What Is the Difference Between a Giclee and a Print?

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I may also earn a commission when you buy through other links on my site. Learn more.

Sponsored Link

What Is the Difference Between a Giclee and a Print?

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

What Is a Print?

Today, most people think that all prints are mechanical copies (reproductions) of original artwork. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are two types of prints:

  1. Fine Art Prints
  2. Reproductions

Fine art prints are original artwork while reproductions are copies of an original work of art.

To really understand the difference between the two, let’s take a closer look at what reproductions and fine art prints are.

What Are Reproductions?

Reproductions are copies of original works of art. There is no creative process involved from the artist when reproductions are made.

Examples of reproductions are prints that can be mass-produced like posters, art prints, and canvas prints.

You can see images of reproductions by visiting iCanvas.

What Are Fine Art Prints?

A fine art print is a print that’s also an original work of art. In other words, fine art prints are handmade by the artist and often have original marks from the printer used.

Examples of fine art prints are those found on Etsy, including etchings, lithographs, and serigraphs.

Fine art prints are printed using different techniques and using different materials but they all have one thing in common; all fine art prints are considered handmade by the artist and they’re considered original works of art.

Basically, to make a fine art print, the artist must first draw, paint, or carve a printing surface. The printing surface can be a multitude of different materials, like stone (lithographs), screens (serigraphs, also knows as screenprints), and metal plates (etchings). When the ink or paint is transferred from that surface to a sheet of paper (or whatever material the artist chooses), the final product is called a fine art print.

Check out the links below for more details on how different types of fine art prints are made:

Common Mistake: Fine Art Prints vs Art Prints

The term fine art print should not be confused with the term art print.

While a fine art print is considered original artwork, an art print is a commonly used term used to describe a type of reproduction (a copy of an original work of art).

Art prints can be easily mass-produced without the aid of the artist who created the original artwork and they’re typically printed on white, premium, cotton paper with high-quality inks. Usually, the paper used for an art print is matte and can be smooth or lightly textured.

If you go to popular art sites such as iCanvas, Society6, Redbubble, and Minted, you’ll quickly notice that what they call art print is artwork printed on medium-weight, cotton paper with a white border. It’s common for art prints to come with a white border around the artwork for framing, but it’s not a requirement.

An example of what most people call art print is in Society6’s product video (below).

Product Video: Society6 Art Prints

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.

So, are giclee prints better than a regular (non-giclee) art prints?

If you’re going to compare a giclee art print to a regular, standard art print, then yes. A giclee art print is definitely better than an art print.

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.

Giclees are made using pigment-based inks. If kept in darkness and in specific environmental conditions, pigment-based inks can last up to 200 years without noticeable fading or yellowing.

Under standard home or office lighting, without sunlight, you can expect a framed giclee printed on photo paper to last up to 85 years without any noticeable fading. (Any artwork exposed to sunlight will fade.)

How Can You Tell It’s a Giclee Print?

Usually, unless you’re told it is by a reputable artist or you go to an art appraiser, it can be very difficult to tell if a print is a giclee. Regular (non-giclee) prints can oftentimes look almost identical to giclee prints.

If you’re really serious about knowing if a certain print is a giclee, find an art appraiser at a gallery, museum, or auction house (or just google “art appraiser near me“).

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.

Why Are Giclee Prints So Expensive?

It’s a myth that getting top-quality giclee prints will be expensive. And I’ll admit that some companies do charge quite a bit (maybe too much) for their giclee prints.

But, high-quality giclee prints don’t actually have to be that expensive, as you’ll see below in the section: Where Is the Cheapest Place To Buy Giclée Prints?

Here are some other factors that will increase the price (and value) of giclee prints:

  • Premium Materials: Uses high-quality inkjet printers and materials (archival papers/canvas and inks) that will make your art print look amazing and last for decades.
  • Limited editions: If the giclee print is a limited edition (like they sell on Minted or Saatchi Art), this means there are only so many prints of the original artwork that will be made. This increases the value of the giclee print.
  • Well-Known Artist: If you’re buying a giclee print of artwork created by a well-known artist, you’ll be paying more than a giclee print made from the work of an emerging artist.
  • Popularity: If the artwork is featured in the news, books, museums, catalogs, websites, or other media, the price will go up.
  • The Story: If there’s a really cool story behind the artwork (like a famous person used to own it or was featured in a TV show or play), then a giclee print will probably go up in price.
Sponsored Link

Cheapest Places To Buy Top-Quality Giclee Prints & Other Types of Prints

Here are my favorited places to get the cheapest, high-quality giclees and other types of prints.

If I’m looking for more super inexpensive prints, I’ll usually browse through Etsy and Amazon and read the reviews until I find something I like with a 4 or 5-star rating.

Some more of my favorite places to look for giclee art prints and giclee canvas prints are iCanvas, Society6, Redbubble, and Inktuitive. These companies are all known to be top-quality producers of giclee prints that do not look cheap at all.

iCanvas and Inktuitive have high-quality prints at discounted prices. Plus, iCanvas has free shipping in the contiguous United States, and Inktuitive has free shipping to most locations around the world!

Another place I like the buy giclee art prints and giclee canvas prints is Minted (you can also get custom giclee prints made from a Minted artist). You’ll end up paying slightly more for these giclee prints, but they’re of premium quality and are limited editions, so they’re more valuable than most giclee prints.

And, last but not least, if I’m looking to buy giclee and other types of prints as an investment, Saatchi Art is where I go! Just like minted, these prints are usually limited editions, they’re curated by a team of professionals, and are usually more valuable (but a little more expensive) than the prints from the sites mentioned above.

So, go ahead and buy giclee prints, support independent artists, and HAVE FUN shopping!