A Giclée (gee-clay) print is the closest form of replication of an original piece of art possible using existing printing technology. Giclée prints are reproductions of “flat art”, such as oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and photography. Giclée is a French word that originated in the 17th century. It means “to spray or to squirt ink”.
Today Giclée prints offer the highest quality reproduction standards and the ability to produce archival quality prints. The result is breathtaking. Buyers prefer Giclées among all forms of limited edition reproductions. Giclées are produced from high resolution digital scans of original art and then printed with archival quality inks onto archival quality papers. A Giclée may be produced on a wide range of surfaces including vinyl, canvas, and last but not least, various weights and textures of paper or card. Each step in this process and format determines the value of the Giclée and its archival quality.
So what does the word “archival” mean when it’s used to describe inks and papers? Archival quality ink is designed to resist fading and weathering so that it will endure for future enjoyment. To endure over time, an ink must be fade resistant and must remain ”fast” — that is tight or hard — to the page. The ability to resist fading is probably the most important archival factor because many inks slowly fade over time, first turning brown and later disappearing almost totally.
The ability to adhere fast to the media means exposure to moisture will not cause the ink to run. These abilities are altered by the chemical composition of the ink, with the best inks being relatively pH neutral or slightly alkaline so that they do not interact with our mildly acidic environment.
To be designated an archival quality paper it must meet the following standards established by the International Standards Organization (ISO):
- it has a pH value of 7.5 to 10, which means it is acid free;
- it has an alkali reserve of at least 2 percent calcium carbonate;
- it is resistant to tearing;
- it is free of easily oxidized material, or lignin;
- it is made from cotton; and
- it has a high resistance to breaking from folding.
When archival quality inks meet archival quality papers, the result is a print that is expected to last 75 or more years on its own and longer if it’s behind UV resistant glass. Technology advances have raised expectations to as much as 200 years. Permanence refers to how well a printed image lasts over time, whether it fades when exposed to sunlight, heat, humidity or airborne pollutants. Durability refers to how well an image resists accidents, such as spilled water, smudging and fingernail scratches.
The quality of today’s Giclée prints is becoming the new reproduction standard in the art industry, and is being widely embraced by major museums, galleries, artists, publishers, and photographers.
Giclée prints have captured the imagination of many artists and photographers because of their exceptional quality, longevity, and the flexibility offered by the ability to print on demand. Prior to Giclée printing, producing multiple copies of an original required significant upfront investments by artists. The original image had to be photographed and then stored as a negative or film which deteriorates over time. Large quantities were reproduced at one time which further tied up the artist’s investment in paper and printing costs.
Today reproductions using Giclée printing allow an artist to reproduce their art as needed or on demand. Once an image is digitally scanned and archived, additional reproductions can be made with minimal effort and at a reasonable cost. The prohibitive up-front cost of mass production for an edition is eliminated. Another tremendous advantage of Giclee printing is that digital images can be reproduced to almost any size and onto various media, giving the artist the ability to customize prints for a specific client.
Producing Giclée limited edition prints is a great way for artists to make their art more widely available at lower prices than original art, and increase their collector bases by offering affordable alternatives to more expensively-priced originals. If someone loves a particular image, and the only way they can own it is by buying it in the form of a signed, limited edition Giclée, that’s absolutely OK.
Art is, after all, to be enjoyed.