Giclee vs Photo Print (A Simple Comparison: The Difference Between Photo Prints and Giclee Prints, & How To Choose Between Them)

Giclee vs Photo Print: What’s the Difference Between Them?

To understand the difference between a giclee print and a photo print, let’s first look at both of them separately.

What Is a Giclee Print?

A giclee is a reproduction (copy) of an original work of art or photograph.

Giclees are typically paper art prints or canvas prints that have been printed using an inkjet printer. But it’s important to note that not all inkjet prints are giclee prints.

Typically, giclee prints 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.

An example of this is in Society6’s product video (below) promoting their art prints as “gallery quality giclee prints”.

Product Video: Society6 Art Prints

Do Giclee Prints Have Texture?

Giclees are not textured unless they’re printed on textured paper or canvas.

Most textured prints are created by adding a clear gel on top of a print. This gel is usually painted by hand, using the same motion as the original brushstrokes.

Are Giclee Prints Worth Anything?

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.

What Is a Photo Print?

Although both high-quality photo prints and giclee prints are more similar than they are different, the main difference is the type of paper used.

Commonly, digital photographs are printed on plain paper with a printer, but this is not considered a photo print.

A photo prints, also commonly called a photographic print, is a reproduction (copy) of a photograph or artwork, and it must use photo paper (paper coated with light-sensitive chemicals). This type of paper is smooth and has a gentle polished look or a glossy finish.

Today, most of the high-quality photo prints sold online are what you call silver halide photographic prints (see images on Redbubble). Silver halide photographic prints are printed by exposing photo paper to light and having the image infused in the paper through a silver-based chemical process.

High-quality photo prints are known to have colors that look very natural yet vibrant with amazing highlights and shadows.

Another great thing about a photo print is that the dye is inside the paper, as opposed to laying on top of the paper, so it’ll be resilient to being damaged by things like scratching and liquids.

What Is the Difference Between Photo Paper and Fine Art Paper?

Although both high-quality photo prints and giclee prints are more similar than they are different, the main difference is the type of paper used.

Giclee prints are typically made with a type of fine art paper*, which can be made of archival, acid-free cotton, or a cotton-blend. Photo prints are made of photo paper. This type of paper is resin-coated and light-sensitive.

Fine art paper is usually matte and thick, while photo paper is glossier and typically thinner than fine art paper.

Photo paper also helps in giving the print a high contrast look (amazing highlights and shadows) compared to the more muted look of fine art paper.

Galleries usually prefer fine art paper prints because they tend to last longer (less fading and yellowing) than photo paper prints.

* Giclees are also commonly printed on a canvas surface. For more information, check out my post: What Is Giclee on Canvas?