Giclee Printing Guide: Everything You Need to Know
What Does Giclee Printing Mean?
Giclee is the first and the only fine print to be created with the use of an inkjet printer.
Coming from the French language, Giclee means to spray –which is exactly the mechanism of printing for an inkjet printer.
Giclee printing was first introduced in the late 1980s, and it immediately caught the fine art community’s attention as it’s quite superior to any other printing form.
If you perfect your Giclee prints, they can get very close to the original 2D artwork and capture the essence of the original artwork –so they’re the perfect affordable alternative for original fine art.
What Distinguishes Giclee Printing?
There are 4 major criteria needed to perfect a Giclee print: resolution, ink, paper, and the type of printer.
The first step to Giclee printing is to capture your original artwork through scanning or photographing it at 300 DPI resolution or higher.
To determine the ideal print resolution for your image's size you simply have to divide the photo's pixel size by 300 DPI.
And to know the number of pixels in your photo, right-click the image’s file icon, choose “Properties” from the drop-down list, then click the “Details” tab.
If, for example, your image measures 2550 x 3300 and you divide each by 300, you’ll get 8.5 x 11-which is the ideal size.
There's no way around using pigment-based inks when it comes to Giclee printing. Dye-based pigments are just out of the question.
This is due to the fact that dye-based inks tend to fade with time and can’t be exposed to sunlight –at least without some sort of protection against UV rays.
Moreover, you need to have 8 or more different colored pigmented inks to use in your printer.
The numerous colors help the printer produce a much wider range of colors at a higher degree of accuracy.
And the combination of pigment-based inks and multiple cartridges improves the clarity and enhances the definition of the final output.
To reach the best giclee output, your paper has to be 100% archival. This doesn’t restrict you to any type of paper as there are many types of archival ones such as canvas, gloss paper, matte paper, velvet paper, specialty artisan paper, and watercolor textured paper.
Which brings us to the fact that you have to choose your paper thoughtfully to get the best results. So consider the finish, brightness, and weight of the paper.
This includes matte, glossy, or semi-glossy and it refers to the granulation of the paper.
Matte papers can range from ultra-smooth to uniquely textured. They're not reflective and can be displayed behind glass in bright light.
Moreover, they don’t get affected by fingerprints and dust like glossy paper. However, they are more prone to damage due to handling. So wearing cotton gloves is highly recommended.
Glossy papers have a reflective coating that gives the print a shiny and bright appearance. This coating also serves as a protective layer between the oils and the actual ink, so it can withstand direct contact with hands.
However, they do show fingerprints and dust and the coating may create a glare –especially if displayed under a bright light or behind a glass frame.
Semi-glossy papers are sort of a combination between glossy and matte. They have rich colors, resist fingerprints, and don't create as much of a glare as glossy ones. They are, however, less shiny.
Moreover, they’re more durable than matte paper, but they also don’t reach the same depth of blacks.
Think well about the advantages and disadvantages of each as well as how your print will be handled after it’s produced. And always make sure the paper is of archival quality.
While it’s true that all white paper looks bright, there’s a 1 to 100 scale from least to most bright.
But in Giclee printing, brighter isn’t always better. The image that will be printed will help you determine the paper brightness you need.
Though you can choose this general guideline:
When printing bright and bold colors, use paper that is higher on the brightness scale as it will give your final print a more vibrant look.
If you’re printing very light colors, use low-brightness paper to prevent the colors from looking washed and to create a deeper and richer final print.
Use medium-brightness paper when you’re working on a blend of light and dark colors to reach the optimal balance.
Note: Brightness affects matte paper more than it does semi-glossy or glossy paper.
If you're going to add your prints to your portfolio, use thinner paper as they're less stiff, take up less space, and don't obstruct turning the pages.
Generally, thicker paper is preferred when you're printing Giclee as thick paper is less prone to tear and wrinkle and are better for framing.
This is especially true if you're printing large scale images as thicker paper prevents sagging over time.
Last but not least, the printer you use should be a wide-format inkjet printer and not just a regular everyday one.
Giclee printers use pigment-based ink that can last from 100 to 200 years.
It should be able to print at very high resolutions and on a variety of paper types and sizes.
The Difference Between a Giclee Print and a Hand-Pulled Print
A pulled-print is an original piece of fine art while a giclee print is actually a copy.
Pulled prints are created by print-makers from a master image they made themselves. So each one is considered and valued as an original.
On the other hand, a giclee print is basically a remake of the original artwork to recreate the details in order for the artist to be able to distribute it to a larger audience.
The Difference Between a Giclee and a Digital Print
The short answer is longevity.
Before Giclee prints, there was no way to decorate a place with artwork except using original art.
Nowadays, however, you can print any image from a smartphone, tablet, or home office printer –what we call a digital print.
However, these prints don’t usually have the highest qualities and only last 10 years before they get washed out.
A Giclee print, however, contains a lot of details, higher color accuracy, and can withstand the test of time.