What is a Giclée and Why is It Valuable?

Limited Addition Fine Art Painting

Article by Leily Zhu

Since the beginning of our existence, human life has shifted, progressed, and revolutionized, and the art world has followed suit. It used to be that once an art piece was sold, that was it. The buyer had the one and only version, and that’s all the world would get. With giclée printing, that is no longer the case. You no longer have to enter aggressive bidding wars for that piece of artwork you’ve had your eye on. Giclées allow art collectors to enjoy their favorite piece of art without fighting over who gets to take it home. 

What is a Giclée?

In its most basic definition, giclée is a French term for “to spray” or “to squirt”. It references the process that an inkjet printer uses to reproduce fine art or photography to create individual copies of the original piece. It is important to note that not all inkjet prints are giclée prints. With giclée printing, you can expect a higher quality product that lasts longer than your run-of-the-mill inkjet prints and there are certain criteria that must be met for a print to be considered a giclée. 

Jimi Hendrix - Oil On Canvas
“Jimi Hendrix” by Tatyana Zen depicts the fine level of detail that giclees capture.

To uphold the quality of a true giclée, the resolution must be at least 300 dots per inch (DPI). Think about when you zoom in on a photograph. The more you zoom in, the more distorted the image becomes. To maintain the integrity of the work, you must increase the DPI because the more dots there are in a small space, the more detailed the final product becomes. 

The next aspect to consider is what printer is used to print your giclée. The type of printer used to produce a giclée print will impact the quality of the end product. Technical skills and stable equipment can make or break the giclée. Additionally, check the ink of the printer. The ink used for a giclée printer should be pigment-based, while a lower grade inkjet printer will use dye-based ink.

Lastly, do your research. It is important to identify the medium that you want to have your giclée printed on. You have the choice of buying a giclée on archival paper or canvas. For giclée printing, the paper must be archival quality to ensure the longevity of the artwork. Canvas is essentially a fabric that has been specially prepared to handle and retain high-quality pigmented inks. It is sturdy and has archival properties, like archival paper, which means it is acid-free and will hold up to the standards set for a giclée. 

Giclées: Paper vs. Canvas

Having difficulty deciding between buying a giclée on paper or canvas? Here is a quick guide to help your decision.

There are three factors to consider when choosing between archival paper and canvas for giclées: price, matting/framing requirements, and embellishment. 

In terms of price, printing on paper is generally about half the price of printing on canvas. As to be expected, the thicker, fabric-type material of high-quality canvas is more expensive than that of high-quality paper. The process necessary to create giclée prints on paper is less intensive and therefore more budget-friendly. 

In addition, you must take into account the cost of protecting and framing the artwork. To maintain the integrity of a giclée print on paper, it is important to protect the work behind glass. An acid-free mat and quality-frame are recommended as well, which oftentimes are more expensive than the giclée itself. With a canvas print, it is not necessary to have a protective pane or frame to hang it. Depending on your aesthetic preference, you have the choice to hang the canvas free of frame, with a traditional frame, or with a modern floating frame. A floating frame is exactly what it sounds like: there is a small gap between the canvas and the frame edges, which creates the illusion of a floating giclée within the frame. 

Emerging - Original oil painting
“Emerging” by Brenda Salamone

Finally, there is the option to have your giclée embellished. Embellishments are artistic alterations made by artists to the giclée print to customize the piece. Only canvas prints can be embellished and, because of this, canvas prints tend to resemble an original painting more closely than a giclée print on archival paper. 

In short, if you want a limited edition print and have a limited budget, paper prints may be the way to go but you will want to do your homework on matting and framing expenses to know this for certain. If you want a giclée that can be customized, has more displaying options, looks more like original artwork, and you have a little more to invest, you should consider buying a giclée printed on canvas. 

 

Why Choose an Embellished Giclée?

You could buy a giclée straight off the printer, but why not provide the artist the opportunity to make it more beautiful and dynamic? 

Watch Paul Bond embellish his limited edition giclée “A Hymn to the Summer of My Long Ago

Unique Art

As are the lines on human hands, no two artists’ embellishing techniques are the same. Nothing can beat the original edition of an artwork. However, you can still get a giclée that is one-of-a-kind by having the artist add embellishments.

Prior to embellishing your giclée, you can ask the artist to add a personal touch that relates to you. For example, artist John Kiernan incorporated embellishments personal to police officers and firemen by adding their badge number or other identifiable features. 

The medium used to embellish also tells its own individual story. From oil paints to clear gesso to acrylic gel, the brush strokes can alter the texture, thickness, and shade of the print. Each embellishment, whether heavy or light, creates a unique piece of art that breathes authenticity and originality.

Increased Value

One of the biggest reasons to embellish a giclée is that it increases the value of the print. Embellished giclées are generally sold for a price between a simple print and an original piece. Because embellishments make the work more original, it becomes more valuable and rare. The high quality and long lifespans of giclées ensure that the prints appreciate in value. As an artist becomes more popular and their work becomes more in demand, their limited edition prints will increase in value. At recent auctions, giclée prints have been sold for thousands of dollars, some as much as $22,800, as in the case of Wolfgang Tillmans

So, why wouldn’t you want an embellished giclée? Check out the embellished giclées offered at Artlita.

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