One of the first things you learn as an artist is labeling and signing artworks. It helps record your work and provide ownership.
To elaborate on the matter, artistic expression requires a lot of imagination, creativity, and hard work. That is why labeling prints is such a crucial task. Without it, anyone can freely reproduce your art without properly acknowledging or crediting you or your work.
But if you have just started on your artistic journey, it might be a little challenging to label artworks. It doesn’t matter if you have the best printers for art prints, you have to learn know how to manually label prints in your printmaking work. This is why we have prepared this guide to help you adequately manage or do printmaking and if you are just starting, even learn how and where to make poster prints.
So, without further delays, let’s get straight to it.
The Importance Of Labeling Prints
To know why labeling is crucial, it is first important to know what prints are. Art prints are a reproduction of an original artwork that an artist makes. Printmakers usually make these prints by various means, ranging from conventional printmaking processes to digital reproduction.
Digital printmaking is usually the norm for digital artworks, photographs, or scanned artworks. In contrast, conventional prints are used for fine art prints that the artist makes on paper, canvas, or other art mediums.
Regardless of the method used for producing a print, it is necessary to sign and label them appropriately. The sign is usually the signature of the artist or printmaker, which provides the artist proof of ownership.
Similarly, the art label is an indicator of uniqueness for the art print. The labeling is done in numerical values, indicating the number of prints that exist for the particular artwork.
Therefore, a labeled fine art print helps the printmaker track how many prints actually exist. This allows them to prevent counterfeiting and illegal print duplication by third parties. It also provides authenticity to the print, eventually enhancing its value in the art market so that it can be sold to art collectors or other interested entities.
How To Label Fine Art Prints
Now that you know what the importance of labeling prints is, it is time to understand how you can actually label them. A print label should include the sign and numbering, and if you wish, you can also include the date and the artwork title.
Typically, a limited edition print label should include the printmaker signs at the bottom right corner of the print paper. Conversely, the numbering should be kept at the bottom left of the print paper. The date can be put below the signature and the title can be centrally placed in between the sign and numbering.
But if you have a full-page print, then you may not have any space for labeling on the front. So, the label should be provided on the back in such a case. And always use a sharp pencil to label your prints as ink labels are relatively easier to reproduce. So, you should use them to avoid fraudulent reproduction.
There is a standardized format for the numbering process, where two numbers are separated by a slash, similar to a mathematical fraction. The number on the right or below the slash indicates the edition size or the number of prints that exist for that artwork. Similarly, the number on the left or above the slash indicates the edition number that has been assigned to the particular print.
For instance, if you have 50 editioned prints, the numbering would progress as 1/50, 2/50, and so on, up to 50/50. You can also use roman numerals to mark edition numbers if needed.
However, such a numbering format is applicable only for limited edition prints. For open edition prints, which are not produced in a limited number, numbering is not necessary. But desired, only one number is sufficient, denoting the number of the print. For example, the tenth open edition print will be numbered simply as 10 on the bottom left corner or the back.
In this regard, the numbering should only be done after completing the print edition after printing all the copies and disposing of the irregular prints. This makes the process of signing and numbering the prints relatively easier.
Types Of Notations
Besides just numbering prints, artists or printmakers may use different types of notations to label their prints. These notations usually exist to differentiate a particular print from the numbered edition prints uniquely. Some of the most common ones are described below.
1. A/P (Artist’s Proof)
A/P is a label that indicates a single print or set of prints that the artist keeps with themselves. It is also abbreviated as E.A. (Epreuve d’artiste) in French or P.A. (Prueba de Artista) in Spanish. The prints labeled with it are kept by the artist mostly for personal use. At most 10% of the total prints in the edition can have this label.
2. P/P (Printmaker’s Proof)
Labeled as E.I. (Epreuve d’imprimeur) in French or P.I. (Prueba de Impresor) in Spanish, it denotes the prints kept by the printmaker. Only one print from the edition is marked with this label.
3. R.T.P (Ready To Print)
The first print in an edition is labeled with the R.T.P. mark. In many cases, the printmaker may also use the French notation B.A.T. (Bon a Tirer, which means good to pull).
Any print labeled with it usually serves as the quality benchmark for the rest of the prints in the edition. So, it is generally kept by the printmaker and, therefore, serves as the printer’s proof as well.
4. T/P (Trial Proof)
The prints labeled T/P are usually unfinished prints that the printmaker produces as drafts of the final print. They signify the process of adjustment and development of the artwork or image. And therefore, they hold a considerable value in the art market, especially among collectors and art enthusiasts.
