Tropical Printmaking Makes its Mark in Australia.

Up-to-the-minute tropical printmaking; the big print!

Wasn't that exciting?

But what if you want to buy a print - maybe not quite as large as those featured by the rugby scrum and Inkmasters?

Let's say that you are interested in tropical printmaking and have seen a print, which you find attractive. You are intrigued by the subject matter… it seems well executed…it will suit your colour scheme at home… it’s reasonably priced…

…but yet you hesitate.

You’ve heard that some prints are worthless, even though they are marked “limited edition” and signed by the artist.

How do you know if the print will hold its value? Will it fade? Could it attract mildew? Should you spend the extra money and buy that painting, even though you don’t like it quite as much as the print……. The uncertainties rush around and around inside your head.


A sensible solution would be to ask the gallery attendant as many questions as you can.

Sometimes, though, you don’t know the right questions to ask.

. Is this print made by the artist him/herself?

If the answer is “Yes” then you know that it is an original print, hand crafted by the artist.

A print made by an artist will have more intrinsic value than one printed by a machine.

The printmaker will almost certainly have used good quality paper which has a high “acid free” component.

If the answer is “No” then the print may still be of value.

A relatively new process, gicleé printing, involves scanning an image into a computer then printing with special inks onto either good quality paper or canvas. Sometimes the prints are hand finished.

A giclee print may not be a mere copy of an original painting but the planned outcome of a combination of methods, achievable in no other way.

Artists themselves also use computers to manipulate images and print them from their computer (digital prints).

Guidelines are changing with technology and it seems that both of these methods are considered to be legitimate artists’ prints.

However, a purist will insist that original prints must be hand pulled by the artist or assistant artisan.

The making of original prints is a highly skilled process, requiring rigorous discipline as well as creative flair.

Tropical printmaking has its challenges - one of the most obvious being the slow drying time of prints because of high atmospheric humidity levels.

Whatever the method of construction, the buyer needs to satisfy him/herself as to the quality and durability of the print. Inferior inks, papers or stretchers can sometimes be used - usually reflected in a lower price…but not always…buyer beware!

If the print is a reproduction, it has probably been made using an offset printing method. Posters are perfect for reproduction printing methods.

A machine makes a copy of an original – similar to images used in magazines and most books. Various thicknesses of paper can be used but the quality is usually inferior to that used by any of the artists’ methods.

There is nothing wrong with this but be aware that the real value of the work may lie in its frame!

Cheap and cheerful is often a great way to go!

· Tropical Printmaking - How did the artist make it?

This is an intriguing question as there are many methods that he or she could have used. Sometimes a combination of working methods is employed or the printmaker may hand finish sections.

Please click here for a brief description of various printmaking techniques….. you’ll really be able to impress your gallery assistant now!

· Do you have information about the artist?

Most galleries will supply artists’ CVs or at least a brief biography. This will give you an idea of the artist’s qualifications and experience.

Experience is comforting but don’t overlook that gem from an “emerging” artist. Whatever their age, their vision, skill and professionalism are what count most.

Tropical printmaking is alive and well at

the rural studio of Anna Curtis. In my opinion Anna is one of Australia's leading printmakers and her skill, dedication and insights are inspirational.

The next question is one that you don’t need to ask out loud.

· How many prints are in the edition?

You will see on the bottom left of the print two pencilled numbers, written like a fraction. The top number is the number of the print and the bottom number is how many prints there have been made altogether in that edition.

The artist’s signature is usually in pencil on the bottom right.

Sometimes you will see FS after the number. This means first state – the printmaker then is permitted to follow this with another edition (SS) but must change it a little – eg use different colours. A/P means Artist’s Proof.

A general rule of thumb is that the larger the edition, the lower the price, particularly when applied to reproductions.

Original prints are rarely seen in editions of more than 100 or so, mostly because the printing block will begin to wear out after that many impressions.

Tropical printmaking is alive and well. Click below for an explanation of various printmaking methods and their practitioners.

Top of Tropical Printmaking

Relief Printing

Etchings, Screenprints...

Anna Curtis - Linoprints

Leon Pericles - etchings, collographs, screenprints

Definition of Fine Art

Tropic of Capricorn Artists' Directory

Art in Tropical Australia Home Page