Nov 14 2008
What Is a Giclee Print?
A commonly asked question in our gallery is “What is a… how do you say that word anyway?” Giclee is pronounced “zhee clay” which answers part of this question.
The word giclee (which should have an accent mark on the first “e” but it is becoming Americanized) is a French word that means to spray. It was appropriated in the USA to refer to spraying ink in the modern archival inkjet printers used for creating archival prints. The idea was that it added extra sophistication to the description of these prints.
The French are more than a little amused at this development as the word has other quite unsophisticated connotations in their usage. Nonetheless, the word stuck and is prevalent in the art world now. The giclee print itself is a great contribution to the art world, whatever the origins of its naming.
What Kinds of Giclee Prints Are There?
Different workflows are used to create giclee prints. The original painting, drawing, or other artwork has to be digitized, which can be done by photographing with a digital camera or by scanning a transparency from a film camera. These are the most popular giclee prints.
Other giclee prints can be created entirely digitally so that the artwork is created in the computer. Sometimes these creations are quick filtered photos that then are presented as digital art. Others are elaborate efforts requiring great skill in building up the desired appearance in complicated computer programs that are not often understood by the public.
For this reason, original digital artworks are not considered as valuable as artworks created with physical brushes, paints, etc. This is partly because so many quickie filtered photos are being offered that the public has not learned to discern them from more creatively original work made with obscure techniques.
How Are Giclee Prints Made?
After the artwork is digitized, it has to be printed using a special inkjet printer. These usually are large format printers with pigmented archival inks that cost thousands of dollars. The quick color copies at Kinko’s are not the same thing at all as those inks are not archival and will fairly rapidly fade.
The original giclee printer was the Iris printer, a great innovation in 1989. Now the Iris has been discontinued and many other brands of high quality giclee printers are available in the marketplace.
Printing an image created in acrylic paints, oil paints, or some other medium so that the colors are rendered accurately in pigmented inks is a major challenge. The ink itself interacts chemically with coatings on the paper chosen. While the print can be made close to the original look, it never will be 100% the same due to different materials used.
Creating as accurate a giclee as possible requires color corrections and proofing until the image is satisfactory to the artist. Media and ink selections play an important role in this process. Giclees can be printed on a diverse range of papers and also on special coated canvas materials.
How Do I Know a Giclee Print is High Quality?
First of all, it should have a certificate stating the kind of media and ink used. This provides an assurance it has been made with properly archival inks and coated canvas or paper matched to the ink set. Dye inks do not have the longevity of pigments inks, although the pigmented inks are more troublesome to use as they tend to clog the printers.
The giclee print should have an attractive appearance that is faithful to the original, which sometimes can be hard to determine if the original is not present. However, if you find the appearance pleasing, that is a good starting point.
The giclee print on paper should have a wide enough plain unprinted border to allow room for the artist signature with some extra space to mount under a mat for framing. In the case of limited edition numbered giclee prints, the name of the artwork and number also appears in the border area.
In contrast, canvas giclee prints are often created without a border and can be signed and numbered on either the front or the back. Either practice is considered acceptable.
Smaller editions in limited edition prints are considered to be the most valuable.
How Do I Care for a Giclee Print?
A giclee print should be treated with the same care as any original work of art on paper or canvas. This means keeping it out of direct sunlight and avoiding extremes of temperature or humidity. Archival matting and framing is recommended.
You can view RiverStone Gallery giclee prints in a range of subjects by various artists.