How to Buy Art Prints

A guide to buying Artwork

When purchasing a piece of art, there is a lot of terminology that come into play which you may not have come across before, with a lot of aspects to consider.

In this guide, we break down each feature of the artwork and briefly describe the key features of each.

a guide to pfrints A visual guide to art print terminology

9 Tips for Buying Art Online

1. Get to know what you’re buying – Brush up on key terms like Limited Editions, Paper types and finishes so you know exactly what you’re buying. An Open Edition Giclée and a Limited Edition Silkscreen can be entirely different, but may look similar to the untrained eye!

2. Research the Artist – Every artist is different and will have a personal story with their work. Researching their style and evolution will bring understanding and value to the artwork you are considering.

3. Where is the piece going? – Are you after Square, Portrait or Landscape piece? How big does it need to be? This will help you refine your search.

4. Be Open – There’s so many different styles out there, it’s hard to pin artwork into a single box. Browse around, using categories and filters to hone your budget and tastes.

5. Consider newer artists – The big names attract big money. However supporting emerging artists can secure you a similar style of work at a lower price.

6. Don’t try to guess the market – It’s difficult to know whether artwork will increase in value, and it’s best to purchase for your own pleasure and enjoyment.

7. Consider Framing – Framing protects your print against damage. If purchasing a piece to put on your wall, purchase framing at the same time to have your piece professionally handled and framed.

8. Pay attention to size – Unlike in a gallery, getting an idea of size can be extremely difficult with a 20 x 20cm piece looking similar to a 80 x 80cm when viewed on a screen! We list paper sizes for all our pieces and provide mock-ups where possible.

9. Buy what you love – Remember, art you buy will be on your walls for a long time! Make sure you enjoy the art you buy above all else.

Edition Type

These are the most common edition types that you can find on artrepublic:

Limited Editions

These are prints that, unsurprisingly, are limited in their production. The amount they are limited by depends entirely on the edition. Limited editions are always numbered but not always signed by the artist.

Special edition prints, such as those with Gold Leaf, Diamond dust or other finishes, are usually limited to smaller edition sizes compared to the main edition, such as 5 or 10. Sometimes they will be the first 5 or 10 releases of an edition.

Edition Numbers – Edition numbers are normally written in the format xx/yy. The first number is the number of the print in the series. The second number is the total number of prints in that edition. Special edition prints, such as those with Gold Leaf, Diamond dust or other finishes, are usually limited to smaller edition sizes compared to the main edition, such as 5 or 10. Sometimes they will be the first 5 or 10 releases of an edition.

Artist / Printers Proof

When producing limited editions, an extra number of prints, excluded from the main edition size, are printed as an additional proofing for the artist and / or printers to ensure the intended results are achieved. These can be around 10% of the edition size, and can vary in appearance from the main edition.

They can include blemishes or colour variations that were “fixed” for the main edition, due to the proofing process.

Open Edition

These are editions that have no fixed production volume – and can run indefinitely. For this reason they are usually not signed.


Originals are artworks produced by the artists. They can be 1/1 hand finished prints.

These are 1 of 1s, originally produced by the artist and include hand-finished details. It may be that limited edition prints are produced from this original piece.

Timed Release

Timed releases are a new format that has taken off in recent years, especially for online retailers. A print is made available for a set time – usually 24 or 48 hours, and the edition size is then determined by how many prints are ordered and produced.

Box Sets

Box Sets are collections of limited edition works, in a special presentation “box” which is often a piece of work in itself! The collections can be available as individual prints or they may only be available as a set. Sometimes only part of an edition is in a set with matching numbers.

Hors Commerce (HC)

Prints printed not for commercial sale will be marked with HC. They are often the same as the original edition, but were not originally printed for sale.

Edition Size

As the name suggests, this is the amount of prints that have been produced in a set edition.

It’s important to note that variations on a print will have their own edition sizes. For example an artist may produce a standard edition with a size of 50, while also releasing special gold leaf or diamond dust editions at smaller edition sizes and print sizes. So the image used may have a total print run of 90 plus, consisting of 50 standard editions, 20 gold and 20 diamond versions.

Paper Size + Image Size

All of our paper sizes are displayed in the format Width x Height, in cm. If the first number is larger than the second, the print is in landscape format, and vice versa is portrait.

The image size will sometimes be smaller than the paper size, suggesting a border around the image. Where possible we try to show this through the product image.

Paper Edge

Papers will have either straight cut edges, or “deckled”, hand torn edges.

This mostly influences how you may frame the print. Straight cut edges can be framed to the edge, where as deckled prints will look impressive with a shadow float mount.

