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Describing Litho, Which is Short for Lithograph

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The way to describe a lithograph, or litho for short, is to say that it is a replication or a type of copy of an original piece.  In essence, it is a type of printing technology.  In most cases, these types of prints are licensed by the representative of the artist or the artist themselves, which, in turn, makes them much more valuable.  They are also signed and dated.  In some cases, they are numbered, especially if they are part of a limited edition.  They will also include a certificate that authenticates it as a litho. 

This type of duplication has been done for quite some time.  In the past, it was done by etching a copy of the artwork into a material like slate or metal.  Next, the mold that had been made would be compressed into whatever material it was being transferred to, such as a canvas.  However, in the past, it most likely would have been paper, glass, or some type of wood.  The more modernized method has far evolved from those earlier days.  Now the pressure plate can be made from zinc or aluminum sheets.  Once they are altered with a chemical, the metal will retain the image.  Next, the paint is applied to the plate.  There is no longer a need for etching the artwork print into a mold. 

Litho inks are all oil based.  Whatever is left when the image is pressed will be taken away through a washing process with water.  It may take several different processes if there are multiple colors being transferred, before the print is complete. 

Many of the artists, from the past, were happy and honored to have reproductions made of their original pieces of work.  Other artists were not really a fan of allowing copies to be made.  It really came down to a personal choice with each artist.  This means that finding litho prints of one artist’s work may be more difficult than finding pieces created by some other artist. 

Many people prefer this type of replicating of a work of art to a copy or a print.  They tend to be much more valuable.  Many avid art collectors prefer them as well. 

There are other methods of reproducing a work of art, such as giclee, which uses a printer that has specially designed ink jets to reproduce copies.  Another method is through a hand stenciled replication process, such as silk screening.  Silk screening can often times be very expensive.  This is why many in the art world prefer the litho prints over other types of copies.

Perhaps one of the greatest distinctions of this type of copying is that it was once widely used by artists to create their works.  The artists could then select printers to reproduce the images.  Picasso was one of these artists that participated in this ground breaking thought process concerning artwork.  They used it primarily to promote themselves.  Later on, the prints became highly sought after and extremely valuable just because they were created first as a lithograph. 

 


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