What Is A Giclée Print?

How to Purchase a Giclée Fine Art Print

Beautifully decorated homes are not complete until there is art on the walls. In the past, homeowners had just a few options. One could purchase original works of art, often at very high prices. For some this was an investment and for others it was for the satisfaction of having something of beauty in their homes. The alternative was to buy a reproduction or art print. The cost of a print was usually considerably less than an original work but the quality and appearance of the print just did not look like “real art”.

Beginning in the early 1990’s new technology created a third alternative. The giclée (pronounced ghee-clay) print was developed. Giclée is a derivative of the French word meaning to spray. The digital process to print giclées uses fine nozzles to spray thousands of dots per square inch onto the media. Most printers use 7 or more ink colors to achieve the closest possible match to the original artwork. At the print shop our printers use up to 12 ink colors.

This new reproduction method was quickly embraced by the art community. Now artists can market their work in a new way. Reproductions done in the giclée process are very like the original work of art and have the promise of 100 years or more of longevity. A further advantage is the ability to match the media of the original work of art. Paintings done on canvas are printed onto canvas, watercolors are printed on watercolor paper. With the new technology came the capacity to match colors more closely than ever before. Now a reproduction looks almost exactly like the original and fine art is affordable.

Unfortunately, as with many new products, not all prints sold as giclées are the quality one might expect. The savvy art buyer will ask questions before making a purchase. Although giclées are less costly than originals they are not inexpensive. A buyer should be sure of what he or she is getting.

  • Was the image capture done by a professional photographer who specializes in photographing art or by a giclée printer who does image scans? This is an important part of the process, and close examination of the print will show if this was done or not.
  • Does the print have the detail and texture of the original? Does it have the subtle gradations of color? Are brush strokes visible?
  • Do the colors match the original as closely as possible? Due to variations in media there might be slight color differences but they should be minimal.
  • What digital printer and ink sets were used to create the giclée? If the reply is a desktop printer, it is unlikely that the print will meet the longevity standards for a true giclée. Unless archival inks like ultrachromes are used the print could possibly fade in a short period of time.
  • Does the seller of the print have the legal right to sell the art? If one buys art from someone other than the original artist, copyright issues should not be overlooked. Be sure the seller is an agent for the original artist unless the artwork is old enough to be in the public domain.

If an artist is looking for a giclée printer to reproduce his or her work the same questions should be asked. Additionally the artist should ask :

  • Does the printer have references?
  • Does he or she guarantee your satisfaction?
  • Is the printer accessible?
  • Are you given proofs? Do they meet your standards?
  • Are you able to be part of the proofing process?
  • Can the printer meet your deadlines?
  • Does the printer help market your work?
  • Does the printer offer full service from printing to framing to shipping if necessary?

Giclée reproduction is also a great way to share family heirlooms. Many families have art work produced by a family member. The value of such artwork is immeasurable to the family but is often a source of discourse as several family members may want the same piece. A giclée reproduction may be the answer.

Photographers and digital artists are also using the giclée process for digital output. High quality digital prints can be made in nearly any size up to 44 inches wide. The longevity and high quality of giclée printing makes it an ideal way to produce fine art photography.

As with many new technologies, giclée printing offers exciting new products but knowledgeable buying will ensure satisfaction with your purchase.

How to tips:

  • 1. Ask questions when buying a giclée print to be sure you know what you are getting, and you are getting what you want.
  • 2. Examine the print closely. Look for details. Blurry details, harsh outlines around objects, and flat colors are some signs of a poor quality print.
  • 3. Giclées can be a good investment. If buying for investment, look for limited editions and Certificates of Authenticity. An artist with an impressive resume of acceptance into juried shows and awards is apt to be more collectible than a lesser known artist. But do not let that be your guide. Buy art that speaks to you, is well executed and is properly reproduced. You may be the first to discover the next big artistic star and have a very valuable print.
  • 4. Buy art you like and want to live with. Because giclées are more affordable than original artwork, you can stretch your budget to fill your home with wonderful art
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