What Is a Giclee Print on Paper?

What Is a Giclee Print on Paper? (Meaning)

Please note: In this article, I’ll be writing giclee without the accent, but you’ll also see this word spelled with an accent on the e: giclée.

First, a print is a reproduction (a copy) of an original work of art.

Second, a giclee is actually a type of print (or but it has very special characteristics (more details later).

To really understand what a giclee print is, let’s start by comparing a regular art print to a giclee print.

What Is An Art Print?

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

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.

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 Society6 or Redbubble, 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.

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.

What Does Giclee Mean?

Giclee was a French word coined by Jack Duganne, a printmaker at Nash Editions.

The name was first used to describe prints made by using an Iris printer (an inkjet printer introduced in 1985). But today, artists, galleries, and print shops use giclee to mean any high-quality inkjet print.

Giclee comes from the French words gicleur and gicler. Gicleur is the inkjet nozzle and gicler means to spray, spout, or squirt. Giclee was a made-up word invented by Duganne to mean the thing that got sprayed.

Are Giclee Prints Textured?

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

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 Waterproof?

Although inkjet giclees have much higher archival properties than traditional prints, they typically aren’t waterproof (unless the manufacturer added a protective solvent-based clearcoat fixative). You should handle them like you would an original painting.

Do Giclee Prints Fade?

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. For canvas giclees, you can expect it to last 45 to 60 years without any noticeable fading.

Any artwork exposed to sunlight will fade.

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.

Cheapest Places To Buy Top-Quality Giclee Prints?

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

If I’m looking for more super inexpensive giclee 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 prints are iCanvas, Society6, Redbubble, and Inktuitive. These companies are all known to be top-quality producers of giclee prints.

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 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 prints as an investment, Saatchi Art is where I go! Just like minted, these giclee 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 giclee prints from the sites mentioned above.

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