What are Giclee prints?

In the world of art a fancy word that gets tossed around the art community is Giclee. (Pronounced Zhee-clay) Once you finally figure out how to say the word correctly, it’s time to understand what it means. Giclee is simply a fancy French word that means to spay. To what?!?! Yes, Giclee prints derive their name from the process in which they are made. These high end prints are created by using special inkjet printers that usually contain twelve or more inks. In order to take advantage of the printers wide gamut, special fine art papers need to be used in the printing process which ensures color and tonal accuracy. Furthermore, every step of the process needs to be carefully calibrated. This includes the capture device, monitor and printer. In short, Giclee prints allow an artists to create a reproduction of their original work that is both long lasting and color accurate. Since giclee print are reproductions they allow art buyers to purchase beautiful works of art can be a fraction of the price of an original painting or drawing. When you finish reading this article, be sure to check out my gallery of limited edition giclee nature prints.

Modern Fine Art Photographic Paper Print

Classic Series - Fine Art Paper Print


What types of art can be used for a Giclee print?

A Giclee print can be created from practically any two dimensional piece of artwork. Artist regularly create limited edition Giclee prints from acrylic, oil, and watercolor paintings. Charcoal and pencil drawings also look great as Giclee prints. While most high end photographers use the term fine art photography instead of Giclee, the two terms are practically synonymous. One exception would be analog prints that are created in a darkroom and utilize chemicals and light to develop the image.

How long will giclee prints last?

The short answer is it depends. The ink, paper and display conditions will all effect how long the artwork will last. A piece of artwork that is displayed in full sun will have a much shorter lifespan than a piece that receives minimal sunlight. This if true for original paintings and fine art prints alike. When it comes to giclee prints, some new inks are expected to last well over 400 years when printed on high end fine art papers! This ensures art collectors that their purchase will continue to be valuable well into the future. Additionally, the value of an art pice can actually be enhanced once it begins to show signs of deterioration since the deterioration is a sign of authenticity.

The Wheel
Black and White Fine Art Print | Limited Edition of 100 | An old mining winch sits motionless, bound by rust and decay. The industrial machine has a striking geometrical shape that mimics the shapes found in nature. The metal spiral resembles the architecture of a seashell with soft round edges supported by hard straight lines. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of photography is the ability to turn an object of no particular significance into a work of art. Placing meaning on a particular subject and invoking an emotional response that is derived from shape, tone, texture and context is the photographer's ultimate goal. © Mike Wardynski Photography

What does a giclee print look like?

Well, that depends… Ideally, the print will resemble the original artwork. As mentioned above, nearly any 2D work of art can be printed as a Giclee. The original artwork and the artists’ vision will determine what type of fine art paper is used in the printing process. In most cases a photographer is going choose a fine art photo paper that is specifically design for photography. Other artists may choose a paper that most resembles the original artwork. For example a water color artist might choose to print on water color paper while a painter might choose to print on canvas.

More about printing and fine art

There are typically two types of printers. Laser jet and ink jet. Laser jet printer are typically used in commercial printing houses and offices where where a large volume of printing is done. These printers use toner instead of ink since it lasts much longer but the quality of the print is not as good as an inkjet. Inkjet printers are reserved for applications that require high quality reproductions and longevity. They can handle dye and pigment based ink. Giclee print can only be created with pigment based inks since it is much more UV resistant than dye based inks and will help ensure the longevity of each print. When it comes to photography there is also something called light jet or chromogenic printing. These prints are created by printing a negative of the original image on a transparency and then developing that image on paper using light and dye. While some photographer prefer this method of printing, the prints have a much lower life span and they are not giclee since giclee prints are only created by high end inkjet printers.

Giclee fine art print color calibration swatches

Giclee fine art print color calibration swatches

How do you know if a print is Giclee?

It may be hard to tell a giclee print from a standard print without a trained eye and close examination. The easiest way to know if a print is a Giclee is to ask the artist or photographer. But how two you know that the artist is not lying to you or even knows what giclee is in the first place? Most artist are honest about representing their work and will be more than happy to give you honest answers about their work. If they do not know what giclee is, it might be a good time to walk away or buy the original. While it’s practically impossible to tell how many inks were used to make a print, one hint that the print is a giclee is the weight of the paper that it’s printed on. Fine art giclee papers are typically 250 - 350 gsm (grams per square meter). This means that they are much thicker than traditional printer and photo papers.

high end room decor landscape photography

Where to buy Giclee fine art prints

Art can be found almost anywhere these days and some of that art is offered at ridiculously low prices. If the price seems too good to be true then it probably is. Cheap art is mass produced using the cheapest materials possible. If you'd like a piece of art that is both unique and long lasting, you'll have to spend a little more. The best place to buy Fine Art is directly from the artist. When you buy art from the artist you not only know exactly what you're getting but you also are supporting the artist by cutting out the middle man so all of the profit goes to the artist instead of an art gallery. If you cannot purchase the art directly from the artist the next best place to buy it is from a gallery. Galleries often sell both original and giclee limited edition artworks. If you're in the market for limited edition photographic prints, check out my online gallery here. If you happen to be in Santa Fe New Mexico area, contact me to set up an appointment to see my in home gallery


Where can artists have Giclee prints made?

Today there there is a large selection of print house that offer giclee printing services. Some of these printers are very large while others are very small. Large print houses are very streamlined to handle a large volume of print orders and in most cases they do a pretty good job. A simple google search for glicee printing will turn up hundreds of results. Personally, I like to support the smaller print shops because there is more of a personal connection throughout the entire printing process and I know exactly who is handling my full resolution images. When you send your images off to a large print house, who knows who has access to those files and what their intensions are.

Local shops are a great place to start looking for giclee prints! Once you find a shop that you like, order a few small proof images to make sure that the quality is up to your standards before printing large images or big quantities.


Posted in Prints.