Giclee Paper vs Canvas Prints; What Is the Difference Between Them?

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Giclee Paper vs Canvas Prints; What Is the Difference Between Them?

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.)

What Is a Giclee on Canvas?

A giclee canvas print is an image printed on canvas material with the standards of a giclee print mentioned above. Canvas prints look similar to oil and acrylic paintings because their surface has the same texture.

Canvas prints are usually made from cotton, polyester, or linen (flax). But, some specialty fibers, such as hemp and jute, are also used for canvas surfaces.

Today, canvas prints are usually sold as some kind of stretched canvas print. This just means that the canvas has been pulled tightly over a wooden frame. The staples that hold the canvas to the wooden frame will either be on the sides or the back of the stretched canvas.

Here’s an example of what a stretched canvas typically looks like is in Society6‘s product video.

Product Video: Society6 Canvas Prints

Is Canvas Better Than Paper?

Generally speaking, canvas works are typically worth more than those on paper and paintings are often at higher values than sketches or a print.

So, monetarily, canvas prints win most of the time. But, canvas and paper each have their place so let’s look at their differences.

Giclee Canvas Prints

Giclee canvas prints have much more texture than giclee paper prints.

Cotton, polyester, and linen (flax) are 3 popular fiber types used to make canvas art. But, some specialty fibers, such as hemp and jute, are also used for canvas surfaces.

I find a lot of companies are now using a poly-cotton canvas, which makes it very durable. This kind of canvas is capable of absorbing and holding onto color like a cotton canvas, but still gives the sharp and vibrant finish associated with a polyester canvas.

I really enjoy buying canvas prints when I’m buying a reproduction of handmade artwork. The texture and pattern of the canvas really does make a print of a painting look even more artistic.

Canvas prints also weigh much less than framed prints, so they’re more suitable for rooms such as nurseries and kids’ rooms.

You can also put most canvas prints in a bathroom. For more information about this, check out my post: Are Canvas Prints Suitable for Bathrooms?

Another great thing about canvas prints is that there’s no glare/reflection bouncing off the artwork.

Giclee Paper Prints

Giclee art prints are typically made with a type of fine art paper. This type of paper is very durable and is usually made with archival, acid-free cotton (or a cotton blend).

Fine art paper is usually matte and thick and can be smooth or lightly textured.

Compared to other papers used (like photo paper), galleries usually prefer fine art paper because it tends to last longer with less fading, cracking, and yellowing.

Fine art paper can have a lifespan of 100+ years.

One thing about paper prints is that you’ll probably want it framed since it’ll make it look more like fine art and less like a poster. (You can save a ton of money by buying an inexpensive, but high-quality, frame with matting on Amazon).

I tend to choose paper prints when I want to buy photographs. Paper prints definitely show more detail than canvas, and you really want to see the finer details in photography.

I also tend to buy framed paper prints when the artwork is in black and white, but that’s just a personal preference.

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.
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Cheapest Place To Buy Top-Quality Giclee Paper & Canvas Prints

Here are my favorite places to get the cheapest, high-quality giclee paper and canvas prints.

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

My other favorite places to get fine art paper and canvas prints are iCanvas, Society6, Redbubble, and Inktuitive. These companies are all known to be high-quality producers of prints that do not look cheap at all.

iCanvas have high-quality art prints and canvas prints at discounted prices. Plus, they have free shipping in the contiguous United States!

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

And, last but not least, if I’m looking to buy art 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 paper or canvas prints, support independent artists, and HAVE FUN shopping!