Are Lithographs More Valuable Than Prints?

Are Lithographs More Valuable Than Prints

Lithography is a unique way of printing reproductions of artwork or creating art, but it is relatively unknown to the general population. However, art collectors and enthusiasts regard lithography as a beautiful, one-of-a-kind process that has managed to stay more or less the same even centuries after it was inventedOpens in a new tab. as a technique. How valuable are lithographs nowadays, compared to regular prints?

Lithographs are generally more valuable than prints because they are made using a more complicated and labor-intensive method. Because of the process, lithographs are also produced in lower quantities and sometimes numbered and signed by the artists, which makes them more exclusive and unique.

If you want to know more, read the rest of this article. I will explain why lithographs are considered more valuable than prints and provide additional information to help you tell the difference between the two types of print. So, Are Lithographs More Valuable Than Prints?

Why Lithographs Tend To Be More Valuable Than Prints

As I mentioned above, many people are unaware of lithography in general, or they simply assume it’s another word for printing. In reality, there are significant differences between these two methods, which contribute to their perception and, consequently, their value.

More Complicated Process

The process of making a lithographic printOpens in a new tab. can take more time and needs to be done by the artist, so it’s not something that anyone can reproduce. Additionally, multiple lithographic prints of the same artwork can be unique, depending on the chemical reactions happening every time the artist makes a copy.

Lithographs May Come Signed

Moreover, the fact that lithography can be made and signed by the artist is a major advantage when it comes to value. When artists sign their lithographs, they make them unique. Prints can be created by machines without the artist needing to do anything, so they don’t give you the same sense of originality.

Limited Quantity

Finally, the number of lithographies is limited compared to prints. Given that the process is quite complicated, there are very few ways of creating an unlimited number of the same artwork using this method. Because of this issue, lithographic prints often have serial numbersOpens in a new tab., which makes them seem even more exclusive and rare.

Because of the above reasons, lithographic prints are typically more valuable than prints, and their value tends to increase after some time has passed. The fact that they are produced in a complex way, limited, numbered, and even signed by the artist sometimes makes them more similar to an original artwork than prints.


While generally, lithographic prints are considered more valuable than prints, every standard or lithographic print should be studied separately in order to determine its value. Sometimes, prints have a higher value.

For instance, a print by a famous artist may be worth more than a less well-known lithographic print. Moreover, nowadays, there are more modern and mechanical ways of making lithographic prints, which allows you to make more copies. While these technological improvements have made it possible to create lithographs easily, they may also have decreased their value.

Differences Between Lithographs and Prints

Generally speaking, both lithography and printing accomplish the same purpose: they create multiple identical copies of an artist’s work. However, this is where the similarities between these two methods end. While printing uses mechanical devicesOpens in a new tab. and an efficient process to create identical copies, lithography requires a more delicate process.

Prints use a carved piece of woodOpens in a new tab., metal, or stone to print an artwork into pieces of paper. The process can be made using machines, reproducing identical copies every time. Printing enables you to make an unlimited number of copies. 

Lithography requires the artists to create the artwork on a sheet of limestone or a piece of a particular metal using crayons or other vegan alternatives that contain a certain amount of grease. The sheet is then covered with a little bit of water and then a layer of ink.

Because water and oil don’t mix, the ink will only attach to the greasy area. The stone or metal is then pressed to pieces of paper, where the ink is transferred, creating almost identical copies. As you can see, this is a highly complex process that requires a lot of care and time, which explains why it would be inherently more valuable.

Prints can be considered less original, part of thousands of identical copies, considering that every copy is the same and is not part of a limited collection. Lithographic prints, on the other hand, are more limited in numbers.

Determining How Valuable a Lithograph Is

They can be more valuable than simple prints, but not all lithographs are valuable in the same way. In order to determine the value of a particular lithographic print that you have or are looking to buy, you need to keep in mind a few tips:

Learn About the Artist

Understandably, lithographs of well-known artists are more valuable than those made by unknown artists. Try to learn more about the person who has made the lithograph you are looking at. If there isn’t much, you can learn about them online, or in other ways, the value of the lithograph is going to be relatively lower.

Investigate the Signature

The signature is a major reason why a lithograph is valued much more than a print; it’s a sign of exclusivity that tells you that you’re not getting one of many anonymously-made copies. However, sometimes signatures can also be part of a mechanically printed copy, so check the print carefully.

Check the Physical Condition

The value of a lithographic print goes down significantly if there are signs of damage on it. Any tears, smudges, or discoloration means that the print has not been maintained carefully, and it may get worse in the future. Lithographs should be kept away from water and direct sunlightOpens in a new tab. to avoid damage.

Final Words

Both lithographs and prints are ways of reproducing an original work of art, but there are significant differences that make the former more valuable generally. Lithographs are made using a complex process that deals with chemical reactions and interactions, while prints are made in a more mechanical and streamlined way.

As a result, lithographs are made in smaller numbers and have serial numbers to identify them, which creates the idea of exclusivity. Moreover, sometimes artists sign lithographs, which makes them even more valuable. However, there are situations where prints can be more valuable than lithographs.

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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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