In general, prints that were printed and published before 1900 or are over 100 years old are considered antique prints. There are some exceptions as some original prints which were published before World War II are considered to be antiques. Modern reproductions of an antique or old print is not considered an antique; ie a laser scan, photocopy, giclee etc. When a print is less than 100 years old it can be referred to as a vintage collectible print. The term "print" is referred to an image on paper, which is produced by one of three main methods: Relief, Intaglio or Planographic. The methods can be combined to create a variation of art impressions.
- relief printing, where the ink goes on the original surface of the matrix. Relief techniques include: woodcut or woodblock as the Asian forms are usually known, wood engraving, linocut and metalcut; the ink is transferred under pressure from a raised surface to the paper. Relief process is the oldest, known to have begun about eleven centuries ago. A modern example of relief process is a rubber stamp which picks up ink from the stamp pad and then is applied to the paper with pressure from our hand.
- intaglio, where the ink goes beneath the original surface of the matrix. Intaglio techniques include: engraving, etching, mezzotint, aquatint, chine-collé and drypoint. The image is either cut manually with an engraving tool like a burin or chemically etched away with acid into a metal plate (steel or copper). Thus, the image is recessed below the flat surface of the metal plate. The plate is then inked allowing the ink to fill the recesses, and the surface wiped clean. The image is transferred to the paper with great pressure, which actually pushes the paper into the engraved areas of the metal plate. Prints produced with this method have a rough surface, which can be detectable by rubbing your finger tips on the image. Many book illustrations of the 19th. century were most commonly metal plate engravings.
- planographic, where the matrix retains its entire surface, but some parts are treated to make the image. Planographic techniques include: lithography, monotyping, and digital techniques. Of the three processess, It is the newest form of printing. The printing surface is a flat plane and is neither built up or cut into. The process uses a stone or metal (zinc or aluminum) plate which is prepared to utilize the principle that grease and water do not mix, which thus produces the image and non-image areas. The image is drawn or applied to the plate using a greasy substance (rusche) that will retain the ink or pigment. The non-image area is processed to provide a clean background that will accept water. The large heavy roller is inked and rolled onto the plate which has been sponged with water to keep the ungreased surfaces free of ink. The greasy surfaces will take the ink. When the inked surface is built up to the artist's satisfaction, the paper is placed on the plate and both are run through a lithograph press. If more than one color is to be printed, a separate plate must be prepared for each color. This type of method was used by several 1800's art publishers such as Currier & Ives and Kellogg. They imported very smooth polished stones from Germany which were used as their surface for the image. For offset lithography, which is a printing process commonly used for mass production, the image is taken from the plate by a rubber roller which then transfers the image to the paper.