The Hook’s Guide to Original and Limited Edition Artworks

The Hook’s Guide to Original and Limited Edition Artworks

With so many unique options to choose from, searching for artwork can be daunting. When you are looking for new art, it’s helpful to know the meaning of different terms associated with different pieces. A common, but sometimes confusing topic is the difference between original and limited edition artworks. Read on, where we break down the definitions. 

What is an original?

An original artwork is the first complete work which captures the artist’s idea, was created and finished by the artist themselves, or printed under their direct control or supervision. There is often, but not always, only one original. There could be more than one original if the artist created a series of prints, for example.

Examples of an original include:

  • A painting, drawing, illustration, sculpture or textile.
  • A handmade print like a silkscreen, linocut, woodcut, etching or lithograph, which would be considered original prints.
  • A photograph or edition of photographs taken by the artist, and either printed digitally or developed by hand by the artist.

What is a limited edition?

Limited editions are high quality prints of an original artwork, available in a fixed quantity, with the artist’s permission. They tend to be priced lower than an original, since they are a reproduction, but limited editions are still valuable in that there are only a limited number of them created. The extremely high print quality allows for excellent detail and colour saturation on surfaces like paper or canvas. The artist is almost always involved in the process and signs the editions as they would an original.

Editions printed using inkjet-style printers and pigment based inks are also known as ‘Giclée’, which originally comes from the French word ‘to spray.’ 

You can usually find the edition number on the bottom or back of the artwork, indicating its place within the full set. For example ‘3/25’, or ‘three of twenty five’ is the third printed edition within the set. 

Limited editions are a great way to begin collecting a particular artist, experimenting with new styles, or building your collection. Limited editions also benefit the artist, allowing their work to have further reach.

Can a digital print be an original artwork?

Traditionally, an original would have always been made by the hand of the artist, but like many aspects of modern life, technology has changed that. So what is considered an original when the artwork was created digitally?

This can depend on how the artist wants to display the artwork. This intention could be to display the artwork on a screen or print it on a canvas for example. If the digital artwork is printed exactly as the artist intends, then each print in that edition would be considered as an original work. 

If the artwork is then further reproduced, the subsequent artworks would be considered editions.

Key terms to know:

  • Original Artwork: An original artwork is the first complete work which captures the artist’s idea, was created and finished by the artist themselves. There is usually, but not always one original.
  • Reproduction: A reproduction refers to any subsequent copies of an original artwork
  • Edition: An edition is a number of reproductions taken from the same source (printing plate, negative, silkscreen, digital file, etc)
  • Limited Edition: A limited edition is a number of prints created in a fixed quantity. 
  • Open Edition: An open edition is a number of prints that is not limited to a specific quantity.
  • Series: Not to be confused with an edition, artworks in a series are all visually unique from one another, typically following a specific visual or conceptual theme.

Our advice?

Whether you fall in love with a coveted original or decide to try out a new style with a limited edition, the most important thing is that you have chosen artwork that you will enjoy every day.