Omar D'Leon

How to Differentiate Fine Art Prints from Original Artwork

How can you tell the difference between original artwork and prints? It can be tough if you don’t know what to look for. Fortunately, we’re here to help. Let’s review a few key traits you’ll need to look at when determining whether you’re looking at a fine art print or an original.

Art Surface

When you’re looking at paintings, you’ll see that they’re most often completed on surfaces like wood, canvas, panel, or paper. These surfaces will all have unique textures and patterns on them. In addition, paintings made with gauche or oil paint are rarely flat. Fine art prints, on the other hand, are typically made using stock paper or cardboard. While it’s possible for prints to be put on canvas and varnished so they appear painted, it’s crucial to look for clear varnish strokes.

Paint Texture

As we just reviewed, mediums like oil paints typically have a unique, raised texture that lifts them right off the canvas. But even flat mediums like watercolor have evidence of texture and brush strokes, particularly where the brush first touched the canvas. It’s also important to look for layering in your original paintings. Layers of paint overtop one another have a unique appearance and a distinctly raised texture. If those layers aren’t there, you’re likely looking at a fine art print. When you’re looking at fine art prints, you’ll notice that the entire surface is flat and smooth. In addition, you may be able to see what is called a “dot matrix” pattern if you look at a fine art print under a magnifying glass.

Back of the Work

More often than not, the back of a piece of art will tell you everything you need to know about whether or not it’s an original. In many cases, original pieces of art will have labels from art shows to indicate their authenticity. Many artists will also leave a signature on their work. Depending on the artist, you might find this on the front or back of the painting. When you’re looking at a print, on the other hand, there typically won’t be any of these indicators.

Knowing how to tell the difference between paintings and prints is important. Painting is the most popular medium (83% of artwork is painting) in most collections today. Whether you’re looking for fine art prints or original works from your favorite artists, now you’ll have some tools to help you tell the difference.