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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Distinguishing Original Paintings From Reproductions

While preparing for a recent art show at the Marietta Artisan Market, I've been having some quality reproductions made so that more people can afford and enjoy my art. However, I do want to inform collectors, enthusiasts and beginning artists of the different qualities and types of reproductions as well as how to tell the difference between them and original paintings.

Is it an original or a reproduction?

Modern technology and advancements in printing have allowed for some pretty amazing art reproductions. This can be tricky to the untrained eye, especially canvas or Giclee prints (pronounced Zhee-Klay).

Many artists, including myself sell Giclee prints to offer their art to more of the public at an affordable price. However, I believe in fully disclosing a reproduction verses an original piece of art. Beware, although I believe most people are honest and upfront, not all artist or even galleries will necessarily work with the same integrity.

For example, during a recent cruise on a high end cruise line, there was a big promotion about an art auction from the ship's art gallery. As an artist, I did find it deceptive. Most all of the pieces were reproductions that were hand embellished. It was at this time I decided I wanted to better inform the public.  As a matter of fact, according to there was a class action lawsuit against various art galleries at sea. They claimed that art was unauthentic and prices were inflated. I found that the prices they were asking, there are many, many places you can find an original for the same price.

Here are a few examples of an original painting and a Giclee print.

What differences do you notice?

Did you notice the signature? While it may not apply to all reproductions, I have signed the reproduction, so the signature is completely different. However, sometimes the original signature is photographed and reproduced.

Notice the clean edge? The reproduction has a clean crisp edge. Most original paintings will not be so clean and crisp along the edge.

Note, you may  notice the top photo doesn't look as great, but that is merely because it was photographed with my phone verses my professional camera. This is the reproduction and it actually looks fantastic, but you can look from an angle and see how flat it is. There are no brushstrokes showing. It is very smooth and flat. This is a good indicator of a reproduction. However, depending on the painting method and medium used, there are  paintings that naturally look very smooth. If you are in doubt, ask. An good artist should disclose this to you if it is not prevalent on their pricing or marketing materials.
How To Differentiate Original Art From Reproductions
I'm a painter, so there are key elements to look for in an original painting:

Here are some additional tips for distinguishing reproductions:

  • Fine Hairs or bristles lodged within painting
  • Brush Strokes following images
  • Various textures that flow with the painting
  • Slight Variations in sheen
  • Canvas, panel or wood support
  • Slightly uneven edges around sides of canvas
  • Ask the Artist or Representative

close up of small bristle lodged in original painting

Visible Texture of Brush Strokes


Original Painting Uneven Painted Edges

1. Fine  Hairs: Although as artists, we work to get the small shed bristles or fine hairs from our furry friends that hang out in our studio, there are just times, if you look closely, there are a few small hairs or bristles lodged within the painting.

2. Brush Strokes and flowing textures: Caution while looking for brush strokes. Some images are reproduced with a brush stroke finish or hand embellished.  You can often tell if your image is reproduced with a brushstroke finish, they will be very uniform. The stroke will run across one image to another not truly following the natural stroke placed to create the image. Hand embellishing will usually just have strokes showing in distinct areas and not the entire painting. Again, if in doubt, ask.

3. Hand embellished: Some artists will add a personal touch to a reproduction by applying paint to a few areas of the reproduction. This is not as much detail as the original painting, but does add a nice touch.

4. Paintings are typically executed on a canvas, panel or wood support. Watercolors will usually be on textured paper. Prints are normally on smoother paper and may be numbered.

5. Uneven edges, A canvas painting will show slightly uneven lines around the edges. Some are painted edges and some are unpainted, but a reproduction will have a perfectly straight smooth line.

Caldwell Gallery has published a great article about Original vs. Copies. If you are hungry for more detail, please visit their site:

Written by Tina A Stoffel