The fine art of reproducing Fine Art

About Giclée

Much is talked about Giclée in the fine art world.

The rather fanciful word (taken from the French word giclée translated literally as ‘squirt’) is not a trade name but describes a method rather than a prescribed or proprietary process. It was coined in the early 1990’s to describe fine art prints reproduced with an Iris large-format inkjet printer, originally designed for making commercial offset press proofs. The name Giclée separated the prints made on fine art papers from the more workaday commercial applications. These early fine art print reproductions with Iris printers were plagued with longevity problems, as the ink (not designed for long term use) allowed print fading after only a few years of display. However, five years later, Iris Giclées were testing at independent labs with longevity rating of close to 30 years (with indoor lighting), and the Giclée concept began to take off.

The idea of Giclée prints has a lot going for it. They are capable of accurately reproducing original art onto watercolour papers and canvas; have an initial set-up cost that is much less than traditional offset litho printing; has the same look, texture and feel of the original art. The ‘on-demand’ printing allows the artist to run an edition without having to commit large sums of money to a traditional press run.

And so the term Giclée has become synonymous with ‘fine art print’. We use exclusively the extraordinary Hewlet Packard ‘Z’ series wide format. Printing up to 44″ in 1200 dpi with twelve colour pigment inks and 4 picolitre drops means unsurpassed visual quality and extraordinary light fastness. These printers receive rave reviews across the world in both photographic and fine art fields.

HPZ3200The utilisation of light black, cyan and magenta plus primaries of red, green and blue inks in addition to the black, cyan, magenta and yellow found in normal printers gives amazingly smooth graduated tones with a complete lack of dot structure to the naked eye. With the gloss black ink and clear gloss varnish it prints onto photobase paper and looks as good as a real photo print – change to matt black ink and print onto cotton rag fine art paper and hey-presto it’s as good as an original painting or litho/screen print. Monochrome printing is unsurpassed.

In the past, inkjet printing has received a poor press with regard to longevity. While technical progress had been made on ink delivery and paper quality, giving excellent image quality, sadly, the images often degraded on exposures to light and environmental gases, sometimes alarmingly rapidly. Now, with the introduction of Vivera pigmented inks, coupled with ph controlled museum quality papers, all that has now changed – print lifetime is now measured in multiple decades and a framed print in normal home conditions can be expected to last over 250 years without visible change.

Giclée prints are widely accepted at museums and galleries. Many museums in the United States and elsewhere have either mounted exhibitions of Giclée prints or purchased prints for their permanent collections. These include: the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Guggenheim (New York), The Museum of Fine Art (Boston), The Philadelphia Museum, and The Smithsonian Institute. Additionally, many distinguished photographers and artists, among them: Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth, Joyce Tennison, Peter Ralston, John Paul Caponigro, Hans Neleman, Raymond Meeks, Dennis Schultz, Peter Nelson and Richard Avedon produce works that are Giclée printed.

Digital printing has certainly come of age.

(Independent evaluation of print permanence testing can be found here: www.wilhelm-research.com/hp/Z3200.html )