A giclee print is a special kind of art print. It’s a high-quality copy of an original painting created digitally. These prints are made with a special inkjet printer that uses long-lasting pigment inks, not dyes. Pigment inks can stay bright for over 200 years (lightfastness), unlike dye inks that fade much faster, lasting only about 10-20 years.
Giclee prints are valued for their excellent quality and durability. When a giclee print is produced often or without a set limit, it’s called an “art print.” If it’s made in a small, controlled quantity, it’s known as a “fine art print.”
Keep reading because in this post we cover everything Giclee print vs art Print in detail.
In it, I will explain the following:
- How to pronounce Giclee
- What is a Giclee Print
- What is an Art Print
- Giclee Printing Process
- Why are Giclees so expensive
- much more
Giclee Definition: Giclee printing is a method of printing art on canvas or archival paper using pigment based inks on a commercial inkjet printer. Art prints are usually printed on paper or card based surfaces using a dye based ink.
Dye based ink does not stick well to canvas and it is not thick like Giclee pigment based ink so it will look less like a painting. Giclee prints used to be called IRIS prints or IRIS proofs after the original IRIS printer that preceded inkjet printers.
What is a Giclee Print?
A Giclee printing is a bit like a big inkjet printer but instead of using normal ink which is more like a dye, it uses a pigment based ink that closely resembles actual paint.
The pigment (the colored powder) is suspended in water and is thicker than dye based inks.
So when Giclee prints are made, they will actually be raised on the canvas rather than being flush, giving it a look of paint to the untrained eye. A giclee print actually looks like a textured print.
When you hear the term “Giclee on canvas” and wonder what does Giclee on canvas mean then this means what is described above, a Giclee ink printed on a Giclee printer on canvas.
Here is an interest bit of trivia. According to wiki; “Giclée is based on the French word gicleur, the French technical term for a jet or a nozzle, and the associated verb gicler (to squirt out). Une giclée (noun) means a spurt of some liquid. The French verb form gicler means to spray, spout, or squirt. Duganne settled on the noun giclée.”
What is an Art Print?
An art print is a reproduction of an artwork using a printing process, typically using a high-quality inkjet or offset printing press. Art prints can be produced in large quantities, making them an affordable way to enjoy and collect art.
Art prints can be created using a variety of materials, such as paper, canvas, or metal, and can range in size from small postcards to large-scale prints. They are often sold as limited editions, with each print numbered and signed by the artist or a representative of the printing company.
Art prints can be made from original paintings, drawings, photographs, or digital art, and can be printed in a variety of colors and textures to create a unique and authentic reproduction of the original artwork.
While art prints are not the same as the original artwork, they are a great way to bring art into your home or office, and to support artists and the arts industry.
Summary differences between Giclee Print vs Art Print
The key differences between giclee vs art prints are that giclee prints are made using specialized printers and archival pigment-based inks, are produced in limited editions, and are more expensive, while art prints are made using a variety of printing processes and materials, are often sold in unlimited quantities, and are more affordable.
Let’s look into each in a little more detail.
- A high-quality inkjet print that is made on specialized printers
- Printed on archival paper or canvas with pigment-based inks that are fade-resistant
- Usually produced in limited editions, and each print is individually numbered and signed
- Can be produced in a wide range of sizes and on various substrates, including canvas, fine art paper, and even metal
- More expensive than a regular art print due to the specialized printing process and materials used
- Offers greater color accuracy and detail than traditional printing methods
- Used for reproducing fine art, photography, and other high-quality images
- A reproduction of an artwork using a printing process, such as offset printing or digital printing
- Printed on a variety of materials, including paper, canvas, and metal
- Often sold in unlimited quantities and at a more affordable price point than giclee prints
- Can be produced in a range of sizes, from small postcards to large-scale prints
- Does not always include numbering or signatures, but may be signed by the artist or printing company
- Offers a cost-effective way to enjoy and collect art
- Used for reproducing original artwork, photographs, and other images.
