Giclée prints

58

Dear Artist,

Questions these days seem to come in multiple editions. I have to tell you that this week artists are thinking about going into reproductions — Giclée prints in particular.

hans-sebald-beham_genius

“Genius with the Alphabet”
1542 engraving
by Hans Sebald Beham (1500-1550)

Giclées are multiple edition prints that are made on big sophisticated photocopiers. Over the past year the quality of these products has improved. For those who want to know something about the Giclée phenomenon — permanence, technicalities, costs, etc., we’ve prepared an overview at “Giclée printmaking for artists.” The question artists have to ask themselves is what they are going to do with the prints. Some types of work lend themselves to the process, others not. Watercolors and flat acrylics look pretty good. Thick and juicy oils tend to look a bit phony. I’ve found that for fundraisers and other charitable works, the Giclée can be ideal. For those artists whose work is essentially decorative, the Giclée is a good way to extend the payback. Folks will always prefer originals, but for extended situations like hotel rooms — and dealing with the interior decorator crowd in general — Giclées can fill the bill. Commercially, they seem to fly better with certain subject matter. Figurative over landscape, for example. Specificities such as wildlife, nostalgia, transportation-art, etc., work well in print form, as they always have.

cornlius-bloemaert_owl-spectacles

“Owl with Glasses and Books”
ca. 1625 engraving
by Cornelis Bloemaert (1603-1692)

It’s a two edged sword. On the one hand, by making these reproductions, artists may actually be thought less of. On the other hand they get their images out and around — perhaps building value for their originals. For slow artists, or those who put a large amount of painstaking detail in their work, it may be the only thing they can do to stay alive.

We live in remarkable times. Technology knows no bounds. Some of these giant photocopy machines put down dye-based inks, others, particulate pigments. Machines can make a million squirts a second — some work from as many as 400 different hues. I’m sure that just around the corner there’s an invention of some sort of heat-set puff-paint digital system that will load up a print with convincing impasto. Giclée watercolors currently take experts to tell the difference. Scary. But just as no machine, in spite of many patents pending, has yet been invented that gives a man a decent haircut, we will still continue to appreciate work that is thoughtfully done by hand.

rembrandt_the-shell

“The Shell”
1650 etching
by Rembrandt (1606-1669)

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Artists are immediately taken with the look and feel of the Giclée because of the use of archival stock and rich colours. Also, prints can be produced one at a time on demand in different sizes and substrates, eliminating the need for large capital outlays.” (Ron Ling, owner, ZheeClay Arts)

Esoterica: The “enhanced” Giclée is the three-dollar bill of the print business. This is where the artist (or her assistant) comes back in with a few juicy strokes to give it a “personal touch.” For some artists these have proven to be a one-way trip to the bank. While it’s conceivable that enhancing may become its own art form, this hybrid is a pretender and will probably never find a market among serious collectors.

This letter was originally published as “Giclée prints” on December 20, 2002.

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“We have art in order not to die of life.” (Albert Camus)


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58 Comments

      • I don’t know then what you would call the prints of my digital paintings they aren’t reproductions, unless you only consider the original as being the image file displayed in a digital frame. I do make reproductions of some of my Acrylic paintings but that is a different animal!

        • As a fine are printmaker and owner of Fidelis Art Prints, photographers and digital artists make “prints” of their works.

          Jeff Wall sold one of his fine art prints for a record $3.6 million in 2012. I’m pretty sure that the gallery and auction house didn’t list it as a reproduction. I believe there was only one print ever made. Most contemporary fine art photographers do edition sizes of less than 10, sometimes even less than 5.

          Let’s not look at all giclee prints in the same light as the limited edition lithographic print runs of Robert Bateman’s that easily run into the 10,000-20,000 print range. The best giclee prints are done under the eye of master technician that has years of experience working in their industry. Yes, any artist can by a smaller inkjet printer and output prints of their work, but you typically get what you’ve paid for.

