A giclee (zhee-CLAY), is an individually produced, high-resolution, high-fidelity, high-tech reproduction done on a special large format printer. Giclees are produced from digital scans of existing artwork.
Giclees can be printed on any number of media, from canvas to watercolor paper to vinyl, to transparent acetates. Giclees are superior to traditional lithography in nearly every way. The colors are brighter, last longer, and are so high-resolution that they are virtually 'continuous tone', rather than tiny dots. The range or "gamut" of color for giclees is far beyond that of lithography, and details are crisper.
Giclées are the best option to bring fine artwork to the public at a reasonable price. Giclees professionally done on the best equipment is the most up to date archival form of reproduction available today.
Giclee printing is meant to produce a product at a higher quality and with a longer lifespan than a standard desktop inkjet printer.
There are at least three basic criteria that must be met in order for a print to be considered a true giclee:
Look for key terms on the box, such as archival, 100% cotton or rag, and acid-free.
For giclee printing, the paper or substrate used to actually print the final piece must be of archival quality. Any professional series paper will probably indicate if it is archival quality on the box. Typically it will say it is acid-free and consists of a 100 percent cotton or rag base.
A giclee print is typically created on a large format printer that uses pigment-based inks.
The last element in a true giclee print is the type of ink and printer used. The biggest contrast between a standard inkjet print and a giclee print is that giclees are printed using pigment-based inks rather than the dye-based inks found in lower-cost inkjets.
Pigment-based inks have a longer lifespan and can last anywhere from 100 to 200 years without significant fading. The type of printer used to create giclees is usually a larger format model that specifically uses pigment-based inks and will hold around eight to 12 different color ink cartridges. The more inks used, the more sophisticated the color range available on final output.
The advantages to artists producing their work as a giclee print are that it can be created 'on-demand'. Because the process is digital and does not require the larger numbers needed for an offset print order, or the time and cost that goes into traditional screen printing, it can be a good way for artists to produce their own prints rather than requiring a second party printer.