Giclee Printing Saviour or Ruination of art?

There are conflicting views across the art world as to where or even whether giclee prints have a role to play in the arena of serious art. I hope to explain here where I see this form of art production going in the future and its upsides and downsides to the wider art community.

Firstly, lets understand what a giclee print is.

A Giclee print is produced on an inkjet printer and needs to have the following three basic criteria:
A) The ink used in the printer is original manufactures pigment ink. These printers should be using a 12 colour pigment ink system. Original pigment ink is colour fast and will last a great deal longer than third party inks combined with acid free or archival fine art papers.
B) The image is printed at resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch)This indicates the high detail resolution of the print and has an negligible amount of colour fragmentation and degradation that fine art papercan be seen in prints with a lower resolution.
C) Acid free / archival/museum quality media. The media has to be acid free and typically made of 100% cotton or rag base. These papers provide the best substrate in terms of colour longevity and reproduction and help guarantees long-lasting true-to-detail prints that meet the requirements of museums and galleries (ISO 9706).
How do we produce a giclee print?
If we take an example of an artist looking to produce a giclee print form an original piece.

digitising art workA) The original needs to be digitised this is the process where a digital file is created form the original. This process and the resolution at which the original is imaged will dictate the largest size in which the print can be reproduced.
B) With the digital file created the following stage is colour matching the file to the original. For this to happen the image engineer needs to have a fully managed colour workflow. In short this means that the monitor, the printer and the individual substrates have been ink potscolour calibrated and have individual ICC profiles This process will then involve doing test prints on proofing paper until the colour is matched to the original. Sometimes this process is done with the artist present as colour viewing is a subjective process and what one person sees may not be what someone else sees.


C) Once the colour is matched an artist’s proof is done on the selected media again to confirm the colours of the giclee print.
D) Once the print has been agreed by the artist the digital file is locked and saved as a final. From this final file giclee prints can be produced at the largest size the resolution will allow or smaller sizes depending on the artists needs.

Now that we can understand the concept and the process of producing prints we need to see how this is beneficial or detrimental to the art community.
There are two camps those that see art work as original “hand made” art and those that see art as just the image on display outside of it provenance. Yes there is a difference between owning an original and owning a print for the individual but for those looking the difference isn’t so acute. A professionally produced giclee print to the untrained eye on similar media to the original will still evoke the same emotions that an original would in terms of its aesthetics. I appreciate that the original with its provenance and history will give those that are knowledgeable about the art a different experience; but would I be wrong in saying that those people are in a minority? what-emotions-are-300x200When you are looking at a piece of art, are you more focused on whether it’s an original or on what the art work is evoking in you?
There are also the advantages to the artist and to the art loving public. Firstly, for the artist; the process of digitising their art work allows them the flexibility to produce a limited edition of giclee prints form a single original. They are also able to then use that digital image for any number of other products including greetings cards and promotional material for coming exhibitions. This increases the financial return for artists form their original work. Secondly a number of artists I have worked with in the past don’t wat to sell the originals a they have an emotional attachment to them and would rather save them for friends and family.
So what’s in it for the art loving public? Well by producing prints artists are able to offer a different price structure, meaning that instead of having to buy an original for example for £3000 you maybe able to purchase an identical size print for £300.00. This not only makes art more accessible to the public but also allows the artists to sell more of their work and have greater exposure.
I don’t believe that producing prints devalues original work if anything I think it increases the value and I don’t believe that giclee prints ruin or take anything away from original work. I do believe however that giclee prints allow more people to own beautiful art work at more accessible prices.
After all what good is art if it’s not viewed and enjoyed by as many people as possible. This print maker for one believes art brightens our days, brings our emotions to the surface and helps us appreciate creativity in its truest form.