Giclée is a term coined by printmaker Jack Duganne in the 90s for fine art digital prints made on inkjet printers. It was originally intended to differentiate their new process of large-format, high-resolution inkjet print production from inferior mass produced printing. Nowadays, the term giclée is also associated with inkjet printing that uses archival, fade-resistant inks on fine art papers.
"A giclée (zhee-KLAY) print is a superb-quality copy of an artwork or photograph made using high-end 8-to-12 color inkjet printing techniques coupled with the use of pigment inks, archival inks that maintain image stability and color permanence better than all other known inks."
Just as a sommelier understands the vastness between a 2011 and a 2015 vintage, so too does a printmaker with ink, printer and paper stock quality. These things may go unnoticed by the untrained eye but become markedly evident over time.
In Australia we have a large number of printers and framers to choose from that range from cheap and nasty (to put it plainly) to gallery quality. To return to the wine analogy, it’s like comparing cask wine to a good bottle. One fills the brief, the other is worth savouring and gets better with time.
If you’re printing works for home it’s tempting to go with a cheaper option, but almost everyone has experienced fading prints and frames that eventually fall apart. Until now we’ve lived in a throwaway culture, but with sustainability and conscious consumerism gaining momentum, more and more Australians are seeking locally produced, well made products that are truly designed to last. It’s better for the environment and - in the long term - kinder on our wallets.
At Format we print on a Ilford Prestige Galerie 310gsm 100% Smooth Cotton Rag stock and use genuine Epson Ultra-chrome Pro inks. This means works are printed to an archival quality that, in addition to hand crafted frames and the use of UV protective plexiglass, will prevent fading and protect the work for up to 100 years.
As many of our clients are artists who print and frame commercially, the quality of print is integral. In the same way a certificate of authentication, branded packaging and profile of an artist are indicators of quality, the paper stock, inks, print process and frame all contribute to a work’s perceived value.
Giclée fine art printing also allows artists to maintain a consistent quality irrespective of how many editions are printed. Unlike the inherent deterioration experienced by film and negatives, printing from a digital file on a machine like our Epson P20070 will ensure consistent print quality with every reproduction.
"Giclee prints are advantageous to artists who do not find it feasible to mass produce their work, but want to reproduce their art as needed, or on-demand. Once an image is digitally archived, additional reproductions can be made with minimal effort and reasonable cost. The prohibitive up-front cost of mass production for an edition is eliminated."
This means artists don’t need to hold stock on hand or commit to a huge initial outlay, whilst still providing their clients with a superior quality of printing and framing.
In addition to the ink and printer quality, the use of smooth cotton rag stock (a recycled by-product of the textile industry) and FSC certified Victorian oak produce an item which is more well made and more sustainable; especially important when artists are selling to a conscious market or align with these values themselves (which most of our customers do).
So is giclée printing just appropriate for practicing artists? Not at all. Think about the family photographs that have made their way through each generation. The photographs or works you print and frame well today will likewise be enjoyed by future generations for years to come.
As consumers we are lucky to have so many options at our fingertips, so it’s more important than ever to evaluate the brands you purchase from. The original mark of a giclée print was its visual quality, however its durability is nowadays just as important.
You don’t drink cask wine without a headache the next day. You don’t print at the local office supply store and select a frame off the shelf without looming fade and breakages.
Whether you are a practicing artist or printing a personal project, buy well and buy once so that your works can be savoured for years to come.