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Definitions and terms used in the fine arts print field have been varied. The older, even sometimes archaic meanings are not necessarily the same today.
There are terms that are quite colloquial to a locality. Then we have the user's interpretation — whether artist, publisher, gallery, curator, museum,
collector or consurmer. We hope this glossary is of some assistance.


The term used to describe specially manufactured materials
that do not contain acids that cause deterioration.

Antique Print

A general term to denote age of a print. A collector usually considers those prints
from the nineteenth century and prior as "Old Prints, "Rare Prints," or simply Antique Prints.


The process by which a powdered substance (such as rosin) is adhered to a metal plate,
and the plate is then etched in an acid-bath. The resulting print (aquatint)
is characterized by a transparent, soft effect, resembling a watercolor.


The term used to describe materials which may be stored in an archive; in the graphics arts,
archival refers to the relative permanence of a material and its ability to remain stable over time.


Generally, creative work, or the principles by which things of form and beauty are made.
The term Fine Arts as applied to the graphics arts includes drawing, printing
(by other than photomechanical means), and painting, such as watercolor.


The creator of an original image.

Artist Copy

See Artist's Proof.

Artist's Proof

Often abbreviated A/P, additional "proofs" not included in the regular edition,
pulled for the artist's approval and personal use. These proofs are of the same quality
as the regular edition, and may be retained by the artist or sold.
(See also Épreuve d'Artiste)


The assigning or crediting of a work of art, usually unsigned, to a particular artist.


See Certificate.

Black and White

The term used to describe photographs not in color;
also describes printing done with black ink on white paper.

Blind Stamp

A small embossed seal printed on or impressed into the print as a distinguishing mark. (see also Chop Mark)


A material into which a relief design is cut or etched, usually wood or linoleum.

Bon à Tirer

Literally, "good to pull" or "good to print," the term used to describe the print
for comparison with subsequent prints for quality, as well as proof of the
artist's permission to print the edition.


A print which has been "tipped" (attached at the corners) into a book.
It may also be a collector's label affixed on the inside cover of a book.

Brass Rubbing

An image created by placing a material, usually paper, over a raised surface (in this case, brass)
and rubbing this material with a greasy crayon designed for this purpose.


The term used to describe the addition of an alkaline substance to a material to raise its pH. (see pH)


Also know as a graver, a sharp-pointed instrument used for engraving, etching, and drypoint.


The metal which is raised above the surface of a metal plate when it is incised.
It is particularly evident in drypoint, where the burr enhances the effect created by the incised line.


Beautiful or expert handwriting.

Cancelled Plate

A printing element (plate or block) which has been defaced, making it impossible to produce perfect images.

Cancellation Proof

A print pulled after a printing element is defaced to prove the cancellation of the edition.


The deliberately distorted picturing or imitating of a person, literary style, etc. by exaggerating features or mannerisms for satirical effect.


In fresco or mural painting, the scale drawing or sketches made in preparation for transferring or copying to walls. (see also Caricature)

Cast Paper

Paper made by pressing pulp into a plate or matrix to create a work of art in and of itself.


A form of documentation of the authenticity of a work of art.


A compacted powder in stick form used for coloring and drawing.

Chop Mark

Printer's seal. (see Blind Stamp)


A method of producing a color lithograph by using a series of stone or metal plates having different portions of the pictures drawn upon them with inks of various colors. The process is not generally used today.

Cliché Verre

A photographic print produced from a hand-drawn negative.

Closed Edition

A special private edition.


A wrinkle or pucker in paper.


A person that gathers or accumulates works of art.

Collector Value

Appraised value.


A work of art produced by the inking of any combination or collage of materials and / or objects which form the plate for printing.


A continuous tone photomechanical process characterized by its ability to reproduce varying tonal ranges.

Color Proof

In offset lithography, the initial trial proof used to check the fidelity to the printed image.


The colors of dyes, pigments, etc. that impart color to an image.

