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A Guide to Properly Labeling Your Artist Prints: Artists’ Editions Demystified

There is a way to label closed editions of your art prints to provide the most value to the collector.

What is most valuable to the collector then? It is a combination of clarity and all the right information. In most cases, it is also some conformity to widely accepted print edition labeling customs as well as consistency in labeling throughout your entire body of work.


The information you need to provide as an artist on your print typically involves providing specific information about the artwork, the edition number, and your (artist’s) signature. Below is a guide on how to properly label closed-edition art prints for both clarity and lasting value.

Before I get to all the details, if you are looking for a quick answer in a hurry, here you go:

The most common way to label closed edition prints is to put the edition number on the bottom left, and the artist’s signature on the bottom right. The artist can also write the name of the work in the middle of the bottom margin.

Here is an example of a label of a closed edition of 6:

Edition print number on left, title in the middle, artist signature on the right. Art by Gvaat.

So that is a quick summary, let us get into the details together:

What is an edition number for artist prints and where do I put it as an artist?

An Edition Number is an assigned unique number to each print in the edition. For example, if you have a closed edition of 50 prints, then you would number each print as 1/50, 2/50, 3/50, and so on.

This indicates the individual print’s number and the total number of prints in the edition. In 1/50, the number ONE is the print’s number, and the number FIFITY is the total number of prints in the edition.

Commonly, this number is placed on the bottom left. Some prints can display this number in various places in the margin, or on the back of the print. This varies widely by where the print was made and the time in history. I suggest placing the Edition Number in the bottom left corner, where it is most often found in modern printmaking.

Edition number in the bottom left margin. The number indicates a first print out of a closed edition of six.

Where do I put the signature when signing my art prints?

Signatures commonly are placed on the bottom right margin. You can also choose to put the date or the year of creation of the work.

An example of an artist’s signature in the bottom right margin in a closed edition print.

Where do I put the title when signing my art prints?

Commonly the title is placed in the center of the middle margin, between the date on the left and the signature on the right. Often the title is omitted, or if there is no title the space is left blank.

In this example, the title is “Abstractus” and is placed in the middle bottom margin.

What do I sign my artist prints with?

Most commonly, artists sign their prints with pencils.

Where in the margin should I sign and label my art prints?

You ideally want to label your prints in the bottom margin closer to the artwork, and further away from the edge of the margin. This is so that if the print is matted and framed, the collector will have the option to display the signature and edition number. Meaning it will not get obscured by the matt or frame that surrounds the artwork. It is highly likely that the collector will want to display the signature and the edition number based on the scarcity of closed editions – more on editions below.

If you are contemplating making prints of your artwork, it is really worth discussing what it means to create closed edition prints versus open edition prints.

What is the difference between closed and open edition prints for artists who want to sell prints of their work?

The main difference between closed and open editions lies in the number of prints produced and the availability of those prints to collectors.

What is a closed edition of artist’s prints

A closed edition refers to a limited number of prints that will ever be produced. The edition size is predetermined, meaning that only a fixed number of prints, usually determined by the artist, will be created. That edition size once released is never changed, which ensures consistency, and builds trust among collectors.

Let’s face it, none of us want to buy a print in a closed edition of 10 prints, to later find out that the edition has been expanded to 100 prints. Such actions reduce the scarcity and therefore perceived value of the print we bought. More importantly they make us feel betrayed as collectors. Just think about it: when I bought it, I bought it as one of ten – that was our implicit contract, later when I own it, I discover the artist produced more and now the print is one of one hundred. It is hard to imagine a scenario where a collector is happy with this outcome.


So how does a closed edition work exactly?

Here is an example: an edition might be limited to 100 prints, and once all 100 prints are sold, the edition is considered closed. Each print in a closed edition is usually numbered and signed by the artist, indicating its unique place within the edition (exempli gratia: 5/100 is the fifth art print out of a closed edition of 100).

This numbering helps to establish the print’s scarcity and value. It also helps establish the location of the print in the timeline of the creation of the edition – this fact will become important a bit later. Closed editions are typically considered more exclusive and desirable among collectors due to their limited availability. This makes sense: the finite number of prints increases their perceived value and collectability.

What is an open edition of artist’s prints

An open edition, on the other hand, has no predetermined limit on the number of prints that will be produced. The prints can be reproduced and sold indefinitely, without any restrictions on the quantity.

