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What Are ‘Giclee’ Art Prints?

If you’ve ever bought an art print or visited a print store, chances are good you’ve heard the phrase “Giclee print” thrown around, perhaps in a way that suggests a superior product when compared to whatever they call ordinary prints.</br></br>The chances are also good you have no idea what this term means, although you might agree it sounds quite fancy, and is perhaps even worth the extra money the print people are charging for it over regular price.</br></br>But, is there really any difference?</br></br><strong>First, what is a Giclee print?</strong></br></br>The word “Giclee” is actually very new, having first been used by printmaker Jack Duganne in 1991 as a way to describe a fine-art digital print. It’s a derivation of the word “gicler,” which is a French verb meaning “to spray, spatter or squirt” – yet here refers to the nozzle on an inkjet printer.</br></br>To be sure, it is a fake word. At its worst, "Giclee" is a marketing term of art used in place of the word “inkjet” because the latter doesn’t sound very fancy. At its best, though, it’s used by printmakers to indicate the use of superior inks and print methods.</br></br><strong>Why is “Giclee” capitalized sometimes, and put in lowercase other times?</strong></br></br>There are competing arguments for why this happens, and both make sense.</br></br>Some say it’s because “Giclee” has become the default term for all quality art prints, much like a thermos is the generic name for an insulated container, while the capitalized “Thermos” refers to the brand.</br></br>Others say it should be lowercase at all times because there is no brand, and the term confers no special meaning on a particular printmaking process.</br></br><strong>So, is there anything unique about a Giclee print?</strong></br></br>It depends on how you look at it and, perhaps more importantly, how a particular printmaker approaches both the term and the process.</br></br>The term might be used to indicate only that you're buying an inkjet-produced print. Or, it could mean the printmaker used archival ink on archival stock to create a more detailed, longer-lasting print.</br></br><strong>How can I tell print quality, if not by name?  </strong></br></br>Most printmakers are keen on describing their products in detail so buyers know what they’re getting (and also so they can charge appropriately for higher quality).</br></br>So, to sum up, focus less on “giclee” and more on what else the printmaker promotes – like specifics on ink and stock quality – and you’ll improve your chances of choosing a high-quality print.
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