art speak uncovered……what is a giclee print?

You are sifting through the rack of browser prints in an art gallery and see the words ‘giclee print’ on the back of a colourful piece that takes your fancy. 

What does this actually mean?

What is a ‘giclee’ ( pronounced g-clay)? How can you assess it’s value? Is it an original artwork?

Monoprints, etchings, collographs, silk screen, digital, offset-litho, woodcut, linocut, engraving, aquatint and lithographs are all types of printing used in art. These might be one-off prints or a limited or unlimited edition ( of which more later…..).

The art world is full of confusing terms…..so I will try to explain….

Say an artist has an original drawing or painting that has attracted a lot of interest, Buyers may not be able to afford the original, but would be happy to hang a good copy on their wall. The artist decides to make giclee prints of the painting to sell in addition to the original.


original drawing in progress by Christine Highland

For example, Christine Highland’s graphic drawings are available as limited edition giclee prints in the Artspring gallery.

So why do we need giclee prints in addition to all of these other printing and painting methods? And what is the process for making them?

Basically, a giclee print is a high quality reproduction made from an original artwork. The word ‘giclee’ comes from the french ‘to spray’, and refers to the ink being sprayed onto a quality, archival paper by a large format inkjet printer. The resolution of the image ( fine detail) and quality of the ink and paper are vital to creating a work that will last for years.

 A high quality reproduction is made as a photograph or scan, and the image is then manipulated until it is as close to the original as possible. This is printed either as an open edition ( with unlimited numbers) or as a limited edition (numbers limited to suit the artists’ needs). Smaller editions mean higher prices and vice versa. 

Can’t afford a Bridget Riley original artwork?

Bridget Riley print ‘Fall”

The artwork above is a giclee print from the Tate Modern….. Bridget Riley’s ‘Fall’. It can be yours for just £20.

It is printed on quality archival paper, but the edition is unlimited, hence the affordable price. You have no idea how many are printed and hanging in people’s homes.

Got a bit more money to spend? Fancy a work by a great master?

A Vermeer perhaps?

Johannes Vermeer ‘Girl with a pearl earring’

This is another unlimited giclee print, this time on canvas, available from John Lewis for £90.

But you might fancy a bit of exclusivity and would prefer a limited edition giclee print, like those that are available in the Artspring gallery….

Limited edition giclee prints should be numbered and signed, so that you know how many have been made and where your print lies in the edition. If the print is not signed or numbered, then you have no idea how many hundreds or even possibly thousands of similar prints are out in the world. 

For some people exclusivity is important. 

For others, all that matters is that they have a print that they love on their wall.

‘Battle’ by Christine Highland

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