The history of art prints

Printing technology and in particular art prints have a long history. Nowadays the term “art print” is mainly used for the reproduction of works of art with modern printing methods. The prices for art prints vary as much as for works of art.

Depending on the print run, the fame of the artist, the technique, brilliance, quality and material, age, size and motif, prices are demanded and offered at any level.

Block printing

Block printing, also known as wood plate printing, was a common technique in China and Southeast Asia as early as the seventh or eighth century A.D., in which both drawings and texts were cut into the same wooden printing form. Thousands of prints of the Dharani Prayers still exist today, packed in wooden pagoda models. In Europe, these possibilities were only demonstrably used many centuries later. Wooden stamps and entire block books were produced here from about the twelfth century onwards. In China there are also old printing stamps made of ceramics.


Johannes Gutenberg is said to have invented the modern printing press. He produced movable letters made of metal and revolutionised communication at the time, which was reflected above all in political upheavals, but also put the education system on a new footing. Stone artwork was also used to produce printed matter, which has now been replaced by offset printing. This technique continues to be used artistically.

Linoleum printing

Linoleum has existed since the end of the 19th century. This material is ideal for art prints. Even multi-colouring is achieved by combining either different plates for the different colours or continuous trimming with certain printing processes. Artists usually produce six or twelve prints, which are then also numbered, and print I/VI then also has the greatest value.

The modern art print

For the reproduction of paintings and also for the production of banknotes or passports all available technical possibilities are exhausted. Above all, the colours purple, gold and silver cannot be achieved with standard printing processes in the original tone. Thus, instead of four-colour printing (CMYK), eight- or even twelve-colour printing is used. The best and most brilliant results in terms of colour are achieved by means of very elaborate and rarely used chromolithography (colour stone impression) and light printing, which is hardly used today.

Today, digital printing and offset printing are commonly used for commercial art prints. It is likely that 3D printers will now gain their place in the production of art prints. These art prints will then be printed on high-quality textured paper or canvas, and also offered ready to use with frames.

Modern art prints can be used to embellish living spaces, but also offices, museums or workshops. Specialised suppliers also offer art prints as individual and personalised products. Thus such art prints are suitable also outstanding as gift. The printing technique up to the modern art prints has developed strongly over the past centuries. It all began in China with simple wooden panels.