Differences Between Serigraphs & Lithographs

By Themina Kader
Lithographs capture the finer details of an image better than serigraphs.

Serigraphs and lithographs fall under the broad category of prints and have several different characteristics. In America, serigraphy was originally associated with the production of utilitarian objects such as banners and flags during the First World War. Since then, it has evolved into a viable art form, with endorsements from none other than Andy Warhol. In 1798, when Alois Senefelder invented lithography, its uses were primarily commercial. It was not until the mid-19th century that lithographs gained acceptance as fine art at par with painting and drawing.

Supplies

In serigraphy, also known as screen printing or silkscreen, the basic tools are a screen made by stretching a fine mesh fabric taut over a frame, a squeegee and water based inks. Lithography, on the other hand, requires a printing press, a stone or a plate, liquid grease to block out nonprinting areas, lithographic crayons for drawing the design and rollers to apply the oil based inks.

Procedures

The lithographer draws an image with a special greasy crayon on a dampened stone or an aluminum plate before using a roller to apply ink on it. The wet stone repels the greasy ink but sticks to the image. When printed, a lithograph is a mirror image of the original. In a serigraph, a stencil blocks out the negative spaces of a design leaving the actual image visible. So a serigraph is a design printed as is from the silk screen to the paper. Color separation is an essential process for printing multicolor serigraphs and lithographs.

Identifying a Print

The main difference between a serigraph and a lithograph is evident in the finished print. The details that are characteristic of the painterly qualities of a lithograph are missing from the clear and exact outlines of shapes, devoid of tints and shades of a color, in a serigraph. Lithographic paper has a heavier grain than the smoother texture of a construction paper typically used for serigraphs.

Digital Prints

The most advanced technology cannot eliminate the perception among potential buyers that an artist did not use a stone to create a lithograph or a screen to make a serigraph. Therefore, as long as the authenticity of the final print remains in question, the market value of both the digitized prints is slightly reduced when compared to their traditional counterparts. More positively, though, digitization of serigraphs and lithographs has solved the problem of size making it possible to copy originals to any required dimension.

About the Author

Themina Kader has been writing about art and material culture since 1996. Her articles have been published in educational journals such as "Studies in Art Education," "Art Education Journal" and the "Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education." Kader holds a Ph.D. in art education/cultural anthropology from Penn State University.