7 Things You Need To Know About Giclee Printing

1. Giclee Means High-Quality Archival Prints

Giclée is a fancy term used in the fine art world of printing. When someone talks about Giclée, they’re referencing a specific way of printing that ensures a quality that lasts.

An illustrated giclee print by the artist Sam Chivers

2. Giclee Prints Last Forever... Almost

Okay, giclée fine art prints don’t last forever, but they definitely will last long enough.

With the right paper stock and ink set, your Giclée prints will be archival, which means that they’ll last for 150 to 200 years. It will retain its quality during your lifetime and the lifetime of your clients. That’s surely long enough to keep everyone happy… for what feels like forever.

3. Giclee Is A Rebranding Effort

The printing industry invented the work Giclée as a way to sell a particular type of inkjet printing to artists that wasn’t so great when it was first invented. The original giclée printers were large format, dye-based printers.

The printing technology behind Giclée prints today actually had quite a bad reputation early on. These rudimentary printers were mainly used for photography, and they were generally terrible. The prints weren’t light-fast, which means they faded and discoloured easily.

Since it’s invention, giclée printing has improved exponentially. We have higher quality papers, better inks, and overall improved technology which results in higher quality fine art prints. 

large Giclee print by Sarah Arnet

4. Giclee Is A French Word

Giclée gets its name from the French word “squirt.” It refers to the process inkjet printers use—they spray the ink onto the print stock as it feeds through the printer.

The print head, where the ink squirts out from, races quickly back and forth over the paper.

That’s why a clogged nozzle can result in funky lines across a botched print. These print flaws are known as banding, and when you go to a knowledgeable and experienced print tech, you should never see this common problem in your prints.

5. Giclee Prints Have An Arch Nemesis

Have you ever left paper in the car or near a window for a long time? After a while, the colour fades. That’s because sunlight and the resulting acidity destroy the paper.

Most standard papers are made out of wood pulp. The problem with these is that as they age, they generate acid when exposed to air. Exposure to sunlight also speeds up this process; the acid breaks down the paper and inks, causing dullness and yellowing.

This is why papers made from wood pulp are one of the worst materials you could use for fine art printing. 

If you want giclée prints, you’ll have to avoid acidity by using high-quality print stock. This media begins acid-free and will remain acid-free over time. Cotton paper is the best choice—it won’t yellow or spoil the ink.

Even if you have the right paper, you need to watch out for your inks. Cheap ink sets can also produce acid if the pH isn’t balanced. Make sure you use chemically neutral inks for giclée prints.

Giclee prints being trim with a ruler and scapel

6. You Can Ruin A Giclee Print By Mounting It

Giclée fine art printing doesn’t end at the printer. Remember when we said that acidity ruins fine art prints? Acidity in the chemicals—and even the paper or mount board—you use to mount your print will affect its quality.

Giclée prints should never experience irreversible processes. Don’t adhere A giclée print to any board with adhesives such as glue, spray, or tape. You never know what’s inside—and if you add unknown chemicals you could be adding acidity, shortening the life of your archival print.

If you’ve already mounted your giclée print, or you really want to, it’s not the worst fate a print can experience. When mounted onto materials such as photosensitive board, dye board, canvas, or aluminium a giclée print will last between 5-20 years.

This might seem like a long time but advertising this type of print as giclée or archival is deceptive.

7. You Should Always Frame A Giclee Print

Frames are a giclée print’s best friend. They protect your fine art print from the air (another source of acidity). You can even get frames that filter out the UV light to add another layer of protection to your art.

Frames also benefit giclée prints by helping them avoid potential acidic additives associated with mounting.

When you have fine art paper stock, surface treatments aren’t as helpful. These papers are often so delicate that you don’t want anything to touch the print’s surface.

A professional printer will always provide you with acid-free tissue paper to protect your print. Make sure you keep this paper over your print until you can get it safely into a frame.

framed shadow float mounted Sarah Arnet print in a Brighton restarant

Still Curious About Giclee Printing?

Giclee printing is a complex process that requires skill, knowledge, and experience to execute correctly. While it is certainly possible to do it yourself, talking to a professional or visiting a local print shop will ensure that your fine art prints remain archival. 

Learn more or talk to a print specialist from Exhibit Printing visit their Giclee Printing page and online store.