          Now, to be clear, we never really use the word “giclee” anymore, since it has been loosely use over the years. The pigment-based prints that we produce at Fidelis are rated to last over 100 years. It is an archival inkjet printer, not a giant photocopy machine.

          If your only comment is to debate the difference to Intaglio or Silkscreen, then archival inkjet prints aren’t for you. Plain and simple, some people will have troubles understanding the nature of new technology.

          Please keep in mind that Robert’s article was written in 2002. Technology has advanced significantly since then, and so has the buying market for art.

          Best, Alan

    • I agree with Conroy Hudlow, they ARE NOT PRINTS, THEY ARE COPIES OF AN ORIGINAL PIECE OF ART. Printmaking series are all original prints and are not copies!

      Plus, I think that by making copies of oil or what ever medium you choose to make these copies, the market is then flooded with copies and in my opinion makes the original piece less valuable! Example, a friend of mine paid a lot of money for an original piece of art and went into several homes and there was a “copy” of the original oil painting that she paid thousands of dollars for in these homes. They were shocked to see this! This is not right and don’t tell me that this makes the original more valuable because it doesn’t!!!

    • Hi Ellen,
      I have used Gallery Street Prints in Roswell, GA. You can find them at Gallerystreet.com. Despite what this old article states, Giclee are very popular with people who can’t afford the original. I’m a watercolor artist and have been successful selling these. You just have to be sure to have an excellent image for them to work with, but they also will offer advice. Good luck!
      Jan Ross

    • Here are some things to check out when considering a giclee service–
      1. How do they capture the image from your original? (I prefer results from large high-end color scanners, but a meticulous craftsman can get good results by taking a digital photo of your art with the right lighting). Ask to see examples of finished prints.
      2. How do they ensure they get the colors correct? Do they have a proofing method you can sign off on before you incur the expense of a whole print?
      3. Do they output the prints with archival pigment-based ink, rather than dye-based inks that fade quickly?
      4. Do they print on acid-free archival paper?

    • Dreama Kattenbraker on

      American Art Editions in NC make amazing lush giclees. They have several selections of paper or canvas. Paper typically receives color in a more saturated, true-to-original artwork quality. I paint in acrylic, without much thickness, so have been happy. You then have addtnl costs of matt board and clear bags, or matting, framing under glazing. I do embellish w collage and other mediums, oil pastels, inks, pencil. It is fun. This creates another market layer for collectors as well.

  1. NOT made on photocopiers — that is a different technology entirely!!
    Giclees (French for sprayed ink) are prints of a digitally created image OR a digitized image of a hard copy original which are reproduced on an inkjet printer.

  2. Thanksomuch for the article, as always, Sara !

    You should not send to us for free much longer.

    Have you thought of charging ONE dollar for your subscriptions per year? It would such fun and it would say a big internet TRUTH re: high fees charged by online news media.

    A SMALL fee for it gives the publisher nice self-esteem and with thousands of subscribers, plenty to run the project and get the crew out to dinner.

    “The Painter’s Keys” could be made official as a prime arts resource…and so much more you could do, with the fees raised over time as need be. Or hire someone to do it. You worked with you Dad so beautifully for all those years, but it could get too much later on. A small fee would allow you to easily hire a project head and free your time for your own work , marriage and perhaps children. Just s a thought.

    The collection of data and archived comments is GOLD to the art world. You and your late father had the right touch in communications – friendly, yet graced and strong and clear……..and TIMELESS, in most cases.

    Thanks again, Sara !

    Elle

  3. This article, from WAY back in 2002, is quite outdated and therefore inaccurate. The article “Giclee Printmaking for Artists” also appears quite out of date, with its references to Iris printers. Most of today’s giclees are made using Epson large format printers and a combination of archival pigmented inks and archival papers and canvas. Today’s giclees are truly long-lasting – most fall between the range of 60 – 100+ years.

    To refer to giclees as “glorified photo copies” does a great disservice to not only the artists who purchase high quality giclees from reputable printing companies, but to the printing companies who strive to provide artists (including photographers) the highest quality reproductions possible. With companies such as Fine Print Imaging in Colorado, the artist is truly a partner in the process.

