What is a Copy or Reproduction?

Good as Gold by Terry Gilecki
Good as Gold by Terry Gilecki (Limited Edition Giclée on Canvas)

Reproductions are copies of the original painting. New technology like digital printers, have improved the quality of reproductions over the years; however reproductions are not the original. The original painting is one of a kind, a painting that the artist created using paints on the chosen background. Reproductions are generally reproduced using inks on paper or canvas.

There are various types of reproductions. We will focus on the more popular ones. Some of the following information is technical, but will be beneficial to your art knowledge!

We’ll start with Lithography as it is one of the oldest methods of printing dating back to 1798 and invented by Alois Senefelder:
Lithography: uses the principle that oil and water don’t mix as the basis of the printing process. A flat stone such as limestone or a metal plate is treated so that the image area attracts oil-based inks and the wet non-image areas repel the oil-based inks. In lithography, the printing surface is flat with both image and non-image areas at the same level of the printing plate.

Offset Lithography: is one of the most commonly used printing processes used to create reproductions. First, an image is transferred photographically to thin metal, paper, or plastic plates. Rollers apply ink and water to the plates. Since oil and water don’t mix, the oil-based ink doesn’t adhere to the non-image areas. Only the inked image portion is then transferred to a rubber blanket (cylinder) that then transfers the image onto the paper as it passes between it and another cylinder beneath the paper. The term offset refers to the fact that the image isn’t printed directly to the paper from the plates, but is offset or transferred to another surface that then makes contact with the paper.

Serigraphs: are also commonly known as silk-screening. Serigraphy is a time-honored technique, based on stenciling, for creating prints by hand. Ink or paint is carefully brushed through a fine fabric screen, portions of which have been masked for impermeability. For each color, a different portion of the screen must be masked, and each color must be allowed to dry before the next is applied.

Intaglio: is a method in which the area of the image to be printed is recessed into the surface of the printing plate and the recessed areas are filled with ink. The incised image may be etched – engraved with chemicals or tools. An example of Intaglio printing is paper currency. The image to be printed is incised into the plates, the incisions filled with ink, and excess ink wiped from the plates. Heavy pressure is applied to transfer the ink from the plates to the paper, leaving the surface slightly raised and the back side slightly indented.

Giclée: is an ink-jet technology specifically designed for fine art reproduction. This technique is also called Iris printing, after the brand name of a particular printer, or “giclée”. Each second, the ink-jet printer produces over four million droplets of ink that combine to form more than two thousand shades of color which whirls onto paper spinning on a drum at 250 inches per second. Hence the name giclée, a French word meaning “to spray.” The information controlling the jets comes directly from a computer; no printing film or plates are involved. The computer’s information is scanned directly from the artist’s original work. This modern method of creating reproductions is gaining in popularity because of its ability to closely resemble the original.

These are only a few of the more popular methods of reproducing art work. There are other types included in our art glossary.

Another thing to consider with reproductions is “Are all reproductions created equal?” Watch for an upcoming post where you will learn what kind of materials they are reproduced on, all about edition size and how to take care of them.

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© 2008 Rollie LaMarche for Picture This! framing & gallery

1 comment for “What is a Copy or Reproduction?

  1. October 29, 2008 at 10:49 am

    There is another method. The oldest of all. Copying. Hand painting a copy of the original work produces an object with a warmer, more human finish than a giclee or print.

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