Color Separation

In photography and photoengraving, the recording on different negatives, by the use of color filters, of the parts of a picture to be printed in each color.

Commissioned Edition

see Personal Commission

Continuous Tone

Copies with infinite gradations of tones between the lightest and densest areas. An example of continuous tone copy is an original photograph.

Continuous Tone Separations

Films made without the use of screens.


The term used to describe the variations in color and shading.


The traditional material used to make plates for etching and engraving.


The reproduction or duplication, generally in a multiple edition.


The exclusive rights to the image of a work of art for publication, production and / or sale of the rights to such work of art and to provide protection from unautherized reproduction.

Cotton Linters

The cotton fibers used in the the manufacture of '100% Rag' papers and boards.


The cutting away or deleting of a portion of an image.

Deckle Edge

The uneven, feathered edge of a paper.

DEL., (Delineavit)

"Has Drawn It" (Latin).

Detail Studies

A small part (or detail) sketch of an image for eventual use in the overall image.


The art or act of representing something on a surface by means of lines and shades. Drawings may be done in pencil, charcoal, crayon, ink, or chalk.


Pen (ink)


An intaglio process using a needle-like tool to scratch a design into a printing plate. The burrs that are left on both sides of the line also form a part of the finished design, giving drypoint print a softer line quality than an engraving.


In offset lithography, a term used to describe a process by which the saturation of single color is enhanced by using two colors.

Dye Transfer

A color photographic print made from gelatine matrices using fade-resistant dyes.


Épreuve d'Artiste - artist proof.


The total number of copies printed from the same plates and published about the same time, e.g. First Edition, Limited Edition, etc.

Edition Description

Artist Proof - (Proof prior to printing finalized edition)
Bon à Tirer - (good to pull (Lit.); good to print (contemp.))
Cancellation Proof - (Evidence of destruction of plates)
Chop Marks - (Printers seal or blind stamp)
DEL., Delineavit - (Had done it)
Épreuve d'Artiste - (see Artist's Proof)
Estate Signed - (Signed by the estate of the artist)
ETAT - (State proof)
EXC., ESCUD., Escudit - (Has published it)
FEC., f., F., Fecit - (Has made it (usually engraving))
FORMIS., - (In the stock of the publisher)
Hors Commerce (H.C.) - (Not for sale)
IMP., Impress it - (has printed it)
INC., Incisit - (has engraved it)
INV., Invenit - (has designed it)
Limited Edition - (Identical prints of the same edition, numbered in sequence (or other marks) to
denote limited production. A state maximum number of printed copies or impressions.
LITH - (Drawn or printed on stone or plate)
Numbered Print - (Sequentially numbered print. See Numbered Print.)
Open Edition - (Standard edition - unlimited)
Personal Commission - (Time limited edition for others produced jointly with the publisher)
PINX., Pinxit - (has painted it)
Presentation Proof - (Specially-designed, extra-worked proof)
Printers Proof - (Printers copy)
Proof - (Individual impression prior to the published edition)
Publisher's Proof - (See Hors Commerce)
Remarque - (Additioal original drawing or marking on print (usually in the border) by the artist)
SCULP., SC., Sculpit - (has engraved it)
Signature - (Artist's original signature (unless printed in the plate)
Signed in the Plate - (Printed signature)
State Proof (ETAT.) - (Artist's reworking of plates for another proof
Time Limited - (An edition where the size (quantity) is determined by the number of orders received prior to specific date)
Trial proof (T / P), (Épreuve d'Essai) - (Artist initial test painting to determine next changes or corrections)


A design in paper which is molded or shows relief.


An intaglio method of printing using a metal that has been inscribed with a sharp tool called a burin, and printed in a press. The prints, engravings, are characterized by clean, sharp, regular lines used to create depth and perspective. Examples of engraving include Copper, Relief, Steel, Stone, and Wood.

Épreuve d'Artiste

French (see Artist's Proof).

Estate Signed

Art which has been signed or stamped with authorization of the artist's estate, usually for identification purposes.