    While I applaud your opening up the dialog on giclees (also called pigmented ink prints), it seems that throwing old information into the ring does little more than confuse artists who may be contemplating getting reproductions of their work.

    The age old battle of whether to call giclees “prints” or “reproductions” becomes even more muddied when you consider than many artists now create beautiful works of art using digital technology – the computer is the tool used – and so the giclee may be the only form of printed original available. As always, education of the end buyer is paramount in ensuring that they understand what they are purchasing.

    • Actually, republishing this got a lot of us to read all the way to the bottom……I figured it was out of date, but look at all the information from 2002 to 2016!
      At the rate of digital imaging etc etc anything is going “old” by a 24 hr. time span.

      Thanks for your letter and for the original giclee article.
      Too bad sculptures don’t have a reproductive means as I sure am slow.

      Pat

    • “Giclées are multiple edition prints that are made on big sophisticated photocopiers.”
      A reproduction made on a big photocopier is not a giclée. Giclées are made using inkjet technology. The word giclée itself means to spray or to spurt…a word chosen to represent fine art reproductions using high quality inkjet technology.

      A real giclée is a museum-quality reproduction on archival fine art materials. They are for clients who cannot afford to spend thousands on an original. They can buy a quality reproduction and enjoy artwork that they could not otherwise afford. A lot of artists make their living selling giclées on paper or canvas to the art loving, but not so rich, consumer.

      The original giclées were made by Graham Nash (of Crosby Stills and Nash fame) for his photography using an Iris Graphics printer…originally designed for the prepress industry to make digital proofs of brochures and advertisements. He and his crew pioneered digital fine art reproduction using these machines to print on watercolor papers and canvas. Very few of these Iris printers are still in use today for fine art printing and have been surpassed in print quality, color and longevity by Epson and other manufacturers.

      I am an abstract surrealist artist who creates artwork digitally and has been printing giclées for myself and others for over twenty years.

  4. I successfully sell giclees of my art from both painted and digitally created originals. I go to a local place to get top-quality prints printed with pigment inks on acid-free paper.

    For the art I create entirely on my computer, there is no other way than a print to produce a tangible image to frame and hang. It is the same method used to print fine art photography these days. These prints are as much an “original” as a photograph.

    The giclees I do from paintings are indeed reproductions, and are sold as such to buyers who can’t afford the original. This benefits both me and the buyer.

    If you are straightforward and honest with giclee prints, I see them as a useful part of an artist’s portfolio.

  5. The technology of the inkjet printers now have come so far that when I have an additional reproduction done of one of my paintings on canvas, I have to make sure I have signed the original painting on the back so I can tell them apart.

  6. I do not make giclee’s as I enjoy the process of moving paint around , but I understand that they have made a place in our society . people will always buy inexpensive art in the print form . original art has a lasting value though . I think if I made giclee’s , that I would get lazy . an artists life has to have a certain amount of struggle. it helps us reach for the impossible

    • Not quite sure what you’re getting at here, Allan. You don’t MAKE Giclees INSTEAD of “moving paint around”. Once you’re done with your original painting you can then have it reproduced as a Giclee print to sell or do whatever with. Creating Giclees has nothing at all to do with being lazy. It is a means to an end to be able to sell to another spectrum of the market.

  7. I have a different take on the use of gyclees, as I have small portions of normal sized paintings I do enlarged and printed, and seriously rework on top of them, creating a new work altogether.

  8. I use and sell giclee prints and am glad to see the updated information. The results are archival when you select the proper paper. The price has come WAY down and allows me to sell affordable art and still make a profit.

  9. computer prints are fakes masquerading as originals. i’ve heard gallery people tell ignorant customers that these are originals and that it refers to a process. the process was originally developed to photo reproduction which is just fine. but for painters, it cheapens our work. and it also says that an “artist” can’t hit that note again. what most people want is the image and the great unwashed public will buy the cheap computer print and leave the expensive original along.

