Let’s end the confusion and set the record straight. Pronounced “zhee-clay”, it’s a term based on the French verb, gicler (“to squirt”), and was coined by printmaker Jack Duganne in the early 1990s to mean any inkjet-based digital print used as fine art.
Easy, right? Here’s a little more background…
Originally, the term giclée was meant to distinguish industrial pre-press proofs made for matching color from the fine art prints being produced on the same types of printers. Made by Iris Graphics, Inc. (hence the name ‘Iris printer’ or ‘Iris print’), these complex pioneering printers used a sophisticated print head to disperse the ink on the paper in a fine mist (aka ‘ink jet’ printers).
Decades later, today’s giclée prints are created using professional 8 to 12-color ink-jet printers. These printers employ special fade-resistant “archival” inks which will keep their color for up to 25 years if kept out of the sun. The prints can also be produced on any type of paper. Thanks to modern technology, quality is high allowing these extremely detailed images to be marketed as fine art.
From the artist’s point of view, giclées are desirable because any number of reproductions can be ordered at any given time and at a relatively low cost. Gone are the days when an artist faced a large outlay of funds resulting in mass produced images. Now with digital printing, once the scan is made and archived, printing is on-demand and affordable. In addition, these digitally scanned images can easily be customized by adjusting size or the material onto which the print is made (i.e., various papers or canvas).
So you ask, “Should I buy one?”
There’s no right answer, it’s a matter of taste. Personally, I prefer owning an original. While I applaud the innovation and appreciate how digital printing is helping us collect fine art more affordably, it is undeniably special to collect art that no one else has. If you are considering a giclée, be discriminating. Find out if the image is from an edition and how many prints are in the edition. Is the image signed by the artist? Do as much research as you can- a source I recommend is The International Fine Print Dealers Association.
When you have the choice, I’d opt for one of a kind. Your art collection will be unique and, most likely, you will have a better investment for having purchased original art.