Does FinerWorks print limited or open edition giclee prints for artists and photographers? Both may be the obvious answer. This is one of those questions that pops up on occasion but when we start to get into the conversation with the customer it’s not uncommon that they do not know the difference or what they may be asking.
For instance, a photographer recently inquired if we could produce limited-edition prints of some of her work. When asked how many copies and what size she said that it would depend on the photo being ordered from her website. Her plans were to simply have us print and drop ship them to her customer as they were ordered. While it is not our practice to dictate how a person should run their art or photo business or even how they go about selling prints, we did suggest she make these open edition prints and explained why.
A limited-edition print is the practice of creating a limited quantity of a specific style print and not doing anymore. There can be some variations as to this definition in today’s digital age with not everyone following the same rules but generally they are produced in one with no more matching prints being produced ever again. Each print is produced the same way, on the same media (canvas or paper) with each being identical in size and appearance. The artist signs and numbers each print individually with the numbers being written like 2/100 which would mean the print is the second copy of 100.
An open edition print does not have any agreed upon prescription. There no restrictions on quantity or frequency these can be printed or even what they are printed on and the size. In today’s digital age it is easy to produce them on-demand so that any quantity from 1 on up are okay. These prints can be signed by the artist however typically will be valued less than a similar print that is a limited-edition print.
So Which is Better
This is where you should decide if you are after exclusivity or volume. Selling limited-edition prints successfully may require a specific clientele, recognition and collect-ability as an artist. If you can consistently sell limited-edition prints marked up higher than open edition prints, the desire for people to have your art at the price you are asking, going the limited-edition route makes the most sense.
If the limited-edition route is not working for you, you may want to wait until you have established yourself and start off with open edition prints. The investment is less, and the loss is not as great if you fail to sell all your inventory since you don’t have to carry as much inventory.
Some artists will offer both. Even if you are not well known. Some artists will make this work by differentiating their limited-edition work and make it appear to really stand out above open-edition prints. Consider the artist that places his open edition print singed and number on display in a nice frame. He then has prints of the same image, perhaps smaller but in their own plastic bag. These are placed into a bin off to the side. Buyers will likely gravitate to that exclusive print on display and if they can both afford and really like your work, there should be no reason for them to buy the lower cost print. But if they can’t afford it then at least you are offering the buyer an option to still get your work. So, your chances of losing a sale decreased.
When it comes to limited-edition prints there no easy way to know if an artist’s limited-edition print is truly limited or if they fully follow the normal standard in its definition. It is very easy to create prints on demand in any quantity at any time and cite them as limited edition. And it could be the artist has their own definition as to what makes their prints limited edition. The best practice however is if you anticipate the need to create additional copies of a print in the future then it might be best to stick with the open edition nomenclature.