition print artists sometimes make a small number of artist’s proofs for themselves. These are labeled “AP”. Most artists limit their artist’s proofs to 10% to 15% of an edition. As I tend to make very small editions, the most Artist’s Proofs I have ever made has been one per edition. I do this when I have become particularly attached to an image and want to keep one copy for myself!

What about the rejected prints?

I sometimes keep a rejected print as a point of reference to help reduce future misprints. These are labeled “WP” or working prints and are not considered part of the edition. These prints are never available for purchase or display as they are not of acceptable quality. I just use them for my own professional learning.

Why do you make such small editions?

There are many printmakers who make edition sizes of 50, 150 and even 500. This is sometimes to maximise the financial potential of an image.

One of my favourite parts of printmaking (and many other printmakers would agree) is the ‘reveal’. This is the part in the printmaking process when you lift a piece of paper from the inked plate for the first time. There is such anticipation to see whether the printed artwork is going to meet the vision that you had in your head during all the initial drawings and carving of the block. It is the moment of truth.

Once I have ten or twelve consistent prints complete the anticipation of the reveal has diminished, I know mostly what I’m going to get, and I’m already starting to dream up my next artwork.

I could keep printing, but I like to know that my heart was in every print in each edition. I guess that makes me an emotional printmaker!

If you are interested in printmaking terms you may like to read my article about Variable Editions.

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