A giclee (zhee-clay) print is a great option for artists looking to offer fine art reproductions of original art at a lower price point to customers, while retaining the quality of the original work.
Giclee is the French word for “to spray” or “to squirt,” and it refers to ink being applied to a substrate. In effect, a giclee is a top-of-the-line inkjet print.
So what makes a giclee print so much better than an inkjet print from your desktop inkjet printer?
Early Snow Nocturne, ©2021 Tracy Zakraysek
Giclees are printed using pigments, as opposed to the inks used in the consumer desktop inkjet printer. These archival pigments produce superior color tones, last 100 to 200 years, and resist smearing and staining.
A desktop inkjet printer uses 6-8 inks, while a large format giclee printer uses 10-12 pigments, providing more accurate color reproduction, more vivid hues and depth of color, and finer gradients.
Resolution refers to the dots of pigment per square inch, or pixels per inch (ppi). The more dots in a print, and the finer they are, the more accurate your reproduction will be. Giclee printers use a finer spray than a desktop inkjet, so the print is substantially smoother, more saturated and more accurate.
Large format giclee printers can print on a huge variety of substrates with various thicknesses, finishes and textures. You can print your watercolor on a heavy, “cold-pressed” paper to create the most realistic reproduction. You can choose to print on canvas or other materials. Good giclee printers sell a sample pack of substrates for a small fee (typically $5.00), and it’s worth having.
Here’s a video (not mine) of the unboxing of a sample pack from giclee https://youtu.be/zW2nnxmiBc8
who I use for printing all of my artwork. It’s a good preview of the available substrates.
Longevity / Archivable
Giclees are meant to last 100 to 200 years without color degradation or fading, and the substrates are archival, as well. You can be confident that your print will look beautiful for a lifetime.
As an artist, are giclee prints worth it?
Once you sell an original artwork, it’s gone. You can’t make any more income from it. With a high quality print, you have a chance to make more from each print, and you also have a larger market of potential buyers to sell to. With your digital file, you can create different products - differently sized prints, greeting cards, mugs, textiles etc.
The market of potential buyers for original artwork is small, due to expense. There is a larger market for affordable, high-quality reproductions. These days, many people are less interested in having an original piece of art. They buy art because they love it, and want to decorate their space with something that resonates with them. You can reach this larger market with affordable prints in a variety of sizes and price points. And with more sales to a broader market, you increase your chances of your work becoming more well-known, thus raising your profile.
How do I convert my original art into a giclee print?
Prepare your artwork for printing
All giclee prints start with a digital file of the artwork. Your physical artwork must be photographed. I have no experience in this – my art begins as a digital file – so I can’t share my personal process, but I can state confidently, “garbage in, garbage out.” You can’t expect a high quality, accurate reproduction without a high quality photo. You can have your art professionally photographed, you can have the giclee printer handle the photography, or you can do it yourself. If you go the DIY route, I suggest searching Youtube for “how to photograph your artwork for prints”. If you prefer to read, here are a couple of links to tutorials:
Where do I find a giclee printing service?
Online giclee printing services
I use gicleetoday.com
for all my prints. They’re cost-effective, the prints look fabulous, they package the prints securely, they drop ship to my customers, and they’re in Pennsylvania, so ‘relatively’ local. I’ve never had a bad print from them!
African Queen, ©2021 Tracy Zakraysek
Below are a few links to other online giclee printers. I haven’t used any of these, so I can’t make any recommendations. I do advise avoiding photo printing services like Walgreens and the like because they are not fine art printers. A fine art printer is much more rigorous about producing an accurate, archival print. Research, check services offered and their costs, get sample packs and try a single print. An important advantage of giclees is that there is no minimum order; you can order a single print.
Should I get a proof print?
When a printer works from a photograph of your art, they are flying blind; they don’t know what the original looks like. Every device – whether desktop, mobile or tablet – will display color differently. There are many factors involved in accurate color reproduction, so getting a proof print is probably advisable.
Local giclee printing services
Paul Duda Gallery
My first ever giclee was printed by Paul Duda Gallery, and I recommend them highly. I went to their Brecksville location where the printing is done, and met with Simon, who actually makes the prints. He was extremely helpful, and I had a great experience. NOTE: they will photograph your artwork for you, if desired.
I have never used JakPrints, so I can’t vouch for them, but they are another local (Cleveland) resource you can investigate.
About the author
Tracy Zakraysek is a digital artist, painting her artwork on an iPad Pro and selling her vibrantly colorful giclee prints at Stella’s Art Gallery
in Willoughby, Ohio, and on her Etsy shop, www.tracyzakraysekprints.etsy.com