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What is Giclee?

Giclée is a fine art printing technique that uses inkjet technology to produce high-quality prints with rich color depth and detail. It's favored by artists and galleries for its fidelity to original artworks. With archival inks and substrates, giclée prints offer longevity, making them a valuable choice for collectors. Curious about how giclée can elevate your art collection? Let's explore further.
Jane Harmon
Jane Harmon

Giclee (pronounced 'zgee-KLAY') is a method of reproducing art through a printing process very similar to modern ink-jet printers. It has become a very popular method of creating limited edition fine art reproductions. The term derives from the French verb gicler, which means 'to squirt'.

Prior to the advent of giclee printing, the standard method of reproducing art was lithography. Because this process requires the creation of a printing plate, made by scanning and color-separating the art, lithography is a fairly expensive process. The bulk of the cost is in set-up, so to make affordable prints, large numbers are required to amortize the cost over a greater quantity. Hence, lithographs are usually made in runs of at least 500-1000. Lithography is also limited to printing on smooth paper.

Woman painting
Woman painting

Giglee prints can be printed on a number of different media -- watercolors can be reproduced on watercolor paper, for instance, and can be so color-true that they are virtually indistinguishable from the original. Oil paintings can be reproduced on canvas. Because there is no 'plate' as in standard printing processes, the artwork can be scaled up or down in size, limited only by the physical limitations of the giclee printing machinery.

Artists have flocked to giclee printing as a method for making their art available to a wider audience. Where before an artist would have spent several thousand dollars to print several hundred copies by traditional methods, hoping to sell enough to recoup the investment, artists can now spend a few hundred dollars to create a few dozen giclee prints in a variety of sizes. The ability to create different sizes of giclee prints, and to print on different media, allows artists to experiment to find the size and medium most popular with the art-buying public. Since the art imagery is stored digitally, they can quickly reorder prints that sell out, and avoid the expense of having to print large quantities at one time.

Giclee printing services can be found at most specialty art printing establishments.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a giclée print?

A giclée print refers to a high-quality art reproduction typically used for fine art or photography. The term "giclée" comes from the French word "gicler," meaning "to squirt or spray," which describes the inkjet printing process used to create these prints. Giclée prints are made using professional-grade, large-format printers that spray millions of ink droplets onto archival quality paper or canvas, resulting in vivid colors, crisp details, and long-lasting quality.

How does giclée printing differ from traditional printing methods?

Giclée printing differs from traditional printing methods in its resolution and color accuracy. It uses archival quality inks and a much higher resolution, often exceeding 1400 dpi, compared to traditional lithography which typically uses a lower dpi. This results in a print with finer detail and a wider color gamut, closely replicating the original artwork. Additionally, giclée prints are produced one at a time, allowing for individual attention to color and detail.

What materials are used in giclée printing?

Giclée printing utilizes archival quality inks and substrates to ensure longevity and durability. The inks are pigment-based rather than dye-based, which provides better color stability and resistance to fading. Common substrates include acid-free cotton rag paper, watercolor paper, and canvas. These materials are chosen for their ability to absorb and retain the fine ink droplets without bleeding, ensuring sharp and vibrant reproductions.

How long do giclée prints last?

Giclée prints are known for their longevity, with a lifespan that can exceed 100 years without significant fading or color degradation when properly cared for and displayed under optimal conditions. According to Wilhelm Imaging Research, a leading authority on print longevity, pigment-based giclée prints on acid-free paper can last over 200 years in dark storage. The actual lifespan will depend on factors such as exposure to light, humidity, and the quality of the materials used.

Are giclée prints considered valuable in the art world?

Giclée prints are widely accepted in the art world as a legitimate and valuable form of fine art reproduction, especially when produced in limited editions and signed by the artist. They provide an accessible option for art collectors to own a piece of artwork at a fraction of the cost of the original. The value of a giclée print can be influenced by the reputation of the artist, the quality of the reproduction, and the exclusivity of the edition.

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Discussion Comments


Well I found that most artists admire Giclee Printing. I really like it. I don't know why this way of printing makes a digital artwork so much more appealing to the eyes. It is really amazing.


I discovered giclee printing about three years ago in late 2005 and immediately fell in love with the freedom the technology affords artists to create art prints in a cost effective fashion.

I have since slowly but surely dedicated myself more and more to the creation of digitally crafted pop art images with political, erotic, biblical and mythical themes and have succeeded in transforming my passion for art into a profession.

Through my website I have made some sales, been invited to exhibit my work at galleries, and been awarded prizes for the giclee prints I create. All the best to everyone. Mike

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