Promo Code: SUMMER20 - Get 20% Off Everything This Summer - Shop Now

How to tell the difference between a print and a painting?

How to tell the difference between a print and a painting?

Have you ever wondered how to tell the difference between a painting and a print? Well this is a question we get asked often, with previous questions including ‘How do I tell if the artwork is a painting?’, or ‘How do I know that the painting is real?’, and ‘What is the difference between a print and a painting?’.  We here at Arnett Vintage Co. decided to ask our Fine Art expert Sarah Arnett to give us 10 ways to check if a piece of artwork is a print or a painting.

Use A Magnifying Glass To Look For Minute Details:

Look closely at the artwork, use a magnifying glass or loupe to look for any minute details. You can purchase a magnifying glass from Amazon for as little as £15, however we suggest investing something circa £50, especially if you are becoming an artwork collector. An magnifying glass or loupe will also be useful for checking any potential signatures that a piece of artwork may have.

Look For Texture:

Oil paint, acrylics and gouache have quite recognisable textures. You can also put a clean, liquid free tissue on the artwork and softly rub your hand across it, feeling for any lumps, bumps or giveaways that paint has been used.

Look For Dots:

Prints, no matter how fine the resolution, will be made up of tiny coloured dots. Look for any visible dot patternation throughout the print,  but to do this you will most certainly need a magnifying glass to get really close-up.

Try Angling The Piece:

Watercolours are usually the hardest to determine whether print or original, so if you’re having trouble, try angling the piece and look for changes in the surface.

Check The Canvas Edge:

Look around the canvas/paper edge if possible. Originals often have rougher edges, and prints tend to have straight line edges. Below are some examples of authentic paintings produced in oil & acrylics, and as you can see these canvas edges have some wear and rougher edges. This is a good sign as it shows that the painting is authentic.


Giclee Prints:

Do beware some giclée prints are very finely reproduced and some artists even add spots of paint to create texture, so steer clear of fake originals created in this way. Giclée prints are often harder to decipher from originals than other methods of printing, so you need to be extra vigilant with your checks.

Check For Printer Details:

Look for any printed text details along the edges of the works, often year of print, printer’s brand name and/or country of origin. Take extra care when doing this not to damage or mark the artwork – Clean hands are must!

Check For Signatures:

Checking for a signature is always a given when looking at artworks. Limited edition prints often have pencil signatures below the work, including edition numbers. Originals are usually signed on the artwork piece, but again, if printed these can be easily translated and look effective. Below we have given you some examples of where a piece of artwork maybe signed by an artist. As you can see some images can be somewhat flamboyant, so that magnifying glass will most certainly come in handy! The second imagine in is an example of a authenticity certificate, ensuring it’s a genuine piece.



Place The Artwork In A Well Lit Space:

Situate and look at your artwork in a well lit space. This seems quite obvious, but it’s amazing what proper lighting can reveal. Natural light or daylight lighting is the best way to see if the painting contains any texture, brush strokes or evidence of paint application.

Ask Arnett Vintage Co:

Our director and owner Sarah Arnett is an expert in Fine Art, boasting a first-class degree from York University. Sarah is more than happy to offer her guidance and expertise, so if you’ve got any question you can contact us here.


Whether you’re collecting prints or paintings, its important to know how to care for and store them – Why not check out our blog on ‘Things to consider when storing artwork’.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.