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What is a Giclée Print?

Posted in: Artist Resources
By K. McDermott
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What is a Giclée Print?

giclée printer

What is a Giclée Print?

A giclée print is simply a high quality print made with an inkjet printer. The term was coined in 1991 to describe fine arts prints made on Iris inkjet printers. These large-format printers were invented in the late 1980s and allowed high-resolution photographic images to be printed by an inkjet. Iris prints were popular because they could reproduce the exact colors of artwork more accurately than previous printing processes.

The term giclée is derived from the French verb gicluer, which means “to squirt or spray,” referring to the action of the inkjet nozzles creating an image reproduction. Though poplar in English, the term has not caught on with Francophones because giclée coincidentally happens to be French slang for a male body function that also has to do with reproduction. Over the years, giclée prints have become associated with any type of inkjet printing that uses high quality inks and archival paper to reproduce high resolution images of artwork. Litho prints continue to be a popular way to reproduce images of art, but giclée printing offers greater resolution and color accuracy.

Epson, Canon and HP are leading large-format printers used to produce giclées. These printers use the CYMK (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, Key) color model, but with more ink cartridges to produce more variations and finer gradients of color. 

How to Order Good Giclée Prints

Giclée printing is not regulated in any way, so if you’re ordering giclée prints from an online business or a printing company you should ask about the materials and inks they use. If you’re making reproductions of your work to sell, you should make sure the company uses archival quality inks and prints on acid free cotton paper or acid free canvas.

How Much to Charge for Your Giclée Prints

Many artists who sell giclées of their paintings or other artwork go by the “1/3rd rule.” Try selling a giclée for approximately 1/3 of the asking price of your original painting. Your giclée price will also depend on your career and skill level as an artist, as well as the price of the paper or canvas the print is made on.

Always number and sign your giclée prints. This can influence price, especially if you have a popular painting and decide to limit the number of prints. Print 1/50 will likely be more expensive than 1/100. You can also raise the price of a giclée edition as you sell out of individual prints in an edition and there are fewer prints left to sell. Once again, this can also depend on your popularity as an artist in your individual market.

You can up the price of a giclée significantly if you add additional touches to each print to make each giclée truly unique. Many artists add acrylic ink or paint embellishments after printing to create a series of unique editions. Another thing you can do to make more money with giclées is to have them already framed for your customers.

How to Spot a Sneaky Giclée When Buying Artwork

Don’t be fooled by con artists when it comes to giclées. Because giclées can be printed on canvas, the possibility of passing off a reproduction as an original is very tempting. If you are buying a painting at an auction or a flea market, be sure to check a few things out before your purchase.

If a giclée is framed and printed on paper, it is pretty easy to spot that it is a giclée and not an original work. Because the laserjet printing is super high definition, it will show the most miniscule brushstrokes of the original painting. You will be able to see that the print is actually flat if you hold the frame up to the light and examine any thick brushstrokes or heavy wash-looking areas.

Fraudsters can add medium or real paint after the fact to make the print look more realistically textured, but if these textures are inconsistent. It might be a giclée. Canvas giclées are trickier, especially if they have been textured with varnish or medium. If the work is in a frame, remove it and take a peek at the sides of the canvas. If there are no drips or uneven edges of paint, you definitely have a giclée.

May 26, 2016
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