Fine Art Print
What is Giclée?
Giclée is a reproduction of a piece of artwork. Another name that you might have heard for giclée is a "Fine Art Print", and they're also known as "Fine Art Pigment Prints", or "Pigment Prints", or even "Archival Pigment Prints".
Giclées are meant to reproduce the original artwork, especially in cases if the original is too expensive or simply not available for sale (e.g., the original is in a museum, or has been sold already).
Gicleés are typically printed on archival media with archival inks, which means that they'll be more colorfast and less susceptible to changes in the environment.
For most art collectors, giclées provide an option to own an exact reproduction of a rare masterpiece, or an original artwork that's no longer available.
California in the 80s
The digital giclée process was invented in the mid-80s in California by a team of printmakers working on the photographs by the legendary Graham Nash.
They modified a commercial Iris inkjet printer to achieve fine-art quality prints.
As opposed to other printers at the time, the Iris printer used a continuous flow ink system to produce dot free output. Iris's micrometer-sized ink jets generated 1 million drops a second. The droplets are electrically charged to deposit on the paper for precision printing.
The actual term "giclée" (pronounced as zhee-KLAY) was a neologism coined by Jack Duganne, one of the printmakers. It is a French word for "to spray" (as in the inkjet printers).
Giclées in the 2020s
Few things have changed in 40 years. Definitely, fashion and hairstyles are some of them.
Another is Giclée technology.
In the 2010s, the Iris printer was superseded by the more advanced Epson and Canon printers. They're larger format, have better inks, and are less expensive to manufacture.
Second, art and photo scanning technology significantly improved with digital scanners and cameras (remember your "megapixel" camera of 10 years ago?).
Finally, in addition to paper, new medium substrates were added, including aluminum and steel panels, acrylic glass, Dibond® and printing on canvas.
Gigapixels of Art
The print quality is only as good as the image or photograph of the original work. One just can't make a print from an iPhone photo.
Professional art photography or art scanning focuses on:
1. Best photo resolution (in megapixels) available to capture the most minute image details
2. Perfectly even illumination of the artwork with diffused light, eliminating glares, accentuating brushstrokes and textures, removing shadows and reflections from paints
3. Accurate color correction, color proofing and color calibration to capture the artwork colors perfectly.
Art House SF is working with ScaleUp Art in San Francisco, who invented their own Gigapixel Artwork Capture system. We compared multiple originals vs. their giclées and can attest to their superb quality.
Acid-free museum quality
Giclée prints on paper are printed on high-quality archival paper. "Archival" here means that this paper will not deteriorate over time, will not turn yellow, and will preserve all colors printed on it.
Archival paper is acid-free (pH of 7) and lignin-free (lignin is the organic compound from wood pulp that will turn acidic over time). This paper doesn't turn yellow or becomes brittle over time.
The most common archival paper is manufactured from 100% cotton (not wood pulp). It is stronger and more durable than wood, and it also absorbs ink and toner better.
Art House SF giclées are printed on the Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper. Hahnemühle is a German paper company established in 1584. It produces the highest quality giclée paper in the world.
Pigment printing with 12+ inks
Modern Giclee printers are sophisticated and expensive (up to $10k range) large-format machines from Canon and Epson.
While most desktop printers have 4 ink cartridges: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK), giclee printers take 12 ink cartridges for superb image reproduction (e.g., Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Photo Cyan, Photo Magenta, Grey, Photo Grey, Matte Black, Blue, Red, Chroma Optimizer, Black).
They also use pigment-based inks rather than dye-based. Pigment ink contains tiny colored particles suspended in ink, while dye ink has soluble colorant dissolved in liquid.