What Is A Giclée Anyway?by Valerie Johnson
If you’ve been to a gallery or museum lately, you may have noticed the word “giclée” on the identification tag of a painting or photograph. Giclées have become more accepted during the past several years as a method of reproduction for artists and photographers.
Pronounced “zhee-clay”, a giclée is an upscale inkjet print, using technology similar to any home or office inkjet printer. The original giclées were actually Iris prints, where the media is attached to a spinning drum and inks are sprayed on at a very high speed. The Iris 3047 (“Intense Resolution Imaging System”) printers were, and are still, used for digital graphic proofing prior to putting a job on press, as well as for giclées. One story is that rock musician Graham Nash and his associate Mac Holbert came up with the idea of using Iris prints for fine art reproduction in the early 1990’s.
During the past decade, other manufacturers have produced equipment for giclée output. Roland DGA Corporation has a printer that sprays ink using “micro-piezo dot” technology onto media from a long roll. This has the advantage of creating virtually continuous-tone prints on media that can be cut to almost any length. (Prints done on drums must be cut to certain sizes based on the limitation of the
Whatever the history, giclée technology has changed during the past ten years and continues to improve. You will find giclées printed on a variety of materials—gloss or matte heavy photo-type paper, watercolor paper of all textures and thicknesses, and canvas. Giclée prints offer the artist an economical alternative to lithographic reproduction, since prints can be ordered one at a time after the original art is scanned, color-corrected and archived. Artists can build their inventory more slowly over a period of time as demand grows and can also add more paint or textured surface medium to enhance prints.
As demand for giclée prints has grown, the Giclée Printers Association (GPA) was formed out of the necessity for standards in fine art printing. Members of this association adhere to strict guidelines and standards of giclée production consistent with that of a collectable fine art print. The association has also recognized and certified only certain inks, substrates and output printers as valid for production of true giclées. The Roland printer mentioned above is one of these few devices certified as GPA “TruGiclée”.
Giclée prints are exhibited at many fine galleries and museums. Look for them at the Louvre, the British Museum, New York Public Library, Metropolitan Museum, and the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art, to name just a few.
Longevity of giclée prints is an issue that has not yet been resolved. Ink and paper manufacturers warrant their products for anywhere from 30 to 90 years (assuming prints are handled and displayed properly). Since this technology has only been in existence since the early 1990’s, tests are performed using intense exposure to light under controlled conditions. These tests are said to mimic conditions similar to exposure to sunlight over a period of many years.
As with any work of art, you must treat your giclée with care. Although inks and media are acid-free and treated with UV resistant pigments, and final prints are often coated with additional UV protective agents, giclées need to be displayed away from direct sunlight. They should also be protected from exposure to extreme temperatures. If framed without glass, you should avoid rubbing the print and should never use any type of water, cleaning solvents or chemicals on them.
If you are an art gallery or museum enthusiast, expect to see more and more giclée fine art reproductions in the future which, like their original counterparts, may increase in value over the years. If you are an artist looking to have your work reproduced, be sure you select a printer who understands the giclée process and works with GPA-certified products and equipment.