Deckled edge with Float mount Straight cut paper, Framed to the paper edge


Print Types

Artists work using a wide variety of print methods, all producing slightly different styles.

Giclée (Archival Print)

Giclée’s are a digital form of printing, using high resolution inkjet printers to produce quality archival prints which can last for decades. These can be finished with hand-applied details, or hand finished silkscreens and finishes.


Silkscreen, also referred to as screen printing or serigraph, is a process where screens made of stretched silk are exposed to light to produce certain patterns, through which ink is then pressed onto paper. It is a manual process where each colour is applied by hand, often involving many layers.

A fabulous example of an artist who pushes this to the limit is Bonnie and Clyde who have produced 30-layered screen-prints.Silkscreens can also used to finish / glaze other types of print.

Close up of a Silkscreen Close up of a Giclee


Etching is a method of placing an image onto a metal plate using acid. The plate is covered in an acid-ground or wax, protecting the plate from the acid bath. Into this, the artist scratches a design. When submerged the acid eats away at the exposed metal, leaving an indented area to which ink can be applied for printing. As a method it dates back to the 14th century, and was widely used for printing in the 16th century.


A lenticular is a technology that allows the viewed image to alter, based on viewing angle. This is achieved through a layer of lenses (lenticules) on the surface of the print which only allows the viewing of one of the interlaced images. This creates prints that change based on where the viewer is standing.Artists use this effect to make images appear 3 dimensional, convey movement or change the colours in a print entirely.

Photography / C-Type

Photography prints use a different printing process. The result is a more analogue feel to the prints, due to the chemical process that prints are exposed to. They are preferred due to the glossy and metallic results achievable with certain paper types not available for Giclée. Note that silkscreens may be used to apply finishes such as diamond dust, varnishes or glazes to Photography prints, but are rarely used to print the image itself.


Linocuts are produced through ink flowing into a relief carved within a sheet of linoleum.

Mixed Media

Mixed media works are produced using a variety of mediums / methods. For example a print may be a Giclée print with a silkscreen varnish, along with spray painted and hand drawn elements. Some artists may use 3D objects to enhance an image. Glitter, plastic models, glass, spray paint, oils and more can all be utilised to create a unique hand finished artwork. Or an artist can create an original work with oilpaint collage and spray stencils.

Paper Types

The paper type is specified where available on our prints. The style or make of paper usually varies based on artist preference, with different paper types creating different end results due to the absorption of inks.It is important to wrap prints in tissue paper that is acid free to prevent the yellowing of the paper.We always describe paper used in the following format: “300gsm Somerset Tub” – “Weight, Make, Style”.


Weight refers to the paper weight, with many of the prints being produced on paper between 300 and 400gsm. This makes for an extremely thick, quality paper which absorbs inks much better than thinner papers and lasts much longer. GSM stands for Grams per Square Meter. Standard office printer paper is around 80gsm.


There are several makers of paper, with Somerset and Hahnemühle and Fabriano the most popular.


The last piece of information is the style, such as Satin, Cotton Rag, Satin, Smooth, Velvet etc. These all vary on the production process of the paper.


Prints may be finished with varnishes, glazes and other layers to give a piece a special finish. This can be to highlight certain areas of the print or to give the whole print a certain aesthetic. They can be applied by Hand or as a Silkscreen layer.

How to Store Your Art Work

Effective storage of your prints ensures protects your prints and lets you rotate and freshen up the art you display on your walls. The best way to store prints is either in a sleeve, or framed.

Sleeve Storage

Folders or Sleeves are a safe way to store prints long term, as they ensure flat, separated storage in an easy to manage form. Portfolio sleeves are relatively inexpensive, and can be purchased with firm separators to keep prints flat.

Once sleeved, ideally store in a large metal cabinet, as metal is cleaner won’t harbor any organic materials which may damage your print.

Things to be aware of:

  • Humidity – Keep in an area with good air flow and stable temperatures. Avoid basements or similar areas where excessive heat or mould can warp or discolour / eat the print
  • Light – UV Glass for framed items is highly recommended as it protects from discolouring and fading of colours. If storing long term, try to avoid direct sunlight
  • Heat – Like humidity, heat can cause prints to warp or go brittle if the air is too dry. Keep at a stable temperature and avoid placing artwork above radiators.
  • Acid – Make sure packaging and framing is all acid free

Framed Storage

Once work has been framed and cannot safely be removed from the frame, the best option for storage is to wrap in protective packaging such as bubble wrap, and tightly tape sealed shut.Top tips:

  • Avoid storing prints near / above radiators
  • Avoid storing prints in direct sunlight (use UV glass in frames where available)
  • Do not store in areas without airflow that may attract humidity.
  • Use acid free storage / tissue paper when wrapping
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