Giclee Prints
Definition, History: Fine Art Digital Printmaking Using Ink-Jet Printer.

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Giclee Print of The Night Cafe (1888)
Vincent Van Gogh.

For other forms of fine art print
processes, see:
Woodcuts (oldest technique)
Engraving ( from Goldsmithery)
Etching (important intaglio method)
Lithography (planographic method)
Silkscreen Printing (Warhol/Pop art)

Giclee Printmaking

What Are Giclee Prints?

Produced by the most modern printmaking techniques, giclee prints are the highest quality fine art prints, used by artists to make individual or low-run reproductions of original two-dimensional artwork, photographs, computer graphics or computer generated imagery.

First coined in 1991 by printmaker Jack Duganne, the word "Giclee" refers to the process of creating fine art prints from digital sources (computer files of scanned images) using ink-jet printing. The name giclee (derived from the French "to spray or squirt") refers to the inkjet printer's capability to spray more than 4 million microscopic droplets of ink per second onto canvas or paper. Initially it applied only to fine art prints made on Iris printers in the early 1990s. But following the use of fade-resistant archival inks and improved printing substrates, the name giclee has since been given to any high quality ink-jet print. The name is frequently used by art galleries and within the visual art industry to describe such prints.

For an explanation of basic
terms involved in engraving,
etching, lithography, woodcuts
and other forms of fine art
printing, please see:
Printmaking Glossary.

For more about lithographic
posters see: Poster Art.
For a chronological guide,
see: History of Poster Art.

For definitions, meanings and
explanations of different arts,
see Types of Art.

For details of differing types
of visual and fine arts, see:
Meaning/Definition of Art.

Art Questions
Methods, Genres, Forms.
Questions About History of Art
Movements, periods, styles.

For important dates in the
development of fine art and
other artforms, see:
History of Art Timeline.
For details of art movements
styles and genres, see:
History of Art.

Origins and History

Giclee printmaking was pioneered during the late 1980s by printmakers using Iris Graphics inkjet printers. (Iris Graphics was later bought out by Scitex, an Israeli company, and is now part of Kodak Inc.). These Iris printers were originally used to produce digital proofs in commercial situations - like magazine publishing, product labels & containers - where colour fidelity and colour matching was critical. The prints allowed quality controllers to see how colours and tones would look, prior to mass production. Further technical improvements in resolution, colour range and archival properties have been introduced by other printer manufacturers such as Epson, Canon and HP (Hewlett Packard). In 2001, the Giclee Printers Association (GPA) was founded, which established minimum standards to distinguish giclee prints from lesser quality ink-jet prints.

Fine Art Applications: Improved Colour Range

A small number of artists were relying on ink-jet printers for replication purposes as an alternative to lithography and serigraphy long before the word giclee was invented. However, it was only during the 1990s when new types of inks were developed - which extended colour-range and improved fade-resistance - that ink-jet printing became widely used as a source of museum quality graphic art. Now, printers employ the CMYK colour model (using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) but sometimes use multiple cartridges for variants of each hue based on the CcMmYK colour system, where regular cyan and magenta are augmented by light cyan and light magenta. This greatly improves the number of colour options and facilitates smoother tonal transitions. (For more about modern colour systems and models, please see: Colour in Painting.) A diverse range of substrates are routinely used, offering a variety of finishes and textures, such as watercolor paper, cotton canvas, matte photo paper, or artist textured vinyl. Although more expensive than four colour offset lithography, Giclee inkjet printing gives far higher quality, is available in individual or very small runs, and allows the artist to control every part of the printmaking process.

How Are Giclee Prints Made?

Put simply, a computer scanner is used to scan the two-dimensional image, creating a digital computer file of the artwork. This is then printed on an inkjet printer.

Advantages of Giclee Prints

Compared to other fine art reproduction techniques (such as lithography or silkscreen printing), Giclee prints have much better archival properties, with a typical light fastness rating of 100-200 years - although even giclee prints should not be exposed to direct sunlight. In addition, they utilize pigment based archival inks, rather than dyes. Also, a giclee print, which is both smudge-proof and waterproof, can be varnished with UV protective substances that can imitate brushwork or palette-knife produced textures, thus giving it the feel of a real painting. UV protective varnishes can also increase durability and make colours seem richer.

• For more about etching, engraving, lithography, silkscreen or giclee prints, see: Homepage.

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