Editioning and Signing Fine Art Prints 101

As a printmaker it should come off as no surprise that you should be signing your prints. I know that signing and labeling a large edition can be daunting and at times a pretty boring task.

However, by signing the print you are reinforcing that this print is an original, and that each individual print is meeting the same quality standards as the rest of the edition. Knowing what to place down on a print can be confusing for the printmaker. Not all collectors will care about what you write on a print as long as it is signed. However there are marks that you should be doing on every single print.

  1. Sign your print. Traditionally this has been done with pencil.

  2. Write the print type or edition number on the bottom left, right under your image.

  3. If you title your pieces, write the title inside quotations - ‘Title’ - to the right of the edition number.

  4. Finally, sign your name, initials, or monogram on the bottom right corner from your image. You can include a date as well or simply the year.

That four step signing formula is what I prefer to use. It is easy to remember and most importantly easy for the collector to read. However, know that using this singing formula is not a rule set in stone, at the end of the day it is you print. Sign your prints the way it works for you!

Technical Marks

There may be occasions where a dealer or gallery may require you to provide a little more information than what you are used to. Or you may just wish to clearly distinguish between your artist proofs, varied editions, and works in progress. You know, for posterity sake.

The following list contains traditional marks used on prints. By no means is this list exhaustive or mandatory, it is very clear that these marks developed given the needs of artists and/or studios throughout the history.

A.P., P.A., E.A. – (Artist’s Proof, Prueba de Artista, Epreuve d’artist) - Print you keep from an edition that is not signed or numbered with the rest. Traditionally artists have been allowed by dealers to keep 10% of their prints as A.P.’s.

R.T.P., B.A.T. – (Ready To Print, Bon A Tirer) – Studios and artists typically reserved this description for the “perfect” print, the standard by which all other prints would be judged. These were not sold since they were mainly for the studio.

C.P. – (Cancellation Print) – Typically once an edition has been completed from a block, artists or studios would make a mark through the block so that no other prints would be made. A print pulled from this block would then prove that no one can continue to make prints of that block and would be labeled with C.P.

E.V., V.E. – (Edition Verite, Edition Varied, Variable Edition) – This description is given when you use the same block to print a varied edition. That edition would be on different papers, color of ink, and/or embellishments like hand water-colored prints. It’s not uncommon to see Roman numerals instead of Arabic numerals to number the edition.

G.P. – (Guide Proof) – This is very similar to the B.A.T, but this label is given to a print you pull while working with a master printmaker who is literally guiding you to achieve B.A.T.

H.C. – (Hours Commerce) – Another term typically used by a studio making prints destined for a gallery, dealer, or trade shows. Since they were display items it’s not uncommon for them to be unsigned as they were not meant to be sold.

H.M.P, H.P.M. or H.M.M. - (Hand Modified Print, Hand Painted Print or Hand Modified Multiple) This label is very similar to E.V. in that it denotes a hand embellishment, however it is more common on serigraphs aka silkscreen.

Imp. – This label is a bit more obscured, and I have only seen it at a museum. It is an abbreviation of the Latin “impressit”, and it is found after the signature of the artist indicating the artist was responsible for the printing.

M.P. or M.T. - (Monoprint or Monotype) – This label is reserved for Monoprints or Monotypes or any print process that produces a single unique impression.

P.P., P.I., E.I. - (Printer’s Proof, Prueba de Impresor or Epreuve d’imprimeur) - These are proofs the printmaker keeps, typically only one. If you worked with a master printmaker, they would keep one.

S.P. - (State Proof) This label is common on working proofs, sometimes you may complete an edition and decide to revisit the original block/plate. It is not uncommon to find this mark on etchings, where varied exposures to acid can create darker tones and other varying effects.

T.P. - (Trial Proof) Similar to S.P., this label denotes a print that is made while you are adjusting the final image. Think of them as preemptive proofs of your designs. These prints can be highly sought after, especially if they are from a well-known artist, since they give us a snapshot into the artist process revealing how it was made.

U.I. U.S. – (Unique Impression, Unique State) – You can use this label if you have a unique print with a feature you can’t reproduce again, like in monoprints or monotypes. You may also use this mark if you are not numbering an edition and the print is a 1/1.

W.P. – (Working Proof) – This label is reserved for any print that is still being worked on.

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