giclee print
Image credit: Jenie Fawckner (artist)

As an artist, are giclée prints worth it or should you consider lower end prints? Does reproducing artwork reduce its value? How is a giclée print different to an “art print”? How do you keep costs down when producing prints?

These are all worthwhile questions. There are also a whole lot of considerations when it comes to the answers. But let’s start with the basics first.

Fine art printing or giclée printing?

To clarify, both of these terms refer to the exact same process. Archival pigment printing.

Some in the industry will say the term “giclée printing” is not as popular anymore, however google trends actually show searches for “fine art printing” and “giclée printing” are almost equal.  So feel free to call the process whatever you like!

What does giclée mean?

Giclée (pronounced “zhee-klay”) is based on the French word “gicleur” which literally means “to squirt out”.

According to Wikipedia, the word was adopted by a printmaker, Jack Duganne, in the 90’s for fine art digital prints made on inkjet printers.  It refers to the way an inkjet printer works, where it squirts or sprays the ink onto paper.

What is the difference between a giclée and a print?

A giclée print (also called archival pigment print) is the closest possible replication of an original artwork that is possible. The process uses pigment-based inks, archival quality paper and a wide format inkjet printer.  It also requires a certain degree of skill and know-how when it comes to the printer (person doing the job for you).

On the other hand, a traditional print will typically use dye-based inks or toners, a lower quality printer and paper/material that is cheaper. This means the print is less durable, can be damaged more easily, will fade faster and won’t last as long.

So, let’s summarise what we’ve learned.

A high quality fine art print must meet the following criteria:

  1. High resolution artwork capture.A highly detailed print starts with high resolution artwork capture (300 dpi or higher). Capturing all the detail and texture of the original is imperative in producing a print that “looks just like the original” and also one that can be printed in any size.
  2. Pigment based inks.This is important for colour accuracy and is a major selling point for giclée printing compared to traditional art printing. We use a 12 colour process which is better for replicating the look of the original artwork and provides amazingly vivid colours.  Side note – colour accuracy will also depend on the skill of the technician (person working on reproducing your artwork), so choose wisely.
  1. Archival quality/museum-grade paper.We’re talking about fade resistance and longevity here. Basically, this means it should last 75-100 years if cared for properly.
  2. Wide format inket printer.Not all inkjet printers produce giclée prints, the ones that do will spray pigment-based inks (and hold up to 12 colours) matching the colour precisely to the original.

Does reproducing artwork devalue the original?

The short answer is no.

In fact, giclée prints can actually increase the value of an original. Also because of the high quality, these prints can often increase in value over time. This is of course dependent on the artist, but it’s especially true if the artist gains more recognition and if they are a limited-edition print.

Part of the selling point of reproducing your artwork is making it available to more people.

There is a small market of potential buyers for original artwork. This is due to cost and perhaps also popularity of collecting art as an investment.

One of the biggest reasons people purchase art these days is aesthetics, it’s for the love not the money, according to recent research. In other words, the majority of people will buy a piece of art if they “love it”. They are often less concerned if it’s an original and will appreciate in value.

This brings us onto the next point.

As an artist, are giclée prints worth it?

As mentioned above, reproducing your artwork is also a business decision. Once you sell an original piece there are no more profits to be made. Yes, you can sell the original for more, but you only have a limited amount of time to create original pieces so it’s not practical if you’re trying to scale a business.

With high quality fine art prints, not only do you have a chance to make more from each piece, but you have a larger market of potential buyers to sell to. With higher volumes and a broader market, there is greater chance of your work becoming more well-known and accessible thus raising your profile.

Do you need giclée prints or can you go with cheaper, traditional prints?

This is more a marketing/business decision rather than what best presents your artwork.

It will serve you well to learn the basics of marketing, such as the four P’s (price, product, placement and promotion) and target audiences.

A lot will depend on your target market and price points. Start by asking yourself, who is my audience? What are they willing to pay for art? What sizes, mediums are they looking for? Where will I sell the prints (think about shipping costs etc if online)? 

Check out the how to sell your art guide for more tips on this. 

Tips to keep giclée print costs down

Yes, giclee printing is more costly than traditional printing. Like with everything, you get what you pay for.

Even within the world of giclée prints, there are great variations in technique, price and quality between printers. Remember the process? High resolution image capture, type of inks used, colour correction, type of printer and expertise of people doing the job.

So if you’re shopping around for a giclée printer make sure you understand their fine art reproduction process and know what you’re getting. Not all giclée prints were created equal.

Other than shopping around between printers how can you look to save?

Digitising your artwork.

This is generally not overly costly, but it can be depending on the volume of work. This is one of the many benefits of scanning over photography. Our large format flatbed scanner has a huge table size of 1400 x 2200mm which allows us to scan multiple artworks at once. We also offer discounts for multiple artwork scans (called a table scan). Check out the detail on the artwork scanning page.

Choosing your paper.

When selecting a paper, you need to factor in finish, brightness, weight, durability and importantly your target market as we discussed above. Maybe you don’t need to the best of the best when it comes to paper or material. Think about how much you plan to sell your prints for, as well as sizing options as this will all factor into how much you can spend on producing the prints. Read our paper stock guide for more detail on options we offer.

Creating limited editions

The great thing about the fine art reproduction process is you don’t have to print everything in one go. Once you have digitised your artwork and have a high resolution file, you can print as you need which allows you to cater for market demand.

Open editions will allow you an unlimited source of income from one piece of artwork.

However, these are usually not as valuable to art collectors as limited editions. Make sure you research your market before deciding as it may not be an issue if you’re not selling to serious collectors.

Even with limited edition print runs, there is no need to print all at once. As long as you set the total number for the edition and keep a detailed record of how many have sold, you can print on demand. Since no more prints can be created after they are all sold, artists are usually able to command a higher price tag for this type of print.