Giclee vs Lithograph (A Simple Comparison: The Difference Between Lithographs & a Giclee Print, & How To Choose Between Them)

Lithograph vs Giclee Prints: What Is the Difference Between Them?

There are many differences between a lithograph vs a giclee.

To really understand the difference between a lithograph and a giclee, let’s first look at lithographs. Then, we’ll look at what a print requires in order to be classified as a giclee.

What Is a Lithograph?

Lithograph is a term that originates from the Greek words for “stone” and “to write”.

This particular printing technique works on the fact that water and grease repel each other.

Take a look at the video below, where they show how lithographs are made and what a lithograph looks like.

How Lithographs Are Made

So, basically, a lithograph is a printing technique that requires an artist to first draw their artwork on a prepared surface like a bavarian limestone (or a special kind of textured aluminum) with a greasy crayon, pencil, or another similar tool.

The drawing is then covered with a thin layer of water and then quickly applied with ink. When ink is applied to the stone, it sticks to the grease and but is repelled by areas where there’s only water present.

After some chemical processing, the drawing is placed in a press and the image is transferred onto a piece of paper, creating a mirrored picture.

The artist can create as many hand-printed copies of the same original artwork as he or she wants.

What Is the Difference Between a Lithograph and Print?

Lithographs are works of art that are hand-printed by an artist (or artisan) that has been reproduced in small quantities from an original image, using grease, ink, water, and a special surface such as limestone.

In the art world, when you hear the word print*, it usually means reproductions of an original piece of art that was printed using a machine (usually a high-quality printer hooked up to a computer, as Society6 and Redbubble do).

With this printing technique, the artist doesn’t print the artwork by hand at all and the original artwork can be mass-produced at a rapid pace.

* Print also includes words like art print, canvas print, metallic print, etc.

You can see an example of what art prints are in the video below.

Society6 Art Prints – Start to Finish

What Is A Giclee Print?

Giclees are typically art prints (see image on Society6) or canvas prints (see image on Society6) that have been printed using an inkjet printer. But it’s important to note that not all inkjet prints are giclee prints.

Typically, giclees follow these standards:

  • Inkjet Printer: Standard inkjet prints are made using dye-based inks. Giclees are made using pigment-based inks.
  • High Resolution and Color: They have the sharpest detail and highest resolution, displaying a full-color spectrum. Giclees capture every shade of an original work.
  • Archival Paper: The paper or surface used must be acid-free and of archival quality to ensure longevity.

The standards mentioned above are what make giclees high-quality prints that are very resistant to fading and yellowing.

What Is the Difference Between a Giclee and a Print?

In the art world, the term print is used to describe any printed reproduction of an original work of art. They’re printed using different techniques and using different materials.

Types of prints include:

  • Giclees
  • Art Prints (see an example of a giclee art print in the video below)
  • Lithographs
  • Etchings
  • Screenprints
  • Letterpress prints

As you can see from the list above, giclees and lithographs are both types of prints.

Check out the video below for an example of a type of giclee art print (Society6).

Society6 Product Demo: Art Prints

Which Is Better, Giclee or Lithograph?

When it comes to the aesthetics of giclee or lithographs, it’s really a matter of personal taste. In my opinion, one is not better than the other. You really should buy the artwork that you love.

However, when it comes to monetary worth, let’s look at if lithographs are worth more than prints and if giclee prints are worth buying.

Are Lithographs Worth More Than Prints?

Typically, lithographs are worth more than prints from a printer. Although a lithograph is usually much more affordable than original art created by a well-known artist, it still has an air of exclusivity as the artwork is not mass-produced.

Important factors that have the potential to increase the value of a lithograph prints are:

  • Has a limited quantity (limited edition)
  • Is numbered (another sign that it’s from a limited edition)
  • Is signed by the artist
  • Was hand-printed by the creator of the original artwork

Lithographs usually keep or increase their value over time.

Here’s a list of some more qualities that make lithographs worth more money:

  • Artist: An artist’s popularity, backstory, and death will greatly influence the cost of a lithograph.
  • Materials: Generally speaking, a lithograph print made with archival inks and paper has a higher value than a lithograph made with lower-quality materials.
  • Condition: A lithograph’s physical condition is an important factor. Tears/rips, water damage, fading, dirt, and discoloration can all decrease the value of a lithograph.
  • Authenticity: An original lithograph print that is created directly and personally by a particular artist is worth more than an imitation or a copy (print) made by a mechanical printer.
  • Provenance: A record of who the lithograph belonged to can also be used as a guide to authenticity and quality. If a lithograph was once owned by a famous collector or came from an esteemed art gallery, the value of the print will greatly increase.
  • Historical Significance: First, the value of a lithograph will increase if the artwork had any importance to art history in its genre (category). But world history also affects the value of the artwork since it’s often a reflection of cultural, political, economical, social, and military history.
  • Auctions: Just the sudden feeling of excitement bidders can have at an auction, especially if the auctioneer is skilled at making an auction exhilarating, can raise the price of a lithograph.

Are Giclee Prints Worth It?

You might hear some people say that giclees aren’t valuable. But I totally disagree! I think they’re a worthy investment.

Here are the top reasons why I think giclee prints are valuable:

  1. Giclees have the support of fine art experts. They are collected and displayed by famous museums from around the world, like the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum.
  2. They are very accurate, archival prints. Sometimes, it’s very difficult to distinguish between giclees and the original artwork.
  3. It’s not uncommon for limited edition giclee prints to go up in value because of their rarity and high quality. They also become more valuable as the artist becomes more well-known.