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What are Giclee Photo Prints...?

Giclee photo prints are sold from the Photography Art Cafe galleries. But what does giclee actually mean? Basically, it describes high quality reproductions - produced on inkjet printers - of photography and artwork from a digital source. Inkjet printers work by propelling thousands of tiny droplets of ink onto a page, making for really fine rendering of detail and smooth colour graduation.



The word giclee was actually invented in 1991, by Jack Duganne, as a derivation of the French gicleur - to squirt, spurt or spray, in reference to the inkjet printing process. Amongst others involved in the early days of digital printing, Duganne was eager to distinguish his painstaking work in faithfully rendering prints of fine art and photography from the cheap, industrial print runs of newspapers and magazines.

Both systems employed digital inkjet processes and the prevailing technology, Iris printers. So what made the digitally produced fine art prints any different, apart from having a made up word attached to them?! Well, the likes of Jack Duganne agonised over creating accurate reproductions, tweaking the details and pushing the boundaries, whilst magazines and newspapers simply demanded satisfactory, efficient print runs.

There was a lot of testing and experimenting on Iris printers during the 1990's, leading to ever more impressive results in the reproduction of fine art. Improvements continued until giclee became the standard term for top notch digital printing using inkjet technology.


Further Details

As the quality of digital inkjet printing moves on and on, so does the definition of giclee. It's always been one of the chief aims of producing giclee photo prints to preserve the quality of images on exposure to UV light.

The development of acid free, pigment based inks has enabled this to be achieved very successfully, and their use is now an essential part of the giclee process. The same is true for acid free papers, which along with the inks are known as archival materials. The use of archival materials in giclee printing ensures that photographs retain their quality for at least a lifetime.

So, with a bit of extra investment in paper and inks, could anyone produce giclee photo prints on a regular desktop printer? Unfortunately not.

Inkjet printers operate using the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, 'key' black) colour process. This is sufficient to produce an impressive colour gamut and very smooth gradient transitions. Most of the printers we use at home have between four and six ink cartridges. Four is essential, involving each of the elementary CMYK colours, whilst five or six can do a decent job.

But to create the best prints that match the standards of exhibited works in art galleries, it's necessary to have a few more cartridges, each with variations of the starting colours (e.g. light cyan, light magenta etc.). Printers with this capacity are not cheap, and usually are only used in professional environments.


'Giclee', then, has come to refer to the highest standards of inkjet printing, to which, inks, printers and papers are all relevant.

All giclee photo prints from Photography Art Cafe are produced using a nine cartridge printer and archival inks and papers.




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