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The Difference Between Print and Lithograph

Printmaking has several techniques.
old printing image by Alexander Ivanov from Fotolia.com

Printmaking started in eighth century China and it's one of the oldest and most technical ways to create art. At the end of a printmaking session, you will end up with many variations of a printed image; litography is simply one of the many techniques that allows an artist to create prints.

Forms Of Printmaking

There are four major types of printmaking techniques: relief, intaglio, lithography and serigraphy. All of these methods produce a print, but each form will produce a different image in the end. Lithography is the one technique that will let you create a long series of prints with no loss of quality of the original image.

Print Definition

A “print” is used as the generic term for any type of copy or impression of an image, including existing works of art. Prints are the end result of all the forms of printmaking and each one will give you a very distinct image. The look of a print will depend largely on the preparation of the medium, the materials used and the skill of the artist.


The lithography process starts by coating the surface of a block limestone, or a metal plate, with chemicals. An artist then draws an image onto the surface with a greasy crayon that will hold ink in place. The plate is then covered with damp paper before it’s passed through a printing press, and the paper will then retain whatever was drawn by the crayon.

Creating A Print

Print creation involves the transfer ink from one surface onto another; how this transfer is achieved is where a process such as litography comes in. A print is born on a master plate, or a “matrix”; litography usually uses a metallic plate. This is the surface that holds both the image and the ink, which will be transferred onto another surface to create a print.

Print Editions

Even with a high quality printing method like lithography, an artist will end up with variations on the prints called “editions.” These prints are individually numbered in relation to the total number of editions for one printing session. For example, 50 printed editions of a flower image would be numbered as 1/50.

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