What are giclée prints?
What are giclée prints?

A lot of people have been asking me what giclée prints are. So, I’ll give it my best to try and explain.

To be honest, I had heard of the term and vaguely knew what they were, but didn’t know until a few years ago when I started printing them myself.

Giclée prints are defined by three things:

  • Type of paper it’s printed on
  • Ink used to produce the print
  • Resolution and color profile of the digital file used to print

A giclée (/ZHēˈklā/) print is a technology used for fine art or photography that uses a high-quality inkjet printer to make individual copies.

“Giclée” is based on the French word gicleur, which is the French technical term for a jet or a nozzle, and the verb coming from it “gicler” (to squirt out).

Giclée prints are printed on high-quality archival acid-free paper.

Acid-free means that the paper won’t deteriorate as quickly over time. The paper is infused in water and yields a neutral or basic pH (7 or slightly greater). Using this type of paper helps preserve the artwork and keeps it from yellowing.

Archival means that the paper should last a long time and is the preferred material for museums.

There are a lot of options out there! I didn’t realize how many there were until I started doing research myself.

One of the papers I currently use is Canson Infinity Rag Photographique. It has a matte finish, is thick, and absorbs the ink well to create beautiful, rich prints.

This article isn’t a paid endorsement. (Although, I wish it was!)

The inks are pigment-based instead of dye-based you will find in most consumer printers.

Inks used for giclée prints
Inks used for giclée prints

Pigment inks are more fade-resistant and water-resistant than dye inks.

Giclée capable printers typically hold a minimum of 10 ink cartridges and produce a broader range of colors using a CMYK color profile.

Most giclée prints are printed professionally, but there are some prosumer options out there like the Canon Pixma Pro-10 I currently use.

The digital file of the artwork must be a minimum of 300 DPI and CMYK.

DPI (dots per inch) is the density of individual dots that can be placed within a span of 1 inch on a piece of paper. The higher the DPI, the more information and detail it has.

This isn’t to be confused with PPI. PPI (pixels per inch) is on your computer screen.

Most computer screens are 72 PPI except Apple’s retina display which is roughly 300 PPI. In my opinion, it’s hard for the human eye to tell a difference between anything above 72 PPI, but that’s a different article.

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) are the four basic colors used for printing.

RGB (red, green, blue) are the color values supported on your screen.


Are giclée prints worth it?

Yes! But, I’m biased.

Giclées are more expensive than traditional prints, but they last a lot longer. Traditional prints aren’t horrible and will probably last about 10-20 years depending on the materials used. Giclée prints will last a lifetime and even longer if you take care of them properly.

So, there you have it! If you didn’t know what a giclée print is, hopefully, you can now make a more educated decision when purchasing prints.

And while you’re here, be sure to check out my giclée prints!

If you just didn’t quite get enough information here, you can also read this Wikipedia article on the origins and history of giclée prints.

If you have any questions, please comment below or drop me a note.