Prints & Multiples Guide

Prints & Multiples Guide

The mediums and need to know terms of this exciting category of art.

Our Head of Prints and Multiples, Elizabeth Wormald, takes us on a journey through the world of editions and offers a brief guide to the mediums and need to know terms. 


What are Prints and Multiples?

BANKSY (BRITISH B.1974) Wall Sculpture (Girl with Balloons)



Prints and multiples are works of art produced in an edition of more than one. Typically these works are made using mechanical techniques to transfer an original design into multiple impressions. Prints are based in an image transfer, whereas Multiples encompass a variety of techniques from bronze sculpture through to printed skateboards and limited edition textile.It is important to note the difference between reproductions and original works. A reproduction is a copy of an existing piece whilst an original Print or Multiple is a unique work, designed only to be produced as a limited edition. From Durer, to Picasso and Banksy, editioned works are produced by the most influential artists. These mediums are often of huge importance in an artist’s creative output, and for some can make up a large proportion of their body of work.


Wall Sculpture (Girl with Balloons)





Types of Prints

Broadly we can split prints into four areas, Intaglio, Relief, Planographic and Digital.


PABLO PICASSO (SPANISH 1881-1973) Le Repos du Sculpteur IV (Bloch 174)



The Intaglio family of printing is where an image is incised into a surface or matrix. The most common types of Intaglio are engraving and etching where the lines of an image are cut into a metal or ground plate using a tool or acid, ink is then applied to the recessed lines, and when pressed under high pressure, the inked lines are transferred to the sheet.



Le Repos du Sculpteur IV (Bloch 174)


ALBRECHT ALTDORFER (REGENSBURG 1480-1538) Fall and Redemption, c. 1515


 Relief printing is where the image is cut out from a block or matrix- usually wood or linoleum. The image projects from the base plate and when inked, the recessed areas are left blank. The block can then be pressed to paper leaving an impression of the raised portion.


Fall and Redemption, c. 1515



JOAN MIRO (SPANISH 1893-1983) Les Voyants (Maeght 661)



The Planographic branch of printing is where an image is reproduced from a flat surface and encompasses lithography, screenprinting, and pochoir.

Lithography is based on the repelling qualities of oil and water. An artist draws an images onto a printing plate with an oil-based crayon which attracts the oily printing ink. The remaining plate is treated with an acid which makes the unmarked areas hydrophilic. When paper is pressed against the plate the oil based image is transferred. Lithography creates works with fluid motion that feel close to the artists painterly works.



Les Voyants (Maeght 661)






Screenprinting and Pochoir are both types of stencilling. In screenprinting a screen is made from stretching a fabric, and blocking out areas with stencils, ink is then pushed through the fine fabric leaving the open areas coloured and blocked areas blank. Screenprinting creates strong vivid colours and shapes and was championed by Andy Warhol. Pochoir is a simple form of reproduction where ink is applied to precut stencils. In both cases the images are built up through colour and layering.






DAMIEN HIRST (BRITISH B.1965) Fruitful (Large) [H8-21]




Digital printing is the newest addition to the field and is increasingly being used by living artists. This includes giclée prints and archival inkjet prints both of which use high quality printers to spray ink on paper, based on a digitized image of the artist’s work.




Fruitful (Large) [H8-21]






Signed and Numbered.Most Prints and Editions offered in our sales are hand signed by the artist. However not all works are produced with a signature, some  may be ‘signed in the plate’ where the artist signed on the original matrix, others may be stamp signed- often seen by Picasso and Warhol. Hand signatures are more sought after and generally command a higher price. 


The Cart




Edition sizes can vary greatly, with the limited number of works ranging from small runs of 10 through to large editions of 1000. The size of an edition is typically denoted as a fraction (1/300), or it may have an inscription to indicate it is a proof. Whether you have the first or last number of the edition the value is the same. As a rule of thumb value increases with smaller editions, as the print will be rarer and harder to acquire. 





Technical terms


AP- Artist’s Proof- examples set aside for the artist to keep or gift- this can also be numbered (AP 1/5) 

PP- Printer’s Proof- examples set aside for the printer or publisher 

TP- Trial Proof- examples used to try out different techniques or colours (CTP- colour trial proof). This

may vary from the numbered edition and offer insight into the works development 

HC- Hors Commerce (outside the trade)- similar to an artist’s or printer’s proof these examples are pulled aside from the numbered edition for internal reference. 

BAT- Bon à tirer (good to pull)- the final proof after development and experimentation- typically used by the printed to ensure the numbered edition matches the artist specifications 

Open edition- an unlimited run- an artist may create a design they wish to continually publish whether signed or unsigned. 

Wove paper- has a flat uniform surface and is the most common type of modern paper. It is called wove because the wires used to mould the paper are tightly woven.

Laid paper - has fine ridges or cells to the surface- this is most commonly seen in 19th century and earlier papers. The moulds for this paper use wider vertical and horizontal spacing which leaves a pattern on the paper

Japan/Hand Made paper- is made using long fibre filaments and has a varied texture and opacity




Prints can be an excellent way to start or develop a collection. Here at Chiswick Auctions the Prints and Multiples department focuses on the best of 20th and 21st Century art, offering works by blue chip artists from Barbara Hepworth, Joan Miro, and Andy Warhol to Tracey Emin, and Takashi Murakami.

The nature of a work produced in an edition of more than one, means that they are often more accessibly priced. You may be surprised to find that a hand signed and numbered original print of an iconic subject by a world renowned artist can be purchased in the three or four-figure bracket.

Prints and Multiples are sold three times a year at Chiswick Auctions, in Spring, Summer and Autumn. Elizabeth is always happy to discuss the finer points of the mediums, and is available to examine condition, history and value of works. Please contact the department for a free valuation or guidance on your collection.