See State Proof.


An intaglio method of printing using a tool to incise a design on a metal plate that has been coated with an acid-resistant substance called the "ground." The plate is then subjected to an acid bath which etches the exposed areas. Etchings are characterized by a greater variety in tonal values with less regularity of line. Examples of etching include Aquatint, Drypoint, Intaglio, and Softground.


An exact reproduction.

FEC f. F. Fecit

"Has Made It." (Latin).

Fine Art Print

A term used to describe quality prints.


A means of securing artwork to a rigid support so all edges are visible. This is usually done when the edges of the paper are deckled or decorative, or if the image extends to the paper's borders.


A series of images in a protective case. Also can denote the size of the paper or volume.


In the stock of the publisher. (Latin).


A discoloration of paper, characterized by dull rusty spots or patches variously atttributed to mold growth or impurities in the paper's manufacture. The condition may develop or be accelerated if paper is exposed to extreme light or dampness.


A display area for fine art.


Generally describing the type, style, class or everyday life as depicted in a work of art.


The directions in which the majority of paper fibers are oriented, and the axis along which paper tears most easily.


The term used to describe a fine art print, generally a limited edition.


A method of printing with etched or engraved plates (see Intaglio, Copperplate, Photogravure, Rotogravure).


A waxy, acid-resistant coating on a metal etching plate.


A method of photographic reproduction using a screen to render tonal gradations by varying densities of dots.


Colors which have been added to an image (usually by hand) after it has been printed. Watercolor is commonly used.


See Hand-Colored. The term hand-tinted may also be used to describe coloring done using stencils.

Hors Commerce

Not for sale. (French)


The area of a composition on the paper. The representation of a concept or an object on paper or other material.

IMP, Impress It

"Has Printed It." (Latin)


The term used to describe the pressing of plates on paper, and all copies printed in a single edition.

INC Incisit

"Has Engraved It." (Latin)


The unauthorized copying of a work of art.


Commonly, a colored liquid used for writing and drawing. Printing inks are generally thicker and viscous. Inks may be permanent, (non-fading), or may fade in time.


A term used to describe a design incised below a plate's surface. (see also Etching and Engraving)

Issue Price

The retail price of a print at its publication date.

INV. Invenit

"Has Designed It." (Latin)

Japan Paper

Also called 'Japon,' this is a paper composed of mulberry fiber, usually manufactured in Japan.

Letter Press

A relief printing process where ink touches only the raised surfaces thus printing only that portion of the image.



Limited Edition

Identical prints of the same edition, numbered in sequence (or other marks) to denote limited production. A stated maximum number of printed copies or impressions.

Linoleum Block

(Linocut) A relief printing method using linoleum on a block or backing.


Drawn or printed on stone or plate.


A planographic process of printing from a flat stone or metal plate by a method based on the repulsion between grease and water. The design is put on the surface with a greasy material, and then water and printing ink are successfully applied; the greasy parts repel water and absorb the ink but the wet parts do not. This process may be done by hand or photomechanically. Also see Offset Lithography, Chromo Lithography, Stone Lithography.

Master Printer

A specialist in making fine prints for the artist.


Dull tone, no sheen or gloss.


An intaglio process in which a texture is produced on a metal plate with a "rocker." By scraping or burnishing the surface, gradations of light and shade may then be produced. Mezzotints are characterized by a rich, velvet overall appearance with numerous tonal ranges.

Mint Condition

A term used to describe a print that is as perfect as when it was originally issued or published.


A wavy pattern caused by superimposing a repetitive design on the same or different design to produce a pattern distinct from the original pattern.

Molded Paper

Paper which has been pressed into a mold.

Monoprint / Monotype

A one of a kind print produced in a single impression and from a single plate. Monoprints may exhibit a variety of colors and surface textures.


A gallery for the display and conservation of works of art.

Mylar Printing

A method of printing which allows the artist to draw directly on a mylar (clear polyester) sheet from a registered main drawing. Each color is then plated and printed separately, resulting in the finished full color image.