Giclee Printing Process
When a Giclee print is being made, the technician will load the Giclee printer with a suitable Giclee canvas or archival paper (this is an acid free paper that will not yellow or fade). They will then send the image to be printed from a computer to the Giclee printer.
What happens next is that the Giclee printer will spray the pigment ink onto the Giclee canvas one colored layer at a time, with different layers overlapping the other where needed.
This process closely resembles spray painting and is the closest method to getting paint on Giclee canvas like an artist would with a brush or airbrush.
This is the reason why I sometimes like to think of Giclee printing more like a Giclee Painting. It is still a paint like ink going on canvas or archival paper and it still has had the hand of the artist in the process. To me it is closer to an actual artwork rather than a print.
Giclee printing will enhance the value of the work and ensure its longevity, normal inkjet inks or laser toner will not.
Giclee printing vs Inkjet
While I have made plenty of prints at home using my Epson inkjet printer, they can be called art prints but they are not Giclee prints.
Giclee printing and standard inkjet printing are both methods of producing prints, but they differ in terms of quality, materials, and intended use.
Here’s a simple comparison:
- Quality and Resolution:
- Giclee Printing: Known for its high quality, giclee printing produces images with superior resolution and color accuracy. This method is often used for fine art reproductions because it captures the nuances of the original artwork.
- Inkjet Printing: While modern inkjet printers can produce high-quality prints, they generally don’t match the exceptional resolution and color fidelity of giclee prints. Inkjet is more commonly used for general home and office printing needs.
- Inks and Color Range:
- Giclee Printing: Uses archival quality pigment-based inks that offer enhanced color spectrum and longevity. These inks are fade-resistant and can last for over 100 years under proper conditions.
- Inkjet Printing: Typically uses dye-based inks, which offer a good range of colors but are more prone to fading and have a shorter lifespan compared to pigment inks.
- Substrates (Printing Surfaces):
- Giclee Printing: Can be done on a variety of high-quality substrates, including acid-free paper, cotton canvas, and other fine art materials. These substrates contribute to the overall longevity and aesthetic of the print.
- Inkjet Printing: Usually done on standard paper, photo paper, and sometimes on canvas. The range of substrates for inkjet printing is broad but doesn’t always include the high-quality materials used for giclee prints.
- Use and Application:
- Giclee Printing: Primarily used for fine art reproductions, photography, and other applications where high-quality prints are necessary. Giclee prints are often seen in galleries and art shows.
- Inkjet Printing: More versatile in everyday use, suitable for everything from printing documents to photos. It’s the go-to method for home and office printing.
- Giclee Printing: Generally more expensive due to the higher quality materials and inks used, as well as the greater level of detail in the prints.
- Inkjet Printing: More affordable and cost-effective for regular printing needs.
While both giclee and inkjet printing use similar technology, giclee printing is a specialized, high-quality process primarily used for fine art reproductions, whereas inkjet printing is a more versatile, everyday printing method.
The origin of the term Giclee
The word Giclee is pronounced “Ghee-klee” where the “Gh” in “Ghee” sounds more like the “G” in Goal, and rhymes with “Key”, was first used in 1991 by printmaker Jack Duganne for original artwork created digitally.
The original work is copied on to a computer either via a scanner or digital photo. It is then stored in a digital form before being transferred to a special type of inkjet printer called a Giclee Printer.
At the time, the term was restricted to describe works printed using an “Iris Printer.”
This printer was introduced in 1985 by Iris Graphics but now made by the Eastman Kodak graphic communications group.
This device was the premier high-resolution color-accurate reproduction printer at the time.
How the term Giclee is used today
The term Giclee has broadened out in its definition since those early years and no longer only refer to Iris printers.
Unfortunately, this has lead to a situation where the term Giclee is used incorrectly by some galleries to denote a good quality print.
It is sometimes even seen to be used as a description of an original physical artwork that has been scanned and reproduced.