    • Fine by me. I’d love to be in a position where I can sell a ten Giclees at $100 each rather than have a painting I value at $1000 just sitting in my studio collecting dust. Van Gogh I ain’t! We artists sometimes think too much of ourselves…

  10. I paint. Every time is original. So far, I have only sold originals. I recently won an art contest, and the image was made into prints (for corporate use). I was amazed by the detail and quality of these prints. Seeing a few hundred of them laid out on a table before me, to sign, I reconsidered my pre-conceived notions of reproduction work. It does make it more accessible to the masses, and it definitely reminded me of a money press! I might explore this in the future, but for now…I happily paint. They can always make prints after I’m dead.

  11. Donna,
    Most artists that I know (myself included) sell the giclee prints unframed – keeps the expense down. I personally sell my giclee prints as bin work in a gallery. Mitch, giclee prints (or computer print as you call them) are not “fakes” – they are what they are. If someone passes them off as originals, then the person doing that is dishonest, not the process. :-)

  12. Hi Robert ans Sara,
    I really enjoy/appreciate these bulletins…great stuff, encouraging and helping to keep me ‘on track’ with my ambitions……
    The ‘ invention of some sort of heat-set puff-paint digital system that will load up a print with convincing impasto’…is already with us !
    I would like to know where to go to get this kind or effect for my own work…..preferably here in France….if anyone know what the technical details are of the process/machinery required, I would be grateful….
    I own a large scale print on a canvas that graces the wall of my living room (SW France) by the American artist Max Hayslette. A lovely, uplifting, colourful landscape with convincing brushstrokes (not a repeat surface effect), that I bought in an IKEA sale about 15 years ago, for less than £20 ! A great purchase that I have never regretted and which fortuitously, is great from the decor point of view, complimenting the colours of cushions walls & furniture……I went on to look the artist up and buy a book of his work…

  13. A few years ago, while vacationing on Maui, I visited and toured the “Maui Giclee” facilities. I was impressed! They were using large Epson drum printers. The entire process was quite fascinating and very detailed, starting with their computer-driven, large-format cameras that shot the images to be printed. They worked as closely with the artist as the artist would chose on the colors and hues of the images. They have artists from around the world for whom they make prints. They had a wide variety of materials to print on, from archival papers, to canvases. The canvas prints were finished off with a protective glazing. These are not “instant” copies: it took quite a while, depending on the size being printed, to complete them, as the drums in the printers whirled around, layering the pigmented inks to get the right colors. If you’re interested in this process, I suggest asking if you can tour a facility. It’s very enlightening.

  14. “For those artists whose work is essentially decorative, the Giclée is a good way to extend the payback.” Could you please explain what 2-D art is not essentially decorative (other than posters and advertising). What is the antonym of decorative?

  15. Man o’man I could write a book on gicleés!

    I used to be the director of production for an art publisher in NYC during the ’90s. That company was one of the first to successfully create and market hand enhanced printed canvases. But, back then, the difficulty was using oil paint over serigraph inks – and how brittle those inks were!!!

    It was a love/hate relationship for me. I loved that the company figured out a unique way to reproduce a specific artists impasto technique but I hated the fact that it would open the doors to more “kitsch”. That fear came true with the development of the gicleé and the continually improving inks and substrates.

    The beauty of the technology was that artists could now self publish. Conversely, the problem with it was that the art market was now flooded with mediocre work. Art publishers were the “filter” for the art market; dictating the collector’s taste. You could also argue that that kind of “cultural dictatorship of taste” need to be challenged.

    I could keep going on about how the gicleé influenced art publishing, but I want to get to the point of reproducing your art well, and the biggest tip I can give you is this: IT STARTS WITH THE BEST, BIGGEST PHOTO FILE YOU CAN GET OF THE ART!

    Photoshop is an important tool as well. It’s used not just for color correction, but for manipulating your image to work in the gicleé format.

    All reproductions are interpretations of the original. Wether it is a serigraph, lithograph or a gicleé, each method requires that areas are saturated/desaturated in color, hot spots muted, shadows removed etc.

