Print of farm scene

by Dr. Lori Verderame

Prints and posters are widely collected on the vintage and antiques markets. Many people don’t know how to tell the difference between the two paper based images. The way to tell the difference between a print and a poster is to assess the two main aspects of a print or a poster. When evaluating a print and a poster, look for elements that are specific to the paper and the printing process.

The quality of the paper and the pull of the image–which is the term for how well the printed image has been accepted by the paper–both work to enhance the quality and the value of the print. These factors may also help to indicate the age of the print. The process of the print (i.e., planographic, intaglio, or stencil) will inform you about the print itself and give you information about how the print was originally made.

Intaglio prints will be made with the aid of a metal plate. These intaglio prints usually leave an indentation in the paper itself which helps novices identify such a print. For instance, in the lithographs of American artist, John Sloan, this tell tale indentation mark for an intaglio print is visible around the printed image itself.

Silkscreens, also called serigraphs, are stencil prints. They are called silkscreens because the stencil process is completed with the aid of a screen. Color is forced through the stencil in layers on the paper.

How to Identify a Print or Poster

Serigraphs or silkscreens will be easily identifiable by spotting a layering of colors on top of each other. Each color in a silkscreen is applied one by one over a screen. Sometimes the colors overlap–called registration–showing the typical traits of a silkscreen.

Posters are typically printed using a color separation process where small dots of color are visible under magnification or with the use of a magnifying glass. Poster paper is typically thinner when compared to the paper used to host a print like a lithograph, serigraph, etc.

Posters sometimes have a shiny surface whereas lithographs and serigraphs usually have a matte finish.

Get an online appraisal of your print or poster from Dr. Lori.