5. S/P (State Proof)
In many cases, artists may make further modifications to the artwork or printing block after printing an edition. These editions will bear the S/P marking denoting the working proof of a print from a previous modification or “state.” The states may be indicated with roman numerals, and a state modification may be undertaken either immediately or after some time.
It is different from T/P since the prints marked S/P are not draft prints. Instead, they are altered final versions of the same artwork or image.
6. C/P (Cancellation Print)
Prints labeled with C/P are usually made after the artist or printmaker has defaced or destroyed the original artwork or printing block. This is to ensure that no more editions of the artwork can be printed.
7. V/E (Variable Edition), U/P (Unique Print), or U/S (Unique State)
All of the above labels – V/E, U/S, and U/P signify the same thing. They denote that the print has some unique or distinguishing feature, which cannot be reproduced anymore. As a result, these are generally numbered 1/1, depicting their uniqueness.
8. M.T. (Monotype) or M.P (Monoprint)
Similar to the above, the M.T. or M.P. label signifies that there is only one unique print in existence. It is used for serigraph prints, where the artist intends to make only one print.
9. H.M.P (Hand Modified Print)
Another common feature for serigraph prints, the H.M.P. label, signifies that the artist has added certain modifications to the editioned print by hand. Therefore, it can be labeled as H.P.P. (hand-painted print) or H.M.M. (hand modified multiple) as well.
10. E.V. (Edition Varied)
The E.V label is used when different editions of the same image or artwork are printed on different paper or mediums. It is also used for editions that have a different ink color. In this context, the different editions may be indicated with a Roman numeral, similar to the S/P label.
11. H/C (Hors Commerce)
A French phrase that means “out of trade,” the H/C label is used for prints that are not for sale. However, they can be used for other commercial purposes, such as promotions or display in exhibitions. Typically, the artist or printmaker does not need to sign this print.
12. Imp. (Impressit)
This label is used by artists who print their own work instead of printing it through a printmaker. The sign, which is a Latin word that means “printed,” is put after the artist’s signature.
How To Label Prints Frequently Asked Questions?
For a budding artist or inexperienced printmaker, it is always natural to have questions. Even seasoned printmakers and artists have questions from time to time. That is why we have sought to answer some of the most commonly asked questions that many people have regarding labeling prints. Keep reading to see if we have been able to answer any of your queries.
Is it always necessary to label fine art prints?
While you can skip labeling your prints, it is generally not recommended, as this can lead to unauthorized duplication and reproduction of your work. So, if you label your prints, you can maintain the originality and authenticity of your fine art. Besides, it is even more crucial for limited edition prints since they have greater value due to their limited availability.
How can you label digital art and images?
For digital art and images, you can digitally sign your artwork using digital fonts or scanned signatures. You can include them as watermarks or as text on the back of the printed image.
Do you need to number open edition prints?
In the case of open edition prints, you should consider putting a sign and title. However, the numbering is unnecessary if you plan to make numerous prints, especially for selling to a third party. But if you plan to make only a few prints, then it’s best to number them.
Are limited edition prints good?
A limited-edition print usually implies that it will be available in a limited number. So, that naturally makes it precious in the art markets, since there will be no more prints after the edition is complete.
When should you number your prints?
Contrary to popular belief, prints are not numbered according to the order in which they were printed. However, that does not imply that you should randomly assign an edition number to your prints. Begin numbering your print editions once you have printed all of them and disposed of any irregular prints.
Is it legal to sell artwork prints?
If you are the creator of the artwork or image, then you can sell the prints without any legal issues. But if you have sold the rights to the artwork to a printmaker, then you forfeit the rights to print your artwork yourself. In such a case, printing and selling your art without permission from the printer can be deemed illegal, even if you are the creator.
Conversely, if you are neither the artist nor the printmaker, then you should check if the art is available in the public domain before selling. If you sell copyrighted prints, then legal action can be taken against you.
How To Label Prints Final Words
And that was all that we had to say about labeling prints in printmaking. We’ve strived to provide you with a concise guideline on how to label prints so that you can get started with making your print editions.
The guide also describes some of the most common labels that are used in printmaking. Now, this is not the most exhaustive list of all the different labels used in printmaking.
There are other labels and marks that printmakers and artists use. However, those are not that common, and the ones we have listed should be enough to see you through most printmaking tasks you may have.
With that, we have arrived at the end of this brief but informative guide. And we hope that you will find it helpful enough to assist in labeling your prints.
Take care until we meet again!