    The impasto artist we reproduced layered his paint on his canvas extremely thick. We had the best photographer in NYC (he did work for the museums and many galleries) and STILL, there were shadows that needed to be photoshopped out because of the thickness of the paint.

    So there you have it. Learn photoshop and invest in a high end camera.

    Lastly, make your prints a limited edition. The laws of supply and demand will require that you raise the prices of your edition as it sells out. That also means make your edition reasonable. If I were to buy a gicleé, I’d be more apt for an image from an edition of 150 or 200 than 1000.

    And lastly of the last, gicleé printing is just a tool onto itself. It’s NOT intaglio, lithography, mono prints. Take it for what it is, a tool to help promote your work.

  16. And this letter should not be illustrated by prints, as in printmakers prints. This letter is about gicleé!! This confuses those who think that all prints are reproductions like a gicleé. I also get really upset to see artists signing and numbering reproductions of their paintings as if they were actaul prints. Doing so is dishonest, I think.

    • Especially as they can, if they sell out the whole “edition” of 100, then go back and make another so-called “edition”; what do they do then? start numbering again – 1/100, 2/100 and so on? I, with a printmaker in New Zealand, make an edition of silk-screen prints, using one of my images from prior paintings, each year for last seven years. It takes us about 4 – 6 weeks of very hard work to make an edition of 25, with much stopping and starting, washing, drying, positive and negative screens and emulsion, wax resist, et cetera and is fraught with problems as the weather ranges from dry and hot to humid (cyclone and 18″ rain this week!) and we are in a sea-level studio without a/c. The paper shrinks and swells with the humidity. For an edition of 25 we start with only 32 sheets of c.p. w/c paper; paper costs in NZ are high. We experiment on the first few, and use any good ones as A/P.
      I go over to NZ for three winter months to do this edition; he makes time from his own edition print-making of stunningly beautiful local landscapes, with innovative techniques, to accommodate my work. Please don’t please rattle on about the beauty of giclée copies.

  17. I paint. I don’t reproduce any of my work. I’m an artist working for my living for over 50 years. Anybody who thinks there is any REAL value in a reproduction (excluding honest artist pulled prints) is deluded. Who wants to see a copy of my work after they buy the original? In my mind this whole reproduction stuff is nonsense and dishonest!

  18. Ruminating: To my right is a large format Epson inkjet printer. It takes 11 inks at $100 a pop. It is slumming here in my office because I print everything in draft. (Long story short, I need the permanence of its ink for the specialty publishing I do.) With only a little effort, I could set up a giclee shop or, at minimum, giclee some of my own artwork.

    But… I’m just not interested. I was somewhere recently where all the artwork were giclees. They just looked like posters. Flat, uninteresting, framed posters. They were a cheat.

    If you’re going to do it, money must be put into good substrates or you’re wasting your time.

  19. The problem with the word gicleé is that is used haphazardly to refer to two very different kinds of images being printed with high end inkjets.

    1. *Reproductions* of works *created and already . Jexisting in another medium* such as watercolor.

    2. Prints of *original works* created on the computer that would otherwise have no existence in the physical world. Just as an artist may etch a copperplate and work with a master printmaker to achieve the the final result, we digital artists work with a services bureau to create our prints. The digital file is roughly analogous to the etched plate.

    As a digital artist, I sometimes get a little tired of explaining my work is not a “copy” of anything. We need two words.

    • I agree! A reproduction is a photographed copy of an original produced in another medium, such as watercolour or oil. A print is the only medium in which that piece of art exists, so I think that works created digitally should also be called prints.

  20. The giclee print/reproduction gives artists the opportunity to reach the “bread and butter” market Either art is a hobby or a profession or a combination of the two. If art needs to pay some of the bills, then an affordable way to reproduce your work and sell to the “lower end” market is just smart business.

    On the other hand, I know a painter in Denver who sold a single painting last year to a client for $1,000,000.00 (a million dollars!). Obviously he doesn’t need to concern himself with giclee printing! For myself, I think the giclee is useful for my more quirky and fun paintings. I don’t see these as having “real value” as someone else mentioned, they are instead merely for decoration. My “serious” stuff, I only sell the original. The humor is that these too really are just “for decoration.”

