Bearing in mind the fact that the linocut printing process by default is handmade and could involve slight variations (due to the amount of ink rolled, color texture in the printed result, roller pressure on the press, the paper texture, the presence of marks that could provide an unique effect, and so on), and also the fact the the artist is the only one who will decide if the result meets the standards, should we consider a series of prints made using the same lino source, the same ink, and the same paper a Variable Edition if there are slight variations in color consistency on the paper?

I've found an article here but I'm not 100% sure where this fits into the Printer's marks section.

LE: I also have found a great example here. The author accept the differences considering these unique forms adding a remark: Please note that [...] due to the handmade process and characteristics of ink, natural differences and irregularities will occur between prints.


2 Answers 2


I think what is important in the nomenclature of the edition is the intention of the artist, meaning that potential inconsistencies have no bearing on the artistic intention.
Irregularities that have a significant impact on different prints are usually eliminated during the print proof phase - if they're not, they become part of the artistic intention, after all, and the edition of this type of print can then be named a Variable Edition.

Color inconsistencies that are due purely to chemical or otherwise technical variations in the process and are not part of the intention of the artist can safely be ignored as variations within a regular edition.
If said effect is induced by the artist, it can go either way, depending, again, on the artist's intention and, perhaps, the obviousness of those mutations: a variety in colour can be seen as a natural side effect of the process, even when prominent, but nothing can stop you from regarding those variations as unique prints.

Ultimately, if you feel the technical terms you are using are in any way lacking, you can simply communicate this to your clients. What is paramount is that a (potential) client knows what they're in (and paying) for.

  • just to be clear, these prints should be marked as VE?
    – user124853
    Apr 29, 2021 at 21:36
  • 1
    @user124853 Well, to me it seems the bottom print received too little ink - is that the case?
    – Joachim
    Apr 29, 2021 at 21:56
  • indeed. More than that, some prints have little blotches in the ink area (that's not the case) these can't be reproduced but also I found these quite unique. In my opinion, actually these "faults" are the beauty of linocut prints, emphasizes that they are hand-printed adding that "touch". If I want crystal clear prints, I'll go with the laser printing don't bother to go through this whole process.
    – user124853
    Apr 30, 2021 at 4:47
  • So, the question is, should be these prints with this kind of variation (keeping the other variables like paper, color type, and so on) marked as VE?
    – user124853
    Apr 30, 2021 at 4:52
  • 1
    If those differences are intentional, that's a good reason to treat the different prints as VE - if you regard the edition that way. The bottom line is, whenever you think one print is just as good as the other, whether that difference lies in execution or the "quality" of the technique - whenever you don't discard a print variation because you feel it is just as valuable as another selected print - you can treat it as a Variable Edition.
    – Joachim
    Apr 30, 2021 at 6:23

As far as I'm aware (I'm not a professional artist) the artist should strive to make each print of a series as equal to all other prints as possible. However, if the artist intentionally introduces non-reproduceable variations in how the paper is printed or alters the print by hand, it can be considered a "Varied Edition", "Variable Edition" or "Edition Variable".

You as the artist decide which prints meet your own quality standards. If you want to eliminate as much variation between prints as possible, destroy the prints with too much variation. If you apply several colors at the same time and random color variations (due to leftover color from the previous print) are part of your artwork and you like the way they came out, keep the print and sign it. You could also decide to print an entire series with a different paper or different colors for each print. It's your freedom as artist do decide how you define a series.

Artists who decide to categorize their series as a Variable Edition usually label prints with something like "VE 1/10" or "1/10 VE". That doesn't mean that prints without that addition cannot be varied, it just means that the artist consciously labeled the series as variable. As always, there are no hard rules.

Some short and informative sources are:

  • Thank you @Elmy for your answer.
    – user124853
    Apr 29, 2021 at 12:22

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