These are not Giclees prints. A Giclee print can only describe an original artwork that is created digitally and then printed direct using a special printer.
Most printers use three colors and black, and it mixes these colors to reproduce a picture.
Some printers at the more expensive end of the market may also offer additional colors for smoother gradation between colors (up to seven colors in total).
True Giclee printers will have 12 colors so that they can truly represent the original design accurately.
At the same time, it may JUST be acceptable to use a seven-color printer to produce a Giclee print.
It is certainly impossible to create a true Giclee print on a regular printer. To do so is dishonest. The other factor is the paper or canvas used and the ink used.
In the next section, I will go into detail of criteria that must be met for a work to be described as a Giclee print.
Why are Giclee prints so expensive?
The reason why Giclee prints are so expensive is that the printer or artist producing Giclee prints need to recoup the expense of purchasing the hardware to not only produce the Giclee prints but also to maintain the equipment.
Giclee printers are quite expensive, so are the consumables such as canvas or archival paper and the pigment inks required to produce a Giclee print.
I have also watched a Giclee print being made and the preparation time and to print a Giclee print requires some time to complete from preparation to actual printing. Giclee printers are slow and they use a lot of ink.
Below I will go into some of the production of a Giclee print to give you an idea just what is involved.
How to prepare your work for Giclee Printing Production
If you want your original digital artwork to be reproduced as a Giclee print, then you need to set your computer correctly before you start work.
The following settings and suggestions are provided by a specialist printing company that produces Giclées.
OPTIMAL GICLEE PRINTING IMAGE RESOLUTION
Most prints will be produced at 72 DPI. That is seventy-two dots to every inch of paper.
To be a Giclee print, a minimum of 300 DPI must be used for images smaller than 36 inches x 36 inches.
If the final print will be over that size, then 200 DPI is acceptable. Even if you can create files at over 300 DPI, do not do so as it is simply a waste as 300 DPI is the optimum setting.
There are two normal color formats used, and they are CMYK or RGB. You must use the RGB setting.
When using Photoshop, you should select Adobe RGB (Best) or sRGB color profiles.
The image should be saved as Jpeg, jpg, tif, or tiff. You should not save in PDF or png format.
You should also be aware that content near to the edge of the image may be cut off, so leave a border of at least ¼ inch on all sides of the picture.
Do not forget to flatten the image or save it with layers or text. The text should be rasterized before saving.
Once the image is ready and the Giclee printer is fed the required ink cartridges and paper or canvas then the image is sent to the printer and the slow process of printing 7 to 12 colors to produce a Giclee print starts.
IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO OBTAIN A GICLEE PRINTER AND PRINT YOUR OWN GICLEES, THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WILL BE USEFUL.
GICLEE CHOICE OF PAPER
Since different art suppliers may have different brands. I have chosen brands that are available on Amazon, and therefore accessible by everyone.
Please note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
HAHNEMUHLE MATT PHOTO RAG
308 gsm | 8.5 x 11 inches | 25 sheets per pack
100 % rag and free of acid works with both inkjet and pigment dye
HAHNEMUHLE MUSEUM ETCHING PAPER
350 gsm | 8.5 x 11 inches | 25 sheets per pack (RECOMMENDED)
OBA (Optical Brightening Agent) Free, Rag based paper, Best for long-lasting prints
EPSON PREMIUM PRESENTATION PAPER MATTE
165 gsm | 8.5 x 11 inches | 100 sheets per pack
Good for Matte finish, works well with Epson Archival prints
MOAB ENTRADA RAG BRIGHT 300 PAPER
300 gsm | 8.5 x 11 inches | 25 sheets per pack
Made with 100% cotton, acid, and Lignin free, Linin can cause the paper to discolor
There will be occasions when you require larger paper sizes, and thee are available from specialist suppliers.
PIGMENT BASED INKS FOR GICLEE
Giclees prints are printed with PIGMENT-BASED INKS, as opposed to the standard inkjet DYE-BASED INKS.