  21. The opening up of this subject always brings out the puffed up, indignant types that have deluded themselves into thinking there is something sacred about original paintings. Where does this concept originate from? Get a grip on reality – your painting is just a two-dimensional image applied to a flat substrate and useful for little else than decorating someone’s wall, regardless of how “good” it may be. 99.99999% of these original paintings we all produce shall never attain greatness or fame and eventually will end up in a dustbin or yard sale. Until then they may provide the owner with some level of pleasure and in some extremely rare cases may actually end up enhancing the net asset value of the owner, but let me assure you, in the grand scheme of things your “original” painting has no more value than the dust it will eventually become, and please stop trying to convince us that you are somehow superior because you make only original images with paint and would never stoop so low as to generate reproductions no matter how many thousands of people would love to possess the image. What you are really telling us is that you are not clever enough to expand the market for your hard work and your potential to earn a decent living because of some hang-up you have about the importance of your work. Trust me, it is not that important. Go hungry if you must over some artificial principal, but spare the rest of us your indignation.

    • Yes, BUT…the term original does give it value well beyond a copy. I’m fully aware that my paintings will not last forever, but the uniqueness is there.

      • And I must add, for five decades I have never gone hungry sticking to originals and would bet my financial security, for the years I have left, is probably better than a repro. “artist” thinks. “Expanding the market” are words of mere capitalism, not art.

        • The 2016 Xanadu State of the Art survey suggests that 43% of full-time artists do less than $10,000 in annual sales, and that is before deducting commission charges. If you’ve been making enough to be well fed for 50 years selling just originals, you are in a very exclusive club and congratulations. But if you are earning enough to make a comfortable living, isn’t that “capitalism”?

          • Indeed, and what I didn’t need to live comfortably, We invested in the capitalistic system. Over the long-haul it really works (I wish some of my grandkids understood this). But I see a difference between the impulse to do art and the impulse to make capital grow. Admittedly from an old guy…83.

  22. Hi Ya’ll, my entire business is Giclee printing. Big Epson printers with pigment inks on canvas and Fine Art Paper The canvas is from Epson, it has a gloss and does not crack when stretched. I use a large format digital camera for capture and proof the art till it is as good as can be. Oh for what it is worth I am an artist as well.
    Been in this work since ’98 and have been at the front of ink jet technology this entire time and have no desire to argue the pros and cons. However my take is a well done Giclee is a work of art in itself and if you think there is nothing to creating one then you don’t know the business.

  23. I have only recently ventured into giclée printing as a botanical artist working in watercolour. My work is detailed and painstaking and the originals seldom come close to achieving prices that justify the time taken. I print only 10 giclées from any painting and these are recorded and marked with a hologram from the fine art printing company that I use, thereby providing provenance for the future if the print is re-sold. They are printed with archival inks on archival paper, and I sell them as limited edition prints. What really annoys me is that there are artists selling as many as 500, and possibly more prints of a single painting at inflated prices, and calling them ‘limited editions’. My own rule of thumb is that the sale of my limited edition prints helps me to realise a more realistic price for the work I have put in on the original. I am not interested in anything more than that. Those who buy my prints receive a detailed explanation of what they are buying and I don’t try to pretend that they represent a significant investment that will reap dividends.

    • When I was in Hawaii 2 years ago I went into a nice gallery and liked a number of pieces. I was an art teacher for 30 years and am an artist. My passion is art and I buy quite a lot. When I left that gallery I went to another next door and they had some of the same images…which led me to investigate, finding they were giclees.. So I went back to the first gallery and looked for identification of whether they were original paintings or giclees. I also asked if there were any originals in the store and their reply was the one over the checkout. I know why artists do giclees and don’t want to debate that-but if I pay a good price for something I do want it to be labeled what it is. Plus if I buy an original, I don’t want to see copies of it, unless that was part of the transaction.

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