What is a Giclee Print?

What is a Giclee Print

It used to be that if you sold a piece, that’s it, it’s gone. The buck stops there, and only one buyer gets to appreciate your work. But with prints, that’s not the case at all. Not only does the artist get to sell more of their work, but their customers or admirers also get the opportunity to have a copy of the artwork too. It’s a win-win.

It is of no surprise that the popularity of prints has risen, and if you are an artist looking into producing Giclee prints of your work, this article will help you.

What is a giclee print? Coined by Jack Duganne, the term ‘Giclée’ is a French word meaning ‘a spray or a squirt of liquid’. The term ‘giclée print’ is used to describe the giclée printing process. Images created from the high-resolution digital capture of original artwork, are printed using archival quality inks onto archival fine art substrates including canvas and fine art papers to achieve giclée prints with exceptional stability and lightfastness.


What makes a giclee?

To be able to make such a high-quality print, the camera or scanner used to capture or scan the art must be able to do so with a high level of resolution. Most digital photos are recorded at a resolution of 72 DPI on the screen, or “dots per inch,” and the image file of an art print needs to be at least 300 DPI—because the more dots of colour that can be printed in a small area, the more detailed your final image will appear.

As far as ink and paper go, they must be of high quality and considered “archival.” This is typically achieved using inks that are pigment-based instead of dye-based and any canvas, watercolour paper, or speciality printing paper designated as archival. Printers generally are larger models that can hold up to 12 ink cartridges which produce a more comprehensive range of colours for duplicating your artwork.

Problems With Giclée Printing

Problems With Giclée Printing

As desirable as this printing form seems, there are a couple of problems to be aware of regarding this otherwise excellent printing technique.

First of all, be sure that you want a Giclée print before getting one made, as they can be a costly process. It is perfect for artists who need just-in-time copies of their work but be sure that you choose a certified printer of fine arts; otherwise, you could be paying over the odds for a fake Giclée.

Secondly, the pigment inks used for Giclée have a restricted colour gamut compared to other dye-based inks, which have more subsets of colours. This means that the sub tones of the original may not be as well defined in the print compared to a print made with liquid dye inks. It will, however, last multiple times longer and have a stronger resistance to the natural elements.


The Artist’s Use of a Giclée Print

From an artist’s perspective, the piece of work you are looking to reproduce has to be digitally copied either from a digital format (print-ready PDF), from a scanning process of some kind, or through a digital photo. Whichever format you decide upon, the resolution of your work has to be set to a minimum of 300 DPI.

Giclée printing is ideal for artists because a print can be produced on a just-in-time basis – presumably how artists sell their work anyway. If, however, an artist’s work is highly popular and requires large print runs, e.g. for a gallery souvenir shop, then Giclée is an expensive printing technique to adopt. Lithographic or standard inkjet printing would be more suited for larger print runs, but of course, the quality will be completely different.

Traditional artists are likely to use Giclée printing to reproduce their original art form, which could result in copies that use the same material that the original was created on to make the print as close to the original as possible. The long-life inks used for print also imitate the original to a degree as the original is hopefully intended to last a long time, e.g. oil paintings such as Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” have lasted since 1889.

Digital artists and photographers are likely to use Giclée printing for the same reasons that a traditional artist may. However, there could be a perception that the original created by an artist using one of the age-old mediums is worth more than a photo or digital graphic, which could also influence the worth of a print – debatable.

Additionally, the use of Giclée for modern art forms can add a particular texture from the canvas and print quality that gives them a similar appearance to the fine arts.