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What is Giclée Printing?

If you are a designer, photographer, or artist, you have likely come across this term at some point in your career. Others may be unfamiliar with the term altogether. Originally coined by French printmaker Jack Duganne, Giclée was derived from the french verb "gicler", which means to spray, spout, or squirt.

Now to answer your first question, how do you say Giclée? (We get asked this a lot - and don't worry, I had to look it up the first time I saw it too). It's pronounced "Zhee-Klay".

Giclée printing is a fancy term for a type of inkjet printing. But while all Giclée prints come from an inkjet printer, not all inkjet prints are Giclée. Giclée printing produces a higher quality print, with a longer lifespan, than your everyday desktop inkjet printer.

Originally, Giclée was used to describe reproductions of traditional artworks or photographs. However, this definition has evolved to also include completely digital artwork as well.

So what makes a print Giclée? In general, there are three criteria. However, buyer beware. There are no legal regulations around the term, so some use it more liberally than others. But here they are:

The Right Ink/Printer

Giclée prints are typically produced on a large format printer that uses pigment-based inks, as opposed to the dye-based inks found in lower-cost inkjet printers. Pigment-based inks have a longer lifespan, and depending on the medium and environment, can last up to 200 years without significant fading. They also use 8 to 12 or more ink cartridges, instead of traditional 4 colour inkjet printing. These additional ink colours allow for a broader and much more vivid range of colour in the final printed piece.

The Right Paper

In Giclée printing, the right paper is just as important as the ink used to print the image. Look for key terms such as archival, 100% cotton, acid free, or rag. To be a Giclée, the paper or medium used to print the final piece must be of archival quality. These mediums are the best for longevity and colour reproduction, and are avaialable from a variety of brands/sellers. Professional series paper is more expensive than what you will find at your local big box store, but will ensure you can enjoy your piece for years to come.

The Right Resolution

Giclée prints must be printed at a minimum of 300 DPI (dots per inch), which refers to the number of colour dots printed per square inch on paper. So in terms of traditional artwork or photographs, the camera or scanner used to capture the image must be able to do so at 300 DPI. This will ensure that the final print features crisp detail and contrast, and is free of pixelation that typically occurs at lower resolutions.

These criteria are the most widely accepted standards for Giclée, although you may come across additional standards, depending on the medium. Does the print you are buying claim to be Giclée? Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask the artist, photographer, or gallery about the printer/ink and paper that were used to produce it, if they aren't already listed. Giclée prints provide a beautiful image with a lifespan of more than 100 years if properly maintained and cared for.

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