The difference between prints and reproductions

Most people don't understand that the term "print" does not mean the same thing as the term "reproduction". If you are here at this page, you may be one of them, or you may just be here wondering how I will handle such a topic. Either way, I hope I give you the answers you are looking for.

Lets start with a definition of the terms "reproduction" and "print". Merriam Webster's little dictionary defines "reproduction" as:
1 : the act or process of reproducing
2 : something reproduced : COPY
synonyms REPRODUCTION, DUPLICATE, COPY, FACSIMILE, REPLICA mean a thing made to closely resemble another. REPRODUCTION implies an exact or close imitation of an existing thing (reproductions from the museum's furniture collection). DUPLICATE implies a double or counterpart exactly corresponding to another thing (a duplicate of a house key). COPY applies especially to one of a number of things reproduced mechanically (printed a thousand copies of the gicleť). FACSIMILE suggests a close reproduction often of graphic matter that may differ in scale (a facsimile of a rare book). REPLICA implies the exact reproduction of a particular item in all details (a replica of the Mayflower) but not always in the same scale (miniature replicas of classic cars).

and, the difinition for "print" is:
(1) : a copy made by printing (2) : a reproduction of an original work of art (as a painting) made by a photomechanical process (3) : an original work of art (as a woodcut, etching, or lithograph) intended for graphic reproduction and produced by or under the supervision of the artist who designed it.

Ok, from just this we can see that a print can be a reproduction, but a reproduction may not necessarily be a print. This is where the terms start to vary. ANYTIME a piece of art is copied by photomechanical means, it is a "reproduction". It doesn't matter if the process has a fancy sounding name, like "giclee" (which literally means "ink droplets"), or if it has a cheap sounding name like "photo copy", because the are basically the same thing. Both are produced by the same means. Only the actual quality of the materials used will be the difference. (Sometimes there isn't much of a difference in those either.) Technically speaking a "reproduction" could be called a "print" because it is printed. I think that #3 best fits what a "print" really is.

"Prints" are, by definition (3), an original work of art (as a woodcut [block print], etching, silkscreen [serigraphy] or lithograph) intended for graphic reproduction and produced by or under the supervision of the artist who designed it. These are images that are produced to be multiples. They are most often done completely by the artist, and are most often done in small runs, or editions. (On all of the "prints" that I produce as serigraphs (silkscreen), the run, or edition, is 45) This is because the image starts to deteriorate after a certain numbers of "prints" are produced. Most "print" editions are less than 200.

Can "reproductions" be done in limited runs? Sure they can, but they don't have to be. "reproduction" runs are commonly well over the 200 number that most all "prints" editions fall under. Why? Because they can. "Reproduction" editions typically are in numbers of 250, 500, 750, 1000, 1200, 1500, ect. The more of the "reproductions" they produce, the more money they can make off of them. Many artists have been led to think that "reproductions" with fancy names (like giclee) should be rather expensive to produce, and thus should be collectibles. I asked for some samples of "reproductions" from some of the bigger printing houses, and will tell you what I found.

I found that their quality of materials was good. I wasn't surprised by that, they have to justify their prices somehow. As you can guess, their prices were HIGH. If you see an artist selling "reproductions" of their work, know that they probably paid about 75% of what they are charging just for that "reproduction" to be produced. I personally couldn't afford to have my prints done at one of the big national companies. They would charge me more than I charge the customer for a "reproduction".

If "reproductions" are just basically "copies", why are they made, and people buy them instead of "prints"? That's a good question, and I'll try to answer it. "Reproductions" sell, because they are a copy of the art that the customer would like to have. Sometimes a customer can't afford an original, sometimes they don't want too, or the original is a different size. A high quality "reproduction" (the term most commonly used is Gicleť - which refers to the process) is a good alternative. Some artists offer these "reproductons" for these customers, or offer "reproductions" for sale so that more people will be able to own a piece of their art.

OK, but what about the artists who make multiple images on purpose? They are called "print makers" and the goal of a print maker is to make multiple "prints" of the same image, whether he carved the design into a piece of stone or wood, or etched it onto a plate, or made a screen of it. They want more than one person to be able to have their images as well. The difference, of course, is that the artist actaully has direct control over all aspects of the production. The other reason that some print runs are small is that the artist actually becomes physically tired from the printing process (unlike machine produced "reproductions").

So, now you're asking what does this all boil down to, and how come when I go to some art shows or festivals they allow "prints" but not "reproductions", and some allow it all? It all boils down to this: "prints" are ALWAYS considered an "original" work of art, because each one won't be exactly like the next. There may be 45 of the same image, but each one will have tiny imperfections from the previous, until the point where it might become noticeable. "Reproductions" are NEVER considered an "original" work of art. Because of this, some festivals won't allow items that aren't considered "originals", some will. I have no problem with either, though there has been some debate on the "festival circuit" among artists about shows allowing "reproductions". (That I won't get into here as it is a tricky subject, and most opinions are personal in the "discussion".)

I offer both "prints" and "reproductions" of my work, and I do it simply for the affordability factor. "Reproductions" are priced at about half the price of the "prints". Which do I think is a better deal? Depends on why you are buying a piece of my art. If you are buying several pieces just because you really like what I do, want my art all over your house, your friends and neighbor's houses, and don't really care if the are going to go up in value, buy the reproductions and save some money. (Each comes with a certificate of authenticity, as do the prints and the originals) If you really like my art, and want to have pieces that may go up in value in the future (some of my pieces from several years ago recently sold at auction for more than I am currently charging), then buy a print or an original. It really does depend on why you would like it. A gift to a friend? Same rules apply. Depends on how good of a friend it is. If its a guy or girl you're not sure how long it will last, get the reproduction. Gift for a loved one or someone you want to impress? Get the print or an original.

I hope I was able to give you some information on this subject, and if you have any further questions, or want to discuss this at all (or anything else), feel free to

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Blake Ovard
29 Jumping Frog Ct.
St. Charles, MO 63303

All art on this site, Copyright 1994-2003 B. Ovard All rights reserved.