What is the Difference Between a Giclee and a Print?

If you have been part of the art world for even a short time, you will have come across the term “Giclée.” It is one of those jargon words that the insider knows, but the general public typically does not. To the artist, whether work is reproduced as a Giclée or a print is very important. To the average person, the difference between a Giclee and a Print is not really known.

One will enhance the value of the work and ensure its longevity, and the other will not.

In this article, I want to go into detail about the differences between these two techniques.

Difference between Giclee and a Print
Difference between Giclee and a Print – Source: Wikipedia

What is a Giclee (or Giclée)?

To explain the difference between a Giclée and a print, we must understand what each term means.

Since Giclees are the least known of the two techniques, we will look at it first, and ensure that you fully understand what a Giclée is before we move onto prints.

The origin of the term Giclee

The word Giclee was first used in 1991 by printmaker Jack Duganne for original artwork created digitally.

The original work is created on a computer. It is then stored in a digital form before being transferred to a special type of inkjet printer.

The artist does not create an original physical form.

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 Giclée 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 Giclée is used incorrectly by some galleries to denote a good quality print.

The term Giclee has broadened out in its definition since then and no longer only refers to Iris printers.

Unfortunately, this has lead to a situation where the term Giclée 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 Giclées. A Giclée 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 Giclée.

It is certainly impossible to create a true Giclée on a regular printer. To do so is dishonest. The other factor is the paper and 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 Giclée.

How to prepare your work for Giclee Production

Giclee Printer
A Giclee Printer

If you want your original digital artwork to be reproduced as a Giclée, 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.


Most prints will be produced at 72 DPI. That is seventy-two dots to every inch of paper.

To be a Giclee, 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.



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.


308 gsm | 8.5 x 11 inches | 25 sheets per pack

100 % rag and free of acid works with both inkjet and pigment dye


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


165 gsm | 8.5 x 11 inches | 100 sheets per pack

Good for Matte finish, works well with Epson Archival prints


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.


Giclées 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.

What is a Print?

Prints - Photo by Annie Spratt
Prints – Photo by Annie Spratt

When I was young, I would look at “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.



In its strictest sense, a 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 a paper or canvass.

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, the original piece is created on the computer and printed from there.

There is no hard copy original. So it would be fair to say that a Giclee is a print.


A reproduction, in reality, is just a copy of an original painting. It can be produced in the absence of any contribution from the artist.

These days the photo of the original artwork is 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 a 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 and 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 Giclées are digital, 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.


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 and a print?” down to a couple of lines.

Prints are produced as multiple copies, which are usually created using mechanical means (printing plates).

There is no hard copy original. A giclee is produced directly from a design created on a computer by an artist with the intention of producing multiple copies using high-quality equipment and materials.

I hope that you found this wider exploration of the differences between prints and Giclees to be informative.

The complexity is down to the misuse of definitions within the art world, which have confused reproductions, Giclees and prints.

If you were wondering how much a Giclee Printer would cost, have a look at some on Amazon:

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Joseph Colella

I'm an avid artist and I love to share everything I know about art and all the new art related tips i've recently learned. Get Your WastedTalentInc Merch at Redbubble https://rdbl.co/2OkI0CM

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