The term used to describe the reverse of the visual photographic image.

Numbered Print

Sequentially numbered print; a print bearing a number corresponding to its position after the edition is printed and signed.

Offset Lithography

The commercial lithographic process in which the printed image is transferred or offset to a rubber blanket (rather than stone or metal) for printing. (see Lithography)


The vehicle for binding pigments and which causes them to become viscous.

Old Print

A general term to denote age of a print. A collector usually considers those prints nineteenth century and prior as "Old Prints" or Antique Prints.


The term used to describe the quality or degree of transparency.

Open Edition

Standard edition; unlimited.

Original Print

An original print is a work of art which has been created specifically for the printing medium by other than photomechanical means, is printed by the artist or under his / her direction, and is approved by the artist when completed. The photomechanical printing of other original works of art, such as watercolors, oil paintings, etc. made by the artist are reproductions. (see Reproduction).

Overall Size

Generally, the size of the sheet of paper or its complete outside dimension.


A thin, flexible material made in sheets from a pulp of cotton linters, straw, wood or other fibrous material.


Ground coloring matter mixed with gum and formed into a crayon, or a picture drawn with these crayons; a soft, pale shade of a color.


Graphite bonded with a binder and supported in wood or a wrapper.

Personal Commission

Time limited edition for others produced jointly with the publisher.


The measurement of the chemical activity of the acid present in a substance. The scale is numbered from 0-14, with 0 the greatest concentration of acidity and 14 the greatest concentraton of alkalinity. A "Neutral pH" of 7 is desirable in paper because even a slightly acidic condition may have deteriorating effects. Buffering agents are sometimes added during manufacturing to raise the pH of paper, making it more alkaline.


An image, usually on a specially coated light-sensitive paper and generally meant to be made by the artist photographer.


Reproduction of an image produced using photographic means.

Photo Reproduction

Prints reproduced photomechanically from original works conceived by the artist in another medium, such as oil paintings and watercolors.

PINX. Pinxit

"Has Painted It." (Latin).


The term used to describe a surface printing process such as Lithography (see Lithography, Offset Lithography).


The printing surface (stone, metal or other material) from which printed impressions are taken.

Plate Size

The impression of the full plate into the paper which is usually larger than the image. The "Plate Mark" is an impression left in the paper, and often visible in engravings and etchings.


(French) A process of hand-coloring prints with stencils; also prints made my stencil process.


A selection of prints; a case used to carry a group of prints.


In photography, an image with lights and shades corresponding to those of the subject.


Generally, a pictorial advertisement for an exhibit, event or product.

Posthumous Print

A print which has been printed after the artist's death.

Presentation Proof

Specially-designed extra-worked proofs; proofs dedicated and presented by the artist to a friend or collaborator.


A mechanical device used for printing.

Press Proofs

Trial proofs used to assure color correctness and balance.


A generic term used to describe a picture or design printed from a plate, block or roll, such as an etching, engraving, lithograph, etc. Such prints may also be referred to as "Graphics." Sometimes, to avoid confusion,  further descriptive term may be added, such as Original Print, Fine Art Print, Limited Edition Print, etc.


See Master Printer.

Printers Proof

Individual impression prior to the published edition; proof used by the printer to assure correctness of the printed image.


Sinle color proofs assuring that each color is consistent with the trial proof.


A test print from a plate or block. May be used in some situations interchangeably with "print".


The producer and distributor of prints for an artist.

Publisher's Proof

See Hors Commerce.


A mixture of ground, moistened cellulose material, such as wood, linen or cotton linters, from which paper is made.


Degree of fineness.

Rag Paper

A term used to describe papers actually made from cotton linters.

Reflection Copy

The original art from which the color separaton sets are made for reproduction.


The term used to describe a raised surface cut away by acid or tools. The non-printing areas are removed and the riased surface forms the image.


A small original drawing usually done in the border area of the print.


