How to Label Your Printmaking Prints (4 Easy Ways)

Printmaking allows for the creation of art through the transfer of images from a matrix onto another surface. You can create an unlimited number of prints per matrix or choose to keep the quantity small. Regardless of your chosen path, you must label the printmaking prints correctly.

You can label your printmaking prints by adding your signature, title, and edition number. You must add this information in pencil to prevent fraud and ink bleeds. You may also need to add other notations indicating the unique characteristics of a specific print.

The rest of this article will cover how you sign, title, and add the edition to your prints, including where to place each piece of information. I will also discuss the other notations that may be required to label your prints.

One. Sign Your Name for Authenticity

Signing is one of the first steps you should take after creating your printmaking prints. It’s essential to do this for several reasons.

According to the Utah Museum of Fine ArtsOpens in a new tab., signing a print indicates that the artist not only claims it but accepts it as quality work. You should never sign a print that you feel does not represent your talents, as your signature becomes an immediate endorsement.

Signing on the Front vs. the Back of the Print

The most common place to sign is on the front of the print in the bottom right corner. Never sign with anything but a sharp pencil. Not only is this tradition, but it also achieves two purposes. First, pencil is more challenging to forge than ink. Second, over time, a pen can bleed, damaging your print. 

While it’s tradition to sign on the front, two factors can make it necessary to sign the back of the print. If the print is oversized, stretching to the edges of the paper, you won’t be able to sign on the front. You may also decide that your signature will be a distraction that detracts from the overall effect you are trying to achieve with your print.

If you sign on the back, follow the same format as the front with the signature in the bottom right corner. Ensure a flat surface fully supports the print to prevent indentations in the paper where you sign.

If you choose to date your prints, you’ll add that information below your signature.

Using a Monogram to Sign

Another option for signing is using a monogram or your initials. Many artists design a monogram to make their signing more unique. If you’re looking for a more straightforward route, you can opt to use just your initials. Regardless of your option, the traditional location to place the monogram or initials is still the front bottom right corner.

Two. Give Your Print a Title

Adding a title to your print is not necessary, but it does help to classify it. You’ll want the title to add to the overall imagery of the print, describing what it depicts. Place this title in quotation marks in the bottom left corner opposite your signature. This position will be the same whether you sign on the print’s front or back. Again, as I mentioned, you should do this in pencil.

Three. Provide the Edition Number if Applicable

There are two types of editions, and which type you are printing will determine whether you need to add an edition number to each one of your prints. 

These edition types include the following:

  • Open editions: These editions have no limits on how many are printed using the same plate. They are not considered as valuable as closed editions. However, choosing to print open editions allows you to create more prints once they sell out.
  • Closed editions: These editions have a specific limit on how many prints are produced using the same plate. The final number can be as high as the artist wants but is not unlimited like an open edition, making the prints harder to find and, therefore, more valuable. Once they sell out, you can’t print any more.

If you have a closed edition, you’ll need to label each print with its number out of the total number of acceptable prints. For example, let’s assume you have ten good prints. In the bottom center, between the title and your signature, you’re going to place the edition number. Starting with the first one, you’ll write 1/10 and continue through the prints until each has an edition.

You may have some prints that have variations that will require special labeling. They will not be part of the editions, and I will cover the proper steps to add labels in a later section.

VIDEO. Now that we’ve explored signing, titling, and adding the edition to your prints, you can watch this video for an example of you should complete these steps – WATCH – How to Sign an Art Print || Art Education || PrintmakingOpens in a new tab.

Stephanie DanzaOpens in a new tab.

Four. Include Any Required Notations

Sometimes there are unique situations with prints that require different labels. These labels provide additional informationOpens in a new tab. about the print, indicating who it’s for or that it’s a variation. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • A/P (Artist’s Proof): Apply this label to any prints you intend to keep for yourself. They’ll be for your personal use.
  • P/P (Printer’s Proof): You’ll generally designate one print for the printer and give it this label.
  • R.T.P. or B.A.T. (Ready to Print): This label is for the first print in a batch and designates the standard for the rest of the prints.
  • H.C. (Hors de Commerce): Prints with this label are not for sale.
  • T/P (Trial Proof): Any prints that are incomplete due to testing before printing the final prints will have this label. These prints are often highly sought after in the art community.
  • V/E (Variable Edition): This label indicates something unique about this print that you cannot recreate.
  • S/P (State Proof): A state proof is a modification to the print after you have printed the edition. 
  • C/P (Cancellation Print): When you destroy a matrix, you’ll frequently make a final print to prove that it is no longer usable, labeling it C/P.
  • M.T. (Monotype): This label means only one print exists.
  • Imp. (Impressit): This is written after your name if you printed your own work.
  • E.V. (Edition Varied): This label is for editions printed on different media or using various inks. 

Final Words

It’s a critical step of the printmaking process to ensure that your prints are labeled correctly. This process includes signing, adding the edition, writing the title, and including any necessary notations. Correct labels on your printmaking prints can increase their value and help identify your work. 

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Last update on 2022-11-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you want to read more about prints, we have several articles, such as Is Linocut Easier To Do Than Woodcut? and 6 Different Types of Printmaking Explained

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Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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