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Information About Giclee Printing

Rujuta Patil
Giclee printing is known for its high quality replication of digital color prints of fine art. Read about the modern technique that accurately reproduces art using technology.

UV LED Curing

It refers to the process where the surface material is treated with monochromatic ultraviolet radiation from LEDs (light-emitting diodes) to cure (dry) the inks, coating or adhesives instantly.
Along with original paintings, digital prints are seen commonly at art galleries, museums, and exhibitions. It has become easy for artists, photographers and individuals engaged in print media to produce bulk quantities of digitally enhanced copies of any art work. Giclée prints have also become popular as a medium of printing reproducing art with precision.

What is a Giclée Print?

A giclée print is a digital print of works of fine art like paintings and drawings. It is printed using an inkjet printer. The term giclée (g-clay or zhee-Klay) was coined by printmaker Jack Duganne in 1991.
'Giclée' originates from the French word gicleur meaning "nozzle" and the French verb gicler which means squirting (of liquid), as this involves spraying of ink. A giclée print is known for its light fastness (resistant to destructive action of light) and archival quality.
Iris printers, introduced in 1985 by Iris Graphics, are color inkjet printers which produce a hard copy of the image to be printed, to check for color match before it is sent further to press for mass production.
Around the later part of 1980s, these printers were used for making digital prints of fine art work. Many artists and photographers preferred this large-format color printer for its accuracy and high resolution quality of color prints.
As this printer was mostly used for industrial jobs and home or office printing, Jack Duganne working at Nash Editions (producing Iris prints) thought of naming these art work prints differently, to dissociate these art replicas from the industrial print jobs. Therefore the name Giclée.
The Iris printers used today can print at an apparent resolution of 1800 DPI (dots per inch) and create over 16 million colors. The giclée prints can be really huge. Certain printers other than the Iris can produce prints of any length with a width of 72 inches on canvas, textiles, and few selected papers.

Giclée Printing Process

It is the highest standard of technology used currently to print single or limited editions of fine art. They are made by spraying millions of ink droplets on to various substrates (material on which images are printed).
The ink used is pigmented and is fade-resistant. Both the substrate and the inks used are of archival quality. Better color accuracy and richer depth of color is ensured through this medium of reproduction.

What Makes a Good Quality Giclée Print?

Accuracy and high quality digital scanning is the first step in getting best results. A good giclée print requires the best quality inks, substrates, and coating. However, the skill of the printmaker is of utmost importance as the color management needs an experienced eye.
Continuous and careful monitoring of the color system, use of color profiling techniques, and understanding the colorspace or range that the machine functions in, is part of the process.
Substrates: Giclée prints are taken on a variety of materials: canvas, cotton, silk, paper, watercolor paper, copper, wood veneer, and plastic. Whether a material can be used as a substrate has to be checked though, as not all materials can work as a base for giclée printing.
Archival Ink: Dyes or pigments are used for digital printing process. Dyes are color molecules that are transparent and so, they dissolve in water. Pigments, however, suspend in water as they are insoluble particles or color molecules.
Some inks used for giclée printing include the pigmented Roland, Bulldog Ultra, Epson Ultra Chrome, Epson Archival, or the dye based Equipoise, Lyson FA II, Pinnacle Gold, and Omi Tones.

Advantages of Giclée Printing

- Artists can print editions of their art work on demand, or as and when required. They can have limited editions, which suits them as they need not engage in mass production of the paintings or images.
- Archival of digital prints is easier than storing negatives or films. It also saves time and money while reproducing old archived editions.
- Giclée prints can be customized according to the needs of the client. A special paper, a mark, the artist's signature or a personal statement add to its selling points.

Terms Used in the Giclée Printing Process

Color calibration: It is a software and/or hardware system used while adjusting color co-ordinates between two or more digital devices. These systems generally translate color models into a language that is device-independent.
Color management: Use of technology to get maximum color accuracy and consistency is color management. A colorimeter measures over 3,000 printed colors to create profiles for the multiple ink combinations.
Chroma: It is the measure of saturation with reference to the degree of color intensity, purity of color, relative brightness of a color in comparison to other shades.

DPI: Dots per inch is the measure of detailing in print media. Apparent DPI is the perception of the print having greater detail than actually exists in reality.
Edition: The total number of prints (that are all alike) produced from one single matrix.

Open edition: An edition from one single matrix, which is unlimited in number is an open edition.

Variant edition: The edition of prints of the same image but varying in sizes, colorant, materials, image consistency, etc.
Watermark: A light faint mark or image at the background on the print protecting ownership rights of the artist. It can be a mark or symbol, also on the substrate, referring to the maker of the substrate.
Saturation: A measure of the degree of purity of a color. It measures the amount of gray in a color or the movement away from gray. More gray means lower saturation and vice versa. It also refers to the degree to which a color is undiluted by white light.
Fine art relates to the aesthetic sense and pleasure we seek. If not original paintings and masterpieces, we can definitely look forward to having a collection of some exclusive giclée prints.