What Are Fine Art Prints?

Faded Dream – Open Edition Prints. (Left 12×12) (Right 8×8)

One of the questions I get frequently from friends, clients, and potential buyers is “What are fine art prints?” 

This isn’t a well known fact, but I do all of my own picture framing. I have worked as a picture framer, and Art Director for a few years at a few different galleries across the city. That knowledge has been extraordinarily helpful within my career as an artist. 

Let me try to explain the differences and give you some insight into the most common kinds of prints you’ll find in the wild. 


Essentially a Giclee is as close as you can get to an original with a reproduction.

If you get the chance you should go check out industrial sized printers. They’re HUGE! I’m 6’4” and I could lay across the print bed comfortably huge. 

The printing process is extensive, time consuming, and pricy but you can see and feel the difference. 

The process starts by taking a high resolution scan or photograph of the original and in some cases a three dimensional scan. These printers are actually capable of mimicking brush strokes. 

To try and make a comparison a point and shoot camera usually photographs at 72 Dots Per Inch (DPI). These scans of photographs have a minimum resolution of 300 DPI. More dots means more clarity. The printers use 12 or more different ink cartridges and are capable of creating colours your printer at home couldn’t even dream about. 

The main difference between a regular print and a Giclee is the quality of materials and inks.  

To qualify as a Giclee, the materials and inks must be considered archival, and the run of prints must be of a limited quantity. Some artists usually only make between 10-100 giclee’s.

Archival inks are pigment based not dye based. If cared for properly these inks will take centuries too discolour.  

Archival paper, canvas, etc. are pH neutral meaning it won’t deteriorate or brown as quickly over time.

The price point will be higher in comparison to other types of prints but the quality and scarcity is there to justify the cost. 

In all honesty I’m still a bit young in my career, and don’t currently offer Giclee prints of my work. I’d love too and I know I’ll get there some day soon. 

Home 7.5″x9.5″ Artist Proof (One Left)

Limited Edition

Limited edition prints are a tad self explanatory, they are a limited number of editions that have been signed and numbered by the artist. 

The artist has gone through the proofs, smoothed out the errors, adjusted the colours, resulting in a near identical reproduction of the original but decided not to go a few steps further and make giclee’s. 

The artist “depending on the scale of their market” will print between 50-100 copies of the piece. Sign and number each one, and sell them like normal. 

In my experience some collectors search out and collect specific numbers. I used to have a client that collected sevens, and another that always wanted prints ending in a one. I couldn’t tell you why, but it’s definitely a thing.

It never hurts to ask, if you want the print corresponding to your favourite number, etc. the artist might still have it. 

I have had limited edition prints in the past featuring older work. They’ve since sold out. I do have a variety of Artist proofs still available. I’ll explain that next.

Artist Proofs

Artist Proofs or AP’s are usually a run of 5-10 prints. The main purpose of artist proofs are to test the different hues and tones a specific printer is capable of producing. Colour matching the original can be surprisingly tricky. Especially if you don’t have a background in graphic design and print.

Artist proofs are unique in that they are usually off colour, a very limited quantity, and each proof has something different from its counterparts. No two are the same. AP’s are popular with collectors as it gives them the opportunity to own a one of a kind product. 

Luna Moth and Moon Flowers 6″x6″ Artist Proof (SOLD OUT)

The price points of Artist proofs can vary depending on the artist. Some will sell higher others lower. It depends on how the artist feels about them. Some hate them, some love them.

As I sit here writing this the only example thats sticking out to me is a little off the subject… I’m gonna run with it!

Did anyone else collect Pokemon cards when they were younger? Yeah! I thought so.

Remember that rumour about the kid that found a red Pikachu? I wanted to find one to! That kind of misprint is exactly what an artist proof is! It’s the test before the final product. Sometimes it’s completely unexplainable, sometimes it because someone forgot to check ink levels and something runs out halfway through printing, or its just one of the off colours that got discarded during the colour matching process.

Peony and Common Blue Butterflies 6″x6″ Artist Proof

Artist proofs are odd and with good reason. It’s part of the process and as you know I like to share that process. Maybe it will help another artist avoid the same mistakes I did or you get an idea of who I am by reading these blogs and articles and it drives you to support my work. Who knows!

Anyway before I get off track. The button below will show you which AP’s I have in stock. Showing you a bit more of the process and giving you the opportunity to own something unique.

Hand Embellished Prints

This is where things get a little weird again because the possibility of finding something else unique is endless. 

Some artists will take a handful of their prints and go add something to them. 

These are some of the things I’ve seen;

  • Gilding elements of the painting. 
  • Painting over places on the print to give you those beautiful brush strokes. 
  • Adjusting aspects of the painting to slightly alter them from the original. Custom colours, flowers, names, house numbers, etc.
  • Adding resin to create a high gloss finish

It’s a pretty creative way to give your fans something different! 

Open Edition Prints

Din’s Fire – Open Edition Prints (Top 14×14) (Middle 12×12) (Bottom 8×8)

Again the name explains it all. Open edition prints are just that, open. The artist will continually restock these prints. Usually the artists most popular work. They are usually the most affordable, and easiest to procure. 

They’re not much different in quality from a proof or limited edition, except they aren’t numbered. 

Most of the prints I have available at this time are open editions. You can find what I have in stock below.

At the end of the day if you love the artists work, and you want it. Contact the artist!

Your support on social media means a lot, but a purchase lets them continue to to do what they love and puts food on their table. 

I’m saying this from first hand experience!

I’m not kidding when I saw I do a little happy dance. I mention it all the time. The money I earn from my artwork goes right back into my business. You get something beautiful, and I get to continue to work within my passion.

Stay Creative,

Justin Erickson

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