Prints are hand-pulled by an artist from a printmaking surface such as a plate, stone, block or screen. They are usually numbered and signed by the artist beneath the image after the batch, or edition, is printed. Editions are usually 100 prints or less, even as few as 10. The numbering is done in this format: 1/50, or 1/100, etc.
After the edition is complete, the printmaking surface is often destroyed, ensuring a rarity that makes the prints more valuable. Even if they are not destroyed, printing wears surfaces down, and images pulled from them begin to degrade. Because of this and the paper type used, each print is unique.
For more info on printmaking techniques from Cape Dorset >http://www.dorsetfinearts.com/printmaking/
After photographing the original, a reproduction is often printed in a batch, or run, of 1,000 or more. Often the artist is not involved in the process. By the nature of the printing technique, all the reproductions in a run are almost identical, with no variation in the printing or paper. Reproductions do not match the quality of an original print. Think of it like a poster.
Sometimes artists sign and number a run of reproductions in the same way as original print editions. Marketers then sell them as "limited edition fine art prints." If you are not aware of the differences, you might believe you are buying an original artwork.
Look for specific characteristics to tell the difference between prints and reproductions:
Reproductions have visible dot patterns when examined under a magnifying glass. Prints show ink layers.
The size of an edition of prints is usually between 10 and 100. Edition sizes of reproductions can be several hundred to several thousand.
Artists from Cape Dorset sign each original print in pencil usually in the lower right corner below the image. If the image covers all the paper, it may be signed on the image. Reproductions may have a printed signature and a penciled one.
Over the past 55 years printers have had to make their own chops to indicate that they printed a particular print. The chop was cut from linoleum often from the floor tiles in the studios. The cut tile is then attached to a piece of wood so the printer can orient the chop properly on the printed impression. In the early days (up to and sometimes including 1974*) artists chops were used instead of their signatures. I assume that the printers themselves would carve the artists chops for the artists because of their abilities with sharp delicate operations. Some artists like Kananginak certainly had the ability to cut his own chops but this is conjecture. - William Ritchie
For more info > http://www.williambritchie.com/blog/