The Art of Printmaking explained by our Specialists

Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Françoise, 14 June 1946
Black lithograph on Vellum
Signed and numbered "33/50
© Picasso Estate 2023
Sold €65,000 on 2 December 2020

On the occasion of their upcoming sales, the specialists of the Prints & Multiples department explain all the specificities of a print through several techniques used by the greatest artists.


“Print” is a generic term for an image produced using a support (wood, metal, stone, etc.) that has been engraved and inked beforehand and obtained on paper using a press. The printing of a print can be done in several copies called "proofs".


It includes several mentions, allowing to attest its authenticity and value:

The print
The “print run” is synonymous with “proof” or “copy”. The number of the print run out of the total number of copies is called the "print run justification". This is the number of artist's proofs, off-prints, additional prints on different papers, etc. The justification can be in Arabic numerals (9/20), for the classic print run, or in Roman numerals (IX/XX), for the proofs outside the edition.






Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Portrait of Michel Leiris,1977
Etching and aquatint in colours
Signed and justified "ea 10/20" (150 numbered prints)
Sold €14,432 on 24 May 2022

The signature
The artist affixes his signature in pencil on each of the proofs. This step allows him to control the print run and to eliminate any proofs that do not fully satisfy him. Furthermore, most prints bear a printed signature, i.e. one that is affixed by the artist to the composition (for example in the stone for a lithograph or in the copper for an engraving), although this does not necessarily exclude an original signature.


The value of a print depends on its condition, the number of copies printed, the artist rating, and his involvement in the printing process.


The different techniques leading to the print run can be grouped according to the material (wood, metal, stone, etc.) or the method of production (manual or chemical):






Pierre Soulages (1919-2022)
Pierre Soulages (1919-2022)
Eau-forte XX, 1972
Etching in colours
Signed and numbered “57/100”
Sold €59,040 on 24 November 2022

Printing from wood

Xylography (wood engraving): Wood engraving technique using different tools (penknife, chisel, chisel, gouge) which allows the material to be hollowed out. It consists of cutting a wooden plate in certain precise places in order to reveal a drawing on the support. The parts that will remain white when printed are hollowed out. The inked relief motif will be printed on the paper (Georg Baselitz, Paul Gauguin, Albrecht Dürer, Edvard Munch)


Linocut: An engraving technique in which the blanks or "reserves" are removed from the final result, the ink is applied to the parts that have not been removed, thus in relief, the paper pressed onto the plate retaining the imprint of the ink. It is done on a particular material, linoleum.



Joan Miro
Joan Miró (1893-1983)
The flux of the magnet, 1964
Album of 16 drypoints and aquatints in colours
Each signed with the monogram and numbered XII/XX
Edition of 75 copies
Sold €7,800 on 22 November 2022

Printing from metal (intaglio)
There are four techniques for such printing: the burin, the dry point, the etching, as well as the aquatint.


Burin: The oldest engraving technique. The engraver hollows out a copper plate with a burin. The plate is then inked and wiped. Under strong pressure, the wet paper moulds itself into the hollows and holds the ink there, giving a slight relief to the touch. The pressure exerted by the intaglio press leaves the trace of the "coup de planche" commonly called "cuvette". (Anna-Eva Bergman, Bernard Buffet)


Drypoint: Tool and term designating an engraving process that is most often used on copper. The principle consists of incising a matrix with a metal tool. The ink is deposited in the incisions engraved by the artist.


Etching: An engraving technique in which the image is etched onto a metal plate with the help of an acid. They differ, however, in the tools or etching varnish used. The plate is covered on both sides with protective varnish; the artist, using a sharp point or pencil, draws on the varnish exposing the copper at the point of his or her line. Once the drawing is finished, the artist dips the metal plate in an acid bath. After cleaning the varnish, the plate is inked and pressed. Line etchings are often accompanied by parts in aquatint.


Aquatint: This technique makes it possible to create flat areas of colour on the copper plate thanks to a graining with resin powder. It is this area covered with resin which, once melted, will retain the ink and allow the creation of different shades of colour depending on the time the acid bites into the plate. This technique can be recognized by the fine-grained aspect left by the resin.


Printing from stone (lithography) 
Lithography is a stone printing technique that allows the creation and reproduction of multiple copies of a line drawn in ink or pencil on a limestone. The process is based on the chemical principle of the repulsion of fat and water: during the printing process, the stone is constantly wet so that the drawn parts, which are fat, reject the water but accept the ink, which is itself fat, from the ink rollers.


Andy WARHOL (1928-1987)
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
The New Spirit (Donald Duck), 1985
Une des 10 planches de la série « Ads »
Sérigraphie en couleurs sur papier Lenox Museum Board
Signée et numérotée au crayon "56/190"
Vendu 49 400 €, le 2 décembre 2020

Printing from a silk screen (screen printing)
Screen printing is a printing process using a silk screen. The ink is applied directly to the textile through a screen (stencil). Originally, the screens were made of silk, but today they are made of polyester or finely woven nylon. The process requires the creation of a screen for each colour, and possibly another screen for the undercoat. This results in a final screen print with high colour density and colour saturation.


If you wish to include your works on paper and artists' multiples in our upcoming sales, our specialists are at your disposal for any free and confidential valuation.



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16th May 2023


Karine Castagna
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