Print vs. Painting: What's Best For Your Home

These days, prints are created using advanced tools and high-quality techniques to replicate the original art. These prints capture the textures and strokes on the canvas so clearly that they appear incredibly lifelike. So, it becomes very difficult to distinguish between art prints and original paintings. Yet there is a subtle line, offering you the chance to detect the authenticity of the original piece.

If you are searching for another art piece for your home or investment purposes and wish to verify the authenticity of the artwork, then this article is for you. We are here to guide you through this journey. Let us take you through every difference and unique characteristic between print and painting, and we guarantee that it will help you make an informed decision about your artistic preferences.

Art Exhibition Photo

What is Art Print vs. Painting?

Art Prints

Prints are basically replicas or reproductions of original artwork. These prints are created by using various printing methods. Producing several copies of an original artwork is called Giclee Prints. It lacks the original oil or watercolor painting, paint colors, signature, and brushwork of an artist. Additionally, the colors they use are printer ink.

Nevertheless, some prints have qualities that capture the uniqueness and feel of original paintings. This can be done by stretching the canvas to add texture as a result of stretching. It not only makes them valuable, but it also appeals to art collectors.


On the flip side, paintings are one-of-a-kind works of art that are originally hand-made by an artist on Canvas, cloth, metal plate, wooden block, stone block, etc. Unlike print, where various copies can be created from a single matrix, paintings are generally exceptional pieces that are genuinely hand-made.

How To Identify Print vs Painting

Let’s come to the main point now. Here are some nitty-gritty details to differentiate between original artwork and prints.

Check The Brushstroke In Light

Both the Giclee and original paintings have brushstrokes on them. They both have a texture that makes them feel like original art. The only way you can distinguish the original is by positioning the canvas facing the light. Prints have a uniform texture, with all brushstrokes and texture moving in the same direction. In contrast, original paintings show misaligned, random brushstrokes. The texture varies in inconsistent ways as artists create it.

Brushstroke of print vs painting

Check The Edges

In prints, whether made by hand or by printers, the edges of the canvas will be even, forming a straight line. In other words, you will observe aligned marks from ink application or a slight seepage of ink spreading. In contrast, when an artist creates a painting, they do so freely, which may result in the canvas edges not being perfectly in line.

Edges of print vs painting

Marks Of Pencil 

In the original artwork, some of the pencil work can still be seen easily, mostly at the edges of the painting, because usually the artist draws the painting with a pencil before creating it. It indicates that the painting is original. On prints, there will be no market for pencils or drawings.

Certificate Of Originality

If the painting is original, you will receive a certificate of its authenticity, either provided by the gallery or the artist upon request. Additionally, further information about the painting, such as the date of creation, edition number, and artist's name, can often be found on the back of the canvas.

Certificate of originality

Artist Signature

When an artist creates an original piece, they typically sign it. On an original painting, the signature is manually done by the artist. In the case of prints, these signatures are reproduced on the canvas during the printing process. Additionally, artists may sign prints, but this is usually done when they are selling copies of their original paintings. For instance, Miguel Camarena signs his prints on canvas, which increases the value of the print.

Artist signature

Paper Indentation

Suppose a watercolor painting has indented paper where the paint was applied. In that case, it means that the paper surface has absorbed the watercolor, causing a slight indentation or texture in the areas where the paint has been added. This effect is a characteristic of watercolor paintings.

In simpler terms, when the watercolor pigment is applied to paper, the paper fibers absorb the paint. It creates variations in texture and potentially leaves a slightly raised or indented surface, depending on the amount of water used and the paper's absorbency.

On the other side, the print’s paper should have clean, flat surfaces with no indentation. Examining such details can provide you with good insights when judging the originality of the watercolor painting.

Paper Indentation

Use A Magnifying Glass

Some printing techniques leave small dotted patterns on the canvas. You can observe these patterns by using a magnifying glass. If the dots are visible, you can be sure that it is a print. Finding those dots on an original painting is unlikely.