The duplication of a work of art in another medium. For example, a lithograph of an original painting.


The term used to describe the reprinting of an edition (generally of etchings, engravings, etc.) from original or reworked plates, usually after the death of the artist.


Stylized decoration characterized primarily by elaborate and profuse ornamentation imitating foliage, shellwork, scrolls, etc.


The instrument used to prepare a mezzotint plate.


An intaglio process using cylindrical plates which produces smooth, clear reproductions.


In art, a term applied to that group of individuals who exhibit similarities in style, such as the impressionists, as well as more generally applied to a national or geographic group, such as American, French, etc.


The dot pattern used on offset lithography plates.

Screen Angles

Varying sequence of angles to allow the dot pattern of each color to print with the other colors without causing distortion or moire.

SCULP. SC, Sculpsit

"Has Engraved It" (Latin).


The art of carving wood, chiseling stone, casting and weildign metal, modeling clay or wax into three dimensional representations, as statues and figures, or any work of sculpture or such works collectively.

Secondary Market

The term used to descrive the resale of a print after an edition has been sold out by the publisher and is no longer widely available.


See Color Separation.


This is popularly used and meant to be done by, and / or under the supervision of the artist from design to finished edition. See Silkscreen .

Sheet Size

Size of the paper.


Artist's original signature (unless in the plate).


The artist's personally made signature for each print.

Signed in the Plate

The artist's signature which has been made in the printing plate and printed along with the image. This is not to be confused with an original signature.

Signed and Numbered

The artist's signature appears on the print as well as the number, usually in the form of print number / number of prints in the edition, although other designations (such as Roman numerals) may be used.


A method of printing using a hand-cut or photographically-prepared stencil adhered to stretched silk or polyester fabric through which ink is forced.

Silver Print

A photograph produced by a process using paper treated with silver halides (salt).


Quick renderings in pencil, ink, paint, etc. to capture and idea or image momentarily.


In etching, a technique which produces heavily-etched lines.

Sold Out

The term used to describe a print or edition no longer available from the publisher.

Split Edition

An edition in which some prints are signed and numbered and the remainder signed only, or where the prints are both signed an unsigned.


The term used to describe one of several stages of alterations or phases in printing; also a print from a plate still in process of completion.

State Proof (ETAT)

Artist's reworking of plates for another proof.


A sheet which is perforated or cut so that when ink, paint, etc. is applied, a design forms in the open areas and prints beneath the sheet's surface; also, the pattern, design, et. made by this method.

Stipple Engraving

An intaglio process in which tonal value is produced using minute dots made in the surface of the plate.


In the graphic arts, refers to a lithography stone used as a printing element. There are many varieties of stone, such as Bavarian Limestone, etc.

Stone Lithograph

A print produced from an image created by the artist on stone.

Stone Rubbing

See Brass Rubbing.


The assembly of the basic components (film, type, etc.) used to produce a printing plate.


A careful detailing of a subject image, used primarily as an instructive excercise for the artist.  (See Sketch)


A group of prints, usually related in theme or subject matter.

Time Limited

An edition where the size (quantity) is determined by the number of orders received prior to a specific date.


A quality or value of color as a tint or shade.

Transmission Copy

An image made from a transparent source, such as color transparencies.

Trial Proof (T/P)

Épreuve d'Essai (French). Artist initial test printing to determine the next changes or corrections.


A liquid form of lithographic crayon applied to the lithographic stone to produce solid blackened areas; also used in the making of a screen for serigraphs (silkscreens).


In the graphic arts, the term used to describe an edition with no set quantity or restriction on quantity for printing.


Traditionally a mark or ornament executed in brass wire on a mold which contains the paper pulp, creating a relief design marking the sheet with a visible, transparent imprint.

Wood Cut

A relief printing method in which the image area is carved into a block of wood; the prints produced by this method.

Wood Engraving

A method of relief printing using a wood block which is cut away with engraving tools.


A metal sometimes used for printing plates.