What is a Giclée print?

The Definition : Giclée (zhee-klay) - a word of French origin, means a spray or a spurt of liquid, yup, that's it, nothing too fancy. It is possible that the word may also have been derived from a French verb "gicler" which means "to squirt". This is where ink-jet technology comes into play.

The Term : "giclée print" refers to an elevated form print making. Images are generated from high resolution digital scans or photographs and are then printed with long-lasting archival quality inks onto various substrates, usually canvas, or thick fine art papers that have been specially coated with a medium that can accept ink-jet printing. The more ink cartridges involved in the giclée printing process the better the color accuracy and therefore a much better form of art reproduction than any other type.

The Process : Giclée prints are typically created using professional 8 to 12 color, large format ink-jet printers, however, with the advances in home-based wide-format ink-jet printers, it is possible to create these types of prints at home or in a home-based art studio, for example the Epson 1400 13 x 19 inch printer is an excellent choice. Among the manufacturers of these printers are vanguards such as Epson, MacDermid Colorspan, and Hewlett-Packard. These modern technology printers are capable of producing very detailed prints for fine art markets. Giclée prints are sometimes referred to as Iris prints, which are 4-Color ink-jet prints from a printer pioneered in the late 70's by Iris Graphics. This is a big mistake and does a disservice to the new technologies available today that can last up to 100 years!

Advantages : Giclée prints are extremely advantageous to any artist or photographer who does not find it economically feasible to mass produce their work, but still want to reproduce their art as needed, or on-demand. Once an image has been digitized, additional reproductions can be made with very little effort and a relatively reasonable cost. The prohibitive up-front cost of mass production for a limited-edition run-off has been essentially eliminated. Archived digital files will never deteriorate in quality as negatives and film do, even under the best conditions. Another great advantage of giclée printing is that digital images can be reproduced to just about any size, provided the original photo or scan is of sufficient resolution. This flexibility gives the artist the ability to customize prints for a specific client or venue.

Quality : The quality of giclée prints rival traditional silver-halide and gelatin printing processes and is most commonly found in museums and galleries. In most cases it is difficult to tell the difference between a giclée print and the original work of art provided it is prepared on similar substrate. I have even seen some examples which look more like the "original" than the actual original work of art. And you can reproduce art work on substrates different than the original, for example you could photograph or scan a watercolor painting and then print it on canvas.

Longevity : It is widely believed that giclée prints will last at least 75 years and if kept under the proper conditions, over 100 years, hence the much higher price for giclée prints versus a standard ink-jet print.

The Market : a number of examples of giclée prints can be found in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Chelsea Gallery. Recent auctions of giclée prints have fetched $10,800 for Annie Leibovitz, $9,600 for Chuck Close, and $22,800 for Wolfgang Tillmans (April 23/24 2004, Photographs, New York, Phillips de Pury & Company.) Giclée prints are particularly well-suited for digitally-produced works of art.

Digital Pigment Print Definition

The term "pigment print" is used most commonly for most types of printed images that strictly use pigments. Pigment printing processes have been used since the middle 19th century using mechanical printing presses as opposed to today's digital printers. Time has proven that the image stability of pigment inks and pigment printing is highly superior to that of any other method of printing, including traditional silver-halide or metal-based prints. Just pullout an old photo that hasn't even seen the light of day and you will notice how much it has faded and degraded over time.

Digital ink-jet printing has seen a surge in the use of pigment ink as ink sets have been refined to be compatible with the latest in high-resolution ink-jet technology.

Archival dye-based inks exhibit excellent color gamut while pigment inks excel in permanence and new printers with a higher number of pigment cartridges show nearly as wide a color gamut as dye-based inks do. A dye is molecularly soluble in its vehicle, but pigment is not. Pigment particles tend to be large enough to embed into the receiving substrate making them water-resistant. The particulate nature of pigment inks ensures their archival superiority. Chemistry shows that a particle of pigment is much less susceptible to destructive environmental elements such as heat, humidity, moisture, and ultraviolet light, than a dye molecule.

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