Art Terms

Terms Commonly Used To Describe Art

Aquatint - An etching technique in which granulated resin or other substance is applied to a metal plate, heated, and etched with acid. The resulting pitted surface yields a broad range of tonal values that often resemble a watercolor or wash drawing.
Artist Proof or A/P - Common practice is that 10 to 15 percent of an edition is reserved for the artist. In addition to the regular numbered edition, the artist usually selects a specified number of inventory for either his or her own uses, for a museum, or as the artist chooses. These proofs may be designated as artist’s proofs (AP, or EP in French and PA in Spanish) Print marking example; A/P 1/100 is the first print of an edition of 100 Artist Proof impressions. By art market standards Artist Proofs usually rank higher in value to S/N's of an edition.
Certificate of Authenticity - A document issued with limited edition prints, with the print publisher information, title of the image, size of the image, reproduction media or method, and number of the prints in the edition. Certificate may contain a statement about the work from the artist.
Collograph - An intaglio print made from a plate of board on which three-dimensional objects have been attached as in a collage.
Drypoint - An engraving technique in which a design is scratched into a copper plate with a sharp instrument. The rough edge of metal created by the tool produces a soft, velvety line.
Engraving - An intaglio technique in which design is incised into a copper plate with a cutting tool called burin.
Etching - A sharp needle is used to draw a design on a metal plate that has been coated with an acid-resistant substance (ground). The plate is then put into an acid bath, and the exposed parts are etched (eaten away), producing sunken lines. In printing, the ink settles in the sunken areas and the plate is wiped clean. After this process, the plate is covered with damp paper and passed through a roller press, forcing the paper in the sunken area to receive the ink.
Giclee or Digital Print - A fine art print that has become more precise with the advent of the revolutionary printing process Giclee (ghee-clay) a French term meaning "spray of ink." In the Giclee process, a fine stream of ink (more than four millions droplets per second) is sprayed onto archival art paper or canvas. Each piece of paper or canvas is carefully hand mounted onto a drum which rotates during printing. Exact calculation of hue, value and density direct the ink from four nozzles. This produces a combination of 512 chromatic changes (with over three million colors possible) of highly saturated, non-toxic water-based ink. Since no screens are used in Giclee printing, the prints have a higher resolution than lithographs and the dynamic color range is greater than serigraphs.
Hors de Commerce or H/C - Hors de Commerce (Not for trade) traditionally were the graphics pulled with the regular edition but marked by the artist for business use only. These graphics were used for entering shows, exhibits, samples, etc. Today, however, since people began to acquire and collect them, these graphics now generally find their way to the market place through regular channels and are sold. Print marking example; H/C 1/10
Limited Edition Prints or L/E - A pre-determined number of identical prints of an image are produced from a master plate, stone, or other method, after which no more impressions are allowed. The edition size is the sum of all numbered pieces and proofs. The prints are then signed by the artist, sometimes titled, and sequentially numbered showing both the print's number and the total edition size. Each print is referred to as a "limited edition print". The original print plates are typically destroyed after the production of the reproduction is completed. 
Linocut - A relief print made from a sheet of linoleum into which a design has been cut with knives or burins. Similar to woodcut, The linoleum allows a greater variety and range of effects because it can be worked more easily. 
Lithograph - A print produced by a printing process in which the artist draws, usually with a greasy crayon, directly on a flat stone or specially prepared metal plate (sheet zinc or aluminum). The stone or plate are treated to retain ink while the non-image areas are treated to repel ink.
Medium - Medium is the material or technical means of artistic expression. Types include oils, watercolors, acrylics, ink, pencil and charcoal, etc. Reproduction medium types include lithography, offset lithography, silkscreen, serigraphy and giclee. Mixed media is the use of two or more materials and/or reproduction means.
Mezzotint - An engraving technique in which a metal plate is first roughened so that it will produce a dark tone. The design is then worked into the plate from dark to light by scraping down the roughened areas to produce the design.
Monotype or Monoprint - A technique in which a drawing is made with ink on a smooth surface such as glass or metal and then printed onto paper by hand or with a press. Usually only a single print is produced, although a "ghost image" (a second strike from the same inked plate) may be produced.
Mono-Original - An original image of any medium that is recreated in likeness more then once.
Offset Lithograph - A mechanical process used to photographically reproduce an image. The newest printing method in the industry is computerized or electronic printing. This process uses a computer, typesetting and page-design software and optical scanners to aid in reproduction. The majority of reproductions are created using this process.
Original Graphics - An artist working in a printmaking medium, such as etching creates a predetermined number of images. Lithography and serigraphy. Original graphics are produced on a master plate, stone, or screen one at a time using a graphic press.
Printers Proof or P/P - Common practice by many printers is that a small number of impressions are made for review by the artist or publisher for approval at the time of printing. The amount of proof vary depending on reproduction method used. Offset lithographs usually have a larger amounts as they are produced rather quickly through an offset press. These proofs are often marketed and are identical impressions to the edition in most instances. Print marking example; P/P 1/100 is the first print of an edition of 100 Printers Proof impressions. By art market standards Printers Proofs usually rank higher in value to S/N's or A/P's of an edition.
Rag Paper - One hundred percent rag paper are constructed of cotton fibers. Traditionally considered museum quality. Watercolor paper and most printmaking papers are examples of archival rag paper.
Remarque or RM - A current practice by some artist is the addition of a small personalized drawing near his penciled signature in the margin of the graphic. The simple sketch or drawing is usually rendered in pencil, but can be rendered in color. A print containing one of these hand embellishments or drawings is called a Remarque. Print marking example; RE "1/25" is the first print of an edition of 25 Remarques. By art market standards Remarques usually rank higher in value to S/N's, A/P's, and P/P's of an edition.
Serigraph or Silkscreen - The artist prepares a tightly stretched screen, usually of silk, and blocks out areas not to be printed by filling the mesh on the screen with a varnish-like substance. Paper is placed under the screen, and ink is forced through the still-open mesh onto the paper by means of a squeegee. A print made by this process involves the use of stencils. Paint is applied to a fabric screen, penetrating areas not blocked by a stencil. Several stencils are used to produce a multicolored print. As a commercial medium, silk-screen printing has been used by many contemporary artists such as William Tolliver. Serigraphs are usually hand pulled, while Silkscreens utilize the latest automated printing technologies.
Signed and Numbered or S/N - Prints that are authenticated with the artists signature, the total number of impressions in the edition, and the order in which impression is signed. The artist pencils in his signature and a number on the bottom of the print. Pencil is usually used on reproductions because it does not effect paper over time. The number appears as a fraction. Numbering example; L/E 5/1500, indicates the fifth print of a limited edition of 1500 impressions.

Woodcut or Wood Engraving - A relief technique in which a design is cut with knives, gouges, or chisels into planks of wood parallel to the wood grain. Wood Engraving is a relief technique in which a design is cut with burins, gouges, or chisels into the end grain of a hard wood block.