The word Giclee (pronounced zhee-CLAY’) is a French word meaning “spray” or “squirt”. The word was coined in 1991 by Jack Duganne, a printmaker working in the field, to represent any inkjet based digital print used as fine art. The intent of that name was to distinguish commonly known industrial “Iris Proofs” from the type of fine art prints artists were producing on those same printers. The earliest giclee prints were created on Iris Graphics models 3024 and 3047 continuous inkjet printers (the company was later taken over by Scitex, now owned by HP). Much experimentation took place to try to adapt the Iris printer to the production of color-faithful, aesthetically pleasing reproductions of artwork. Early Iris prints were relatively fugitive and tended to show color degradation after only a few years. Since then, newer inksets and print medias have been developed to greatly extend the longevity and light fastness of giclee prints.
In today’s context giclee printing utilizes only special archival inks, archival medias, precise color management, and high resolution files. Giclee prints are produced from digital files – scans, digital photos, or computer created artwork – of sufficient resolution that there is no visible dot pattern evident. Giclee prints are typically sold by the square foot or inch and can range from $10.00/sqft to over $20.00/sqft depending on media and ink coverage costs.
Giclee printing is superior to traditional lithography in nearly every way. The colors are brighter, last longer, and are so high-resolution that they are virtually “continuous tone” rather than appear as dots. The range or gamut of color for giclee prints is far beyond that of lithography. Since giclee printing uses more than the traditional CMYK color space, and uses eight color print heads or even twelve color print heads, the printer produces a wider range of colors than available in a simple CMYK world. Giclee printing is a step beyond ordinary inkjet printing and traditional lithography.
Giclee prints are quickly becoming the new standard in the fine art industry, and is widely embraced for its astonishing quality by major museums, galleries, publishers, and artists. A giclee print is quite simply the closest replication of an original artwork that is currently possible.
Having said that, however, there are still colors that artists can put in their pieces that are not reproducible in the print world. The human eye can recognize colors that are not able to be reproduced using even the most sophisticated scanners and inks. Giclee printing is good, but it is not a perfect reproduction solution for all pieces of art.
For more information on Giclee prints and printing.
What is a Giclee Print?