Giclee Printer

Over the past decade more and more artists have turned to the giclée process to create fine art prints for sale. What is giclée, where does it come from and why are giclée prints so popular? Read on to find out

History of Giclée Printing

In 1981 an Israeli company named Scitex (now CreoScitex) created a printing device called the IRIS that was intended to be a proof printer for traditional offset printing. These high quality proofs would be used by a press operator to make sure that the printed page matched what the customer expected to see. Nobody expected to frame an IRIS print and hang it on their wall, but that is exactly what happened.

Enterprising printmakers like Jack Duganne and MaryAnne Doe saw the possibilities in this new technology and began developing a process for creating high quality digital prints for sale using IRIS printers. The term "IRIS print" was too closely linked to the printing industry to be useful to the fine arts community. They needed a term that could act as a brand for their new printmaking process.

Jack Duganne hit upon a perfect brand name in 1991 with Giclée. He wanted to stay away from terms that hinted at digital prints or computer prints because of the negative connotation among artists in general. Starting off with the French word for inkjet (jet de encre), he looked for a French word that was generic enough to describe the inkjet process and the term Giclée was born. It literally means "that which is sprayed or squirted", which is a perfect description for the inkjet printing process used in giclée fine art printing.

So What Exactly is Giclée?

Giclée at its most basic is an art print created by an inkjet printer. We aren't talking about your garden variety desktop inkjet printer here, though. Inkjet printers used for giclée printing have between 6 and 12 ink cartridges and can print on substrates from standard paper to archival quality canvas. The inks used in these printers are pigment based inks as opposed to dye based inks. According to recent tests by the Fine Art Guild, newer pigment based inks can last up to 200 years if protected from UV light and mounted with acid free paper.

CreoScitex is still manufacturing inkjet printers in the IRIS line. As a matter of fact, Jack Duganne is still using these printers in his printmaking business. In addition to the CreoScitex models, HP, Canon and Epson produce printers that are popular in giclée printing.

Original artwork for giclée printing is captured either on a high resolution flatbed scanner from the orignal artwork or on a drum scanner from a photographically generated transparency. This scanned image is the brought into an application like Photoshop to be cleaned up and color corrected in preparation for the printing process.

Why are they so popular?

One of the biggest advantages to giclée printing is the quality of the print. In traditional lithographic reproductions dot patterns, called halftones, are printed using the four subtractive color inks - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. The resulting dot pattern is visible to the naked eye and the color range of this process is limited compared to inkjet prints.

Giclée prints are produced in a process know as continuous tone or contone. No specific dot patterns are used and all of the colors seem to flow together smoothly with no disturbing dot pattern. In addition, the 6-12 inks in a giclée printer are able to produce a wider array of brighter colors creating a final result that is much closer to the original than in traditional lithography.

Because of their long lasting pigments fine art giclée prints, properly cared for, can last for generations without fading. They make great decorative and collector pieces and will gracefully age into family heirlooms.