Can you tell a print from a painting?

We are often asked to appraise or value artwork, and we see a fair number of people who have mistaken what they have because they cannot tell a print from a painting. It’s an important thing to know; you could sell something valuable to an opportunistic collector or dealer for far less than it’s worth.

Photograph of The Painter. Honoré Daumier used to illustrate how to tell a print from a painting.

Honoré Daumier (1808–79), The Painter. Oil on panel with visible brushstrokes.


Fortunately, if you know what you’re looking for, telling a painting from a print is easy for people with good eyesight. If your eyesight is faulty, use a jeweller’s loupe.

Dot patterns will be clearly visible on a print.

Brush strokes will be evident on a painting. Again, though, your first clue will be the dot patterns of a print.