How to tell if a painting is original or print – Art Buying Guide

Are you passionate about learning how to distinguish between an original painting and a print? If yes! stay tuned because you are going to get answers to all your questions.

A print can cost some dollars but an original painting can cost you a fortune. What if you mistakenly purchased a print for the price of a painting, give some time to this 5-minute read because it will be a good investment for you.

Today, ancient paintings are so valuable because rich people love to display them in their homes. Originality is everything in these paintings. What if you don’t have a budget to purchase an original painting, well print can be your second option. There are many fake artworks in the market that are being sold as originals. Let’s reveal the truth!

There are several ways to tell if the painting is original or printed such as the differences in the brushstrokes, texture, original signature, canvas & paper, and edition number. The purpose of a print is just to show up the art and this print is not as rich as the original paintings.

Table of Contents

Methods to differentiate between an original painting and an art print

How to tell if a painting is original or print - original painting of starry night
Original painting”Starry Night” by Van Gogh | Credit: flickr | Under CC BY-ND 2.0

In appearance, art prints and original paintings are very similar but in price and quality, there is a huge difference. To make sure you find original artwork, here are some things you should know:

1. Difference Between Brushstrokes

Brush strokes create a visible difference between an original painting and a print but to see them you have to look closely and carefully. They cannot be visible if they are made by any digital painting method. You can even feel these strokes with your fingers in original paintings. This method cannot tell the difference between those art prints that are made by hand.

2. Checking Signature

A signature is a valuable part of a painting because it tells the sighter about the authenticity of the painting. Art prints are not allowed to have signatures on them because they are copies. Original painting always contains a signature.

3. Colour Difference

A painting is rich in colours, especially an oil painting. It reflects the quality of the paints that are used to create the painting. Whether it is an oil painting or an acrylic painting, original art always has more vibrant and real-looking colours.

4. Difference in edges

Original paintings always have irregular edges because they are painted on a surface such as a canvas. However, a print does not have any unevenness on the edges.

5. Check the back of the painting

The backside of a painting contains information that can help you to determine if the painting is original or a reproduction. In case, if the painting is a reproduction, the backside should be signed by the artists and there will be a clear indication that it is a print.

6. Surface difference

Good quality canvas or surface is being used to create masterpieces. However, a print does not contain a good-quality surface.

Things that can be used to know if a painting is original or not

There are various things that can help to know if a painting is original or print. Most of them are mentioned below:

  • History of ownership
  • Magnifying glass
  • Materials that are being used
  • Expert opinion
  • Signature

What are Art Prints?

Art prints are copies of original artworks that are made by using digital painting or screen printing methods. There are some industries that create art prints such as Printify Art Prints or Sellfy Art Prints and sell them at reasonable prices as alternatives to original artworks.

How to check if a painting is original or print - Starry Night art print
Starry Night Art Print | Credit: | Under CC BY-SA 4.0

This is important to know that an art print can also be created on a variety of materials such as canvas, wooden boards, and paper. But most of the art prints are made on some popular paintings that are too costly for the collector to buy in the original form. The main purpose of these art prints is to display them in the living room or office and make the place look good.

Making art prints is also very profitable work but there is a need for high skills and experience. An artist who creates art prints cannot get the same popularity as the artists of original paintings.

What is an Original Painting?

An original painting is just a fresh, unseen, handmade, unique piece of art that reflects the hard work and popularity of the artist. You must have seen many original paintings on the internet or in galleries. These are historical paintings and their value of these paintings has also increased over time because they cannot be created again.

Original painting of Mona Lisa - How to tell if a painting is original or print
“Mona Lisa” Original Painting | Credit: Rawpixel

An original painting has been created by using traditional techniques and materials such as canvas, paint, and brushes. However, the copy of this original painting is known as a print or art print.

Want to know about oil painting? Read: Guide for oil painting

Are art prints valuable?

Yes, art prints can be valuable if they contain a rarity of edition and demand for that particular artwork. However, their worth is little compared to original works. An Ai machine cannot take the place of a human, somehow, an art print cannot be more worthy than an original work.

The most important factor that determined the value of a print is time because it does not remain the same. The edition that is famous today will go to be the least valuable tomorrow when most of the art collectors have already owned them. Original paintings are more valuable because they don’t go worthless as time pass.

Most valuable art prints till 2023

AuthorNameSold DateSold Price ($)
Andy WarholCampbell’s Soup I2010$11.8 million
Marc ChagallLe Jardin de la Villa Borghese2014$338,500
Raymond PeynetLes Amoureux de Peynet2013$32,000
Bert SternMarilyn Monroe (Marilyn)2017$43,750
Table of the list of valuable art prints till 2023


Why do art prints have a border?

Art print having a border provides a sense of balance between the artwork and the space. Such art prints that have a border are relatively easy to frame and some artists just left some space as it is their own way to leave a signature on their art.

What are art prints called?

Art prints are known as art reproductions but depending upon the maker, we use two wordings. If it is being made by only one artist then we say it is “original print” but if many artists make it then we will call it an “interpretation print”.

what is a giclee print vs an art print?

A print that has been made by using a printer and ink by traditional printing methods is known as giclee. “Giclee” is a more specific term as compared to “print” because a print is just an art print that can be made by using any technique. Any type of painting that has been reproduced is known as an art print.

What is a copy of an original painting called?

The copy of the original painting is known as “reproduction”.

Final Words

At last, knowledge of the difference between original painting and print is an effective skill to become a successful and profitable art collector. Above are the six secrets techniques to know about painting, I recommend writing all the techniques in a notebook so you can always remind these short but important points. By reading this blog, I hope you are enough confident to make the right decision when buying a painting, that will be the best investment for you.

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