When you are new to the art world, terms like “Archival” and “Giclee” can sound confusing. But if you have recently acquired artwork from your favorite artist, it’s important that you understand what you are paying for when you make that purchase. In this article, I want to break down a few of the different art terms I feel are the most important for anyone who purchases art from me. Here are a few art words you need to know when collecting art.

1. Original Artwork


Original Artwork refers to the authentic original piece of work created by an artist. An original work is not a reproduction such as a print or replica. There can only be one original of each art piece that an artist creates. Because of this, original artwork is typically more expensive than reproductions of that art piece and will sometimes increase in value over time.

If you purchase an original artwork from an artist, you are purchasing the first version of that piece. You are not purchasing the copyright to that artwork. Unless otherwise stated in a formal contract, the artist retains all copyrights of original artwork.

That means that even though you own the original, you may not make and distribute copies of that work. Only the artist may do that. The artist still owns the idea and may distribute reproductions of that work as they see fit.



2. Art Print


An Art Print is any printed reproduction of the original artwork. Prints can come in various shapes and forms. Some art prints are printed on paper, while some are printed on canvas or other materials and they can come in varying levels of quality. Prints are typically a much less expensive way of investing in artwork.


3. Giclee Print


A Giclee Print is a high-quality reproduction of artwork. Giclee’s are printed with archival ink, which means it is made to last much longer than regular ink. They are usually also printed on higher quality materials, such as treated canvas, to help reduce fading and degrading of the artwork.

Giclee’s are often more vibrant than other types of prints and are made to last longer. For this reason, a giclee print will probably be more expensive than regular prints. I typically sell my giclee prints on stretched canvas.



4. Limited Edition Print


A Limited Edition Print is a reproduction of artwork that the artist has decided will only be printed a certain number of times. This is usually done to increase the value of the artwork, both for the artist and for collectors who purchase those prints.


Limited edition prints will be labeled with the print number and the number of prints in the series. For instance, “Print 25 of 100”. Most limited edition prints will be giclee quality prints, but this is not always the case, so check with the artist when purchasing limited editions.

They will often also come with a certificate signed by the artist to verify the print number. Limited edition prints are usually the most expensive type of art investment, aside from purchasing the original.



5. Medium


Medium as an art word is used to describe the materials used in the original artwork. Common mediums include oil paint, acrylic, watercolor, colored pencil, graphite, charcoal, etc. Mixed Media refers to work that was produced with more than one type of medium.

6. Art Series


An Art Series is a group of artworks by a single artist that share similar characteristics or ideas. Sometimes artworks in a series will be sold separately, but occasionally artworks in the same series are expected to stay together. If an artist expects the pieces in a series to stay together, they will specify this before the sale.



7. Traditional Artwork


Traditional Artwork refers to art that is created with a traditional medium, such as paint or charcoal, as opposed to work created on a computer. 



8. Digital Art


Artwork created on a computer is called Digital Art. Traditional artwork may be scanned into a computer to provide a digital format, but that is a digital scan not Digital Artwork. All physical copies of digital artwork are prints. The “Original Artwork” for a digital art piece is the artist’s original computer file.



9. Artist Proof


Artist Proof is an art term that refers to the first set of prints that an artist will make of an artwork, typically to check the quality of the reproduction before printing a limited edition series.

Artists proofs are separate from the limited edition series and are usually labeled with either “AP” or “EA”. Artist proofs are not necessarily of higher quality than the other prints, but are sometimes more valuable because of their very limited quantity and occasional differences from the series.

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Art Terms


I hope you have a better understanding of some important art words that you will come across as you continue collecting art. Artwork is a wonderful investment. Not only does artwork bring new beauty and perspective into the world, but collecting art from your favorite artist supports them and spreads their work to people you know.

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