Dye-based inks contain a color that is fully dissolved and suspended in a fluid. Pigment-based inks are constructed of a fine powder of solid colorants that float in a liquid carrier.
Epson, Canon, and HP all make pigment-based inks and compatible printers.
Do not try and use pigment-based inks in a regular inkjet printer as it will rapidly clog the jets.
Giclee Print vs Art Print
When I was young, I would look at “Art Prints” sold in museums and think to myself that it was a hugely profitable business making them.
All I had to do was scan a photo of a famous picture, and then print it on my inkjet printer.
Based on the price of prints sold in stores and museum gift shops, a lot of money was to be made. Sadly there is much more to it than that.
FIRST OF ALL, WE NEED TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN REPRODUCTION AND PRINT.
In its strictest sense, an art print is created by spreading ink on something that has been carved either by a human or a machine.
That plate is then used to print an image on paper.
There is no original copy of the artwork unless you call the plates the original.
The artist is, therefore, directly involved in the process of producing the prints.
In the case of a Giclee printing, the original piece is transferred to the computer via a scanner or digital photo and printed from there.
Sure there is some detachment from the process by the artist but these days, with the advent of NFT art I believe as long as the artist has had a hand in the process somewhere, then the artist is directly involved as well.
An art reproduction, in reality, is just a copy of an original painting. It can be produced in the absence of any contribution from the original artist.
These days the photo of the original artwork can be saved as a digital image and copies printed from there.
There is no limit to the number of reproductions that can be printed and can be continued to be printed.
If we use the above basis for comparing a print and a reproduction, we can see why an art print is typically more expensive than a reproduction, as there is more labor from the artist involved.
Often artists will set a limit on how many prints are created and number each one (possibly signing each one).
This process does not happen with reproductions, where the aim is to sell as many as possible.
Back to the Original Question – What is the difference between a Giclee and a Print?
Having established what each term truly means (Giclee print and art print), we have established that in terms of how they are created, they are both prints.
The difference lies in the complexity of the equipment and the quality of the materials used in the creation of each piece.
A mechanical process usually creates prints, and Giclée prints are digital in origin, but in both cases, there is the intention to create multiple copies from the very start of the project.
A Reproduction, however, is a later copy of a painting that was not originally planned to have multiple copies.
Giclee vs Original Art
Giclee prints are reproductions of original art that are created using specialized printers and archival pigment-based inks, while original art refers to the unique and one-of-a-kind artwork created by an artist’s hand.
Giclee prints offer a high-quality reproduction of the original art. In comparison, original art is valued for its uniqueness, authenticity, and emotional connection to the artist’s creative process.
Original art is usually more expensive than giclee prints due to its unique nature and the artist’s time and effort involved in creating it.
In the end the choice between a giclee vs original art piece depends on the individual’s preference and budget.
Giclee print vs digital print
A giclée print and a digital print are both reproductions of an original artwork created through digital means, but there are some key differences between the two.
A giclée print is a type of digital print that is created using specialized printers and high-quality archival inks. The printer sprays tiny droplets of ink onto the paper or canvas, resulting in a high-quality, detailed reproduction of the original artwork.
Giclée prints are often produced on high-quality paper or canvas and are known for their longevity and fade resistance. They are also usually produced in limited editions, making them collectible items.
On the other hand, a digital print refers to any print that is produced using a digital file. This can include inkjet prints, laser prints, or other types of prints that are produced using digital technology.
Digital prints can be produced on a variety of papers or substrates and can be produced in unlimited quantities.
The key difference between giclée prints and digital prints is the quality and longevity of the reproduction.
Giclée prints are generally higher quality and more fade-resistant than most types of digital prints, making them a better choice for reproducing fine art or other high-quality images. Additionally, giclée prints are usually produced in limited editions, making them more collectible and potentially more valuable.
Are Giclee prints worth it?
As long as the Giclee print is printed using good quality ink and on a good quality giclee canvas or archival paper then yes, Giclee prints are worth something.