Types Of Art Prints

There are various types of art prints available on the market. Therefore, it is important to understand each type when thinking about buying art.

Giclee Prints

These are high-quality archival Giclee prints made using expensive printers. They can reproduce artwork on paper or canvas. You can check out captivating prints here.

Giclee Prints

Relief or Woodcut Printing

This technique dates back to the 15th century and is considered one of the oldest techniques in printmaking. It involves breaking down a design into a block of wood or linoleum, then inking the raised surface before pressing it onto paper. When inked portions shift onto the paper, the cut areas remain white or uncolored.

Relief or Woodcut Printing

Intaglio or Etching Printing

In this technique, acid or sharp tools are used to print a design onto a metal plate. The plate is then inked and sponged clean, leaving ink only in the scratched lines. The plate is put on a printing press with moistened paper on top and pressed under high pressure to transmit the ink onto the paper.

Intaglio or Etching Printing


Alois Senefelder invented lithography in 1796. The image is painted on metal plates or limestone by using an oil-based medium like crayon or grease pencil, which refers to lithography. The stone is then handled with chemicals that make it waterproof, except for where it was drawn.


Screen Printing (Serigraphs)

Ink is pressed through a fine mesh screen onto the printing surface. Every color needs a separate screen. It is a popular printing method that can produce large amounts of printed items at a low cost.

Screen Printing (Serigraphs)

Are Art Prints Worth Investment?

Art prints become valuable and worth buying when the quality of the artwork is good and it is signed by renowned artists. The value of prints is frequently established in the production process and the artist’s participation in the formation of the print.

Art prints are a great investment. They generally have a higher long-lasting value than non-tangible or invisible assets. You can remain secure in difficult times as the art market maintains economic uncertainty. This way, anytime, you can sell your art prints for profit.

Are Art Prints Worth Investment

How To Tell A Print From A Lithograph

At some point in your life, if you come across lithograph prints and want to determine their authenticity, you can check these points to verify whether they are genuine lithograph prints.

  • Check for the artist's signature.
  • Lithographs usually have high print quality with sharp and detailed images.
  • Lithographs use multiple-color plates. Look for clear color separation and distinct layers of ink. Each color requires a separate plate in the lithographic process.
  • Lithographs are usually printed on high-quality paper. You can check for the texture, weight, and feel of the paper.
  • Lithographs have sometimes had plate marks (raised areas) around the image. This can be a clue for identification.
  • If the prints are claimed to be traditional stoned lithographs, then look for the stone grains in the print.
  • Through a magnifying glass, you can look for the tiny dots or fine lines in the print.

Where To Find Affordable Art Prints

After looking for the above parameters, you can catch the original art and prints. However, it is always recommended to buy prints from the artist himself. Miguel Camarena is an Arizonian artist who offers prints of his original paintings. These prints are not only of high quality but also signed by the artist.

Where To Find Affordable Art Prints

Check Miguel’s Collection


In summary, selecting between a print and a painting is a personal preference for your home. Prints are produced via modern technology. They are replicas of original paintings and offer accessibility and collectibility to every art lover. Paintings are unique artworks and are usually produced once. To identify the difference between them, look for signatures, brushstroke patterns, edges, pencil marks, and certificates of originality.

Frequently Asked Question

Are Prints Considered Original Art?

No, they are not; both are different types of art. No, prints are not original art; instead, they are reproductions of an original piece. The main difference is that originals are handmade and signed by an artist, whereas prints are made using printing techniques and are typically more affordable than the original art piece.

How Can You Tell If It's Print or Watercolor?

To check the difference between a print and a watercolor artwork, you can look for particular features: Paper Quality and Texture: Original watercolors are commonly painted on textured, high-quality watercolor paper. Moreover, prints are printed on smoother, flatter paper.

Why Are Art Prints So Expensive?

Art prints are expensive because of the advanced techniques, texture detailing, cost of materials, high-quality paper, frames, and inks. Additionally, some art prints are created using special techniques like giclée printing, which can add to the price as well.

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