A lithograph is an authorized copy of an original work usually created by the artist himself. A lithograph’s print quality may be  excellent and the production numbers are usually low, therefore it may have significant value in the art world.

In order to create a lithograph the artist uses a set of greasy crayons or pencils to draw a mirrored image of the original artwork onto a smooth-stone tablet. This is a very time-consuming part of the lithograph process.

After the image is recreated to the satisfaction of the original artist or other authority, it is ready to be turned into a lithograph. The lithographic process hinges on the principle that oil and water may not mix.

An oil-based variety of ink is applied directly to the plate and immediately bonds with the equally greasy crayon lines. Water is then wiped onto the remaining unpainted areas to discourage the ink from smearing. A sheet of paper, preferably one with a high cotton content, is then placed over the entire plate.

The inked stone or metal plate and the paper are placed in a press and light pressure is used to transfer some of the ink. If the original image were a monochrome pen and ink drawing, this would be the only press run necessary. A color lithograph of an elaborate Van Gogh painting, however, might require several different runs with up to four different color inks — black, red, yellow and blue. The same paper would be placed precisely over the re-inked plates, eventually creating a satisfactory lithograph copy. This same process is used to create color pages in newspapers.

Printing runs are often kept low to preserve value. A signed lithograph from Smart Studio will have a set of numbers expressed as a fraction on one corner, such as 12/300 near the signature of either Wini Smart or Gail Cleveland. This means that the lithograph was the 12th  produced in a series limited to only three hundred prints.

There are other ways of duplicating original artwork for the commercial market, for example learn about the Giclée and how its made.

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