If you can get the artist to actually sign the Giclee print as part of a limited print run then the Giclee print will actually be worth a little more.
A good price point for a Giclee print should be half way between an original work of the artist and an art print of the work of an artist.
Never pay more than an original, never pay more than a Lithograph work of an artist as these are actually worth much more than Giclee prints or art prints.
Can I print a Giclee at home?
We live in fantastic times where we can hop onto Amazon and have a Giclee printer delivered to our homes for an affordable price.
Even just 20 years ago this would have been an impossibility. Now you can print a Giclee at home for a fraction of the price of printing a Giclee print professionally.
The only limitation you may have is budget limiting you to the size of the Giclee print you can print at home.
A professional operation can print you a full painting size Giclee print whereas a home Giclee print may be limited to a letter size Giclee print.
Why can’t I just use my inkjet printer and print a Giclee with that you ask? The problem lies with the limitation of most inkjet printers we have at home. I used to self produce prints at home using an inkjet using inks that cost me $70 a pop.
The problem I ran into was that my entry level inkjet printer lacked a few things that a dedicated Giclee printer would have.
That is, the ability to handle high resolution resolution images, use a high quality ink, and accept archival paper (my inkjet would jam whenever I used a good quality archival paper).
Once you have all your printing requirements met, I suggest you start recovering the expense of producing Giclee prints by creating a limited run of signed closed edition prints of your artwork at a higher price point and then produce an unsigned and unnumbered open edition of your artworks at a lower price.
While some people may raise an eyebrow, I did just this and managed to sell thousands of dollars worth of prints of my muscle car drawings every year to collectors.
Is a Giclee Print Better? What should you choose?
When deciding whether a giclée print or an art print is the better option for you, it’s important to consider several factors.
One factor to consider is the level of detail and color accuracy you desire. Giclée prints are created using high-resolution scans of the original artwork, which allows for greater detail and color accuracy in the reproduction.
This can be especially important if you are interested in reproducing fine art, photography, or other high-quality images. However, if you are not as concerned with color accuracy and detail, an art print may still be a good option.
Another factor to consider is your budget. Giclée prints are generally more expensive than art prints due to the specialized printing process and materials used.
If you are working with a limited budget, an art print may be a more affordable option.
If you are willing to invest in a higher-quality reproduction and collectible item, a giclée print may be worth the extra cost. You may even fool some people into thinking it’s an original!
It’s also important to consider the availability of the artwork you are interested in. Giclée prints are often produced in limited editions, making them a collectible item. If you are interested in a specific artwork that is only available as a giclée print, this may be the best option for you.
If you are looking for a wider variety of artwork, art prints might offer a greater selection as you can get them almost anywhere.
At the end of the day, the choice between a giclée print and an art print depends on your individual preferences and needs. Consider the factors discussed above when making your decision, and choose the option that best fits your budget and desired level of quality. My personal view is that if I want something as close to an original as possible and printed on canvas then I will always pick a giclee.
If I want something to quickly fill up a wall or I am not too fussy about the quality, I will be just as happy to purchase an art print.
Giclee print vs Art Print – Wrap up!
By this long and winding process that I have followed, I think I can now bring the answer to the question “What is the difference between a Giclee vs Art print?” down to a couple of lines.
Art Prints are produced as multiple copies, which are usually created using mechanical means (printing plates).
There is no hard copy original. A giclee print is produced directly from a design created by an artist and printed via a computer with the intention of producing multiple copies using high-quality equipment and materials.
Keep in mind that no two Giclee prints will be the same as there is a dependency on ink quality and paper or giclee canvas quality.
Low quality Giclee inks will print a degraded Giclee print after the preceding print. A good quality Giclee ink will produce consistent results and will be less likely to fade or yellow over time.
I hope that you found this wider exploration of the differences between art prints and Giclee prints to be informative.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
He also loves all things watches (ok it’s an addiction) so show him some love and visit his other website https://expertdivewatch.com