In an open edition, the edition is “open” in the sense that it is ongoing and can be produced indefinitely. We get a product we can serve up to those interested in our art indefinately, but we lose on the collectability and scarcity aspect of the artwork.


Open editions are often used for more widely accessible and affordable prints. They are not numbered and the artist’s signature is more likely not to be present.

In open editions, prints are usually unsigned, while in closed editions all prints are usually signed by the artists.

Open editions are commonly produced for commercial purposes, allowing artists to reach a larger audience and make their work more accessible to a broader range of collectors.

Choosing between open and closed editions for artist prints

In summary, the key distinction is that closed editions have a fixed number of prints, are numbered, and often signed, while open editions have no set limit and are not numbered or signed. This is, of course, variance in this. Open editions can be signed by the artist, although a vast majority are not.

Choosing to produce closed or open editions depends entirely on your intentions, the market you are targeting, and the perceived value you wish to assign to your prints.


You may want to create exclusivity through scarcity and therefore create a closed edition of prints.

On the other hand, you may want to share your favorite work as a print with as many collectors as possible, and therefore you then may want to create an open edition of prints.

You may use a combination of both to share your works with the world. An artist may create one of a few works that are open and priced accessibly and provide a gateway for collectors to access their art and perhaps eventually buy more exclusive prints. Or perhaps the open prints are targeted at younger collectors with a smaller budget, while the closed editions are priced more exclusively and targeted at older buyers who typically have a bigger budget.

If your prints sell quickly, open editions can be a source of constant revenue, while closed editions are more akin to product launches of limited quantity.

What is the difference between closed editions and limited editions when it comes to art prints?

Closed and limited editions usually refer to the same thing: a predetermined number of prints produced of an artwork, where the number is not later changed by the artists, creating scarcity in the edition.

What is the difference between editions and reproductions?

There is a big difference in how edition prints are produced (both open or closed) versus how reproductions are made.

For many artworks, the print editions are the actual original artwork, not just a print of it. Let us review that again because it is important to understand how closed editions can work for you: for many closed editions – the prints themselves are the original artwork.

How can that be? As an example consider lithograph printing. In lithograph printing (lithography is a planographic printmaking process in which a design is drawn onto a flat stone or metal plate and affixed by means of a chemical reaction.), artists work on the etching in stone or plate, and the prints are all originals of the artwork in an edition.

In this case, the stone or plates themselves are not the original artwork – but tools of the process, the original artwork is the closed edition print run that is produced. Why is this? The stone or plates do not look anything like the lithograph print it produces, they become the tools of the process. But even in this, there is variation, for some prints, the plates used to produce them are very valuable and may be considered artwork in their own right by collectors – it all depends on the artist and the work in question.

Reproductions, on the other hand, are never original artwork. They are always reproduced as a copy of the original. There is another very important distinction.

One big distinction between reproductions and editions:

The main distinction found across all ways of creation of art is that the artist is usually involved in the creation of editions of their artwork, while the artist is not usually involved in the reproduction of their work, or at least the artist does not have as much authority or control over the reproduction.

If the number of the closed edition is closer to 1 is it considered more valuable?

In general, within a closed edition, prints with lower edition numbers are often perceived as more valuable than those with higher numbers. This is because prints with lower edition numbers are typically considered to be closer to the beginning of the edition (and therefore closed to the artist’s process) and are often associated with a sense of exclusivity and rarity.

Something about being the first, or when it comes to art prints, owning the first edition print (or one close to it), that gets collectors excited.


The logic behind this perception is that the earlier prints in a closed edition are closer to the artist’s creative process and are considered to be more authentic or more original that the prints that come later. As the edition progresses and more prints are sold, the availability of lower-numbered prints decreases, making them relatively scarcer and potentially more sought after by collectors.

About consistency and artist prints

Perhaps the most important takeaway from labeling editions is to provide your collectors with value. To do that, put yourself in the shoes of your collectors, and if you have opportunities engage with them to find out more about their needs and wants. I will guess here that it is likely your collectors want clear labeling and labeling that is consistent throughout the edition, and perhaps throughout your past and future works.

That is it for labeling your art prints! Hope you find this helpful! It is now time to do the important work so that you have a beautiful image for prints – time to paint and draw!