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What is a Giclee Print?

What IS that funny word “giclee” and how do you pronounce it?

Giclee is from a French word meaning 'spraying' or 'spurting’ and it’s pronounced “zhjee clay” even though it’s often misspelled and pronounced glicee or geclee. The name was adopted to refer to the inkjet printing process of spraying millions of tiny drops of high-pressure ink per second onto high quality canvas or paper to make an archival print. These prints most faithfully reproduce the all the colors, vibrancy and subtle details of an original work of art.

The first images to use the name giclee were made in the early 1990’s on specialized inkjet printers that could spray and mix many more colors for much better accuracy than the traditional four color offset lithography process previously used to make prints.

Today these large inkjet printers use multiple cartridges of expensive, pure pigment ink that has been tested in the lab to last 100 years or more. Giclees are printed on high quality, acid free paper or canvas, the same kind of substrate that would be used for an original work only further engineered to hold the inkjet pigments for maximum vibrancy. Giclees on canvas are sometimes simply called canvas prints.

Because the ink and the substrate will last a lifetime or more, they are deemed archival. The finished canvas print is also spray coated with an environmentally friendly, water-based process resulting in a waterproof and abrasion resistant surface. See Wilhelm Imaging Research for more information.

For centuries artists have been reproducing and making copies of their images; from etchings on copper plates to completely mechanical reproductions that can be mass-produced. The difference between a reproduction and a print is that the artist actively participates in the process of creating a print.

In fact, with a giclee, the artist may have control of every step along the way, from owning the printer, taking the digital photo to deciding the image’s size, color, substrate and number of editions created. Several proofs are made in order to correct the color until the artist is satisfied with the result. Canvas prints can also be enhanced by hand with additional paint and brushstrokes.

At the very least, an artist approves each print when they sign and number a limited edition and each print should come with a certificate of authenticity. With an open, unlimited edition and no signature the artist may not have participated in the process and the artwork would technically be called a reproduction. These are what you might find in a furniture store or catalog.

Today, some artists sell only the giclees made from their original paintings and don’t sell the originals. Museums worldwide have had exhibitions and purchased giclees for their collections. Acclaimed artists such as David Hockney, Jim Dine, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg and Andrew Wyeth have produced their work as giclees.

Giclee prints by David Hockney can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, but from an emerging artist the range might begin at $200 for a small format piece to $500 - $2,000 for a full sized work from a talented but not internationally known artist.

Canvas giclee prints are terrific for many situations; your home, business or office and they’re a wonderful way to have affordable fine art that will last a lifetime… or two!

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