Giclée Definition ("jhee-clay")

A giclée is a print on either paper or canvas that uses archival, pigmented inks -- not dye inks -- which can fade.

The ink is sprayed from a high resolution print head attached to an inkjet printer.

A giclée should last a minimum of eighty years without fading. If under glass or if sprayed with a UV coating, it should last over one hundred years.

History of the Giclée

The giclée printing process has been in existence only since the 1980's begining with a digital inkjet printer called the Iris. Although no longer manufactured, there are still organizations using the Iris printer. The quality is fine, but the price for the prints tend to be higher because of the tedious nature of operating and making prints.

In the early 1990's Epson released a large format inkjet printer that rivaled the Iris. Epson worked closely with Graham Editions to refine the printers. It was actually Jack Duganne of Graham Editions who coined the phrase "giclée" based loosely upon the French term "gicler" which means to spray.

Common Giclée Printing Terms

Adobe RGB (red, green, blue) - the color space typically used by giclée printers to make giclée prints. Even though the inks used are actually CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black), the RGB space has a larger color gamut therefore producing more vibrant colors.

adobe rgb


This site was developed to help artists choose the right giclée printing company.

How to Select a Giclee Printer

If you are a painter or a photographer and you don’t want to make your own giclee prints, then you will need to evaluate a giclee printing service.

Selecting a giclee printer is a very personal choice. You will need to trust their experience and their judgment when it comes to faithfully producing your original work. You will also want to count on their ability to produce your order in a timely manner and to provide great service.

Some artists may only feel more comfortable working with a giclee printer in person. Others won’t mind working remotely with a printer via the Internet.  Wherever they are located, you will need to know that you’ve made the right choice.

So, how do you begin? There are three main criteria: quality, cost and value-added services.  Although they are all important in their own way, we will start with cost.

Cost: When it comes to the cost of making a giclee print, you need to consider how much you think you can sell you work. Are you selling directly to your customers or are you selling your work indirectly through a gallery, or both? How much do you think someone would be willing to pay for a giclee of your work?

The rule-of-thumb for pricing a giclee print is that you should be able mark it up -- at a minimum -- at least two-to-three times your cost. So, if the cost of making a giclee reproduction is too high you may not be able to sell it at the cost you wish and still make a profit. Price it too high -- it won't sell. Price it too low and you won't make money. So setting the cost is critical. 

When you evaluate a giclee printer you need be aware of any extra fees that they charge. One is called the “setup fee”. A setup fee is a very broad term. It can include the cost of scanning and proofing your original work or it might just mean the time it takes to open your file on the computer and change the media (paper or canvas) on printer. Some printers charge for that effort, whereas others don’t.

Another cost “hurdle” is the “minimum order”. Some printers won’t even talk to you unless you plan to spend a minimum of $250 which can make it quite costly to even evaluate them on a small test run.

Other fees to look out for are storage fees (to keep your files on record), copying your work onto a CD or DVD and any other rush fees. They can all add up. If you work with a remote printer, you also need to consider the cost of shipping (which is usually offset by not being charged any sales tax).

Quality: Once you have a short list of potential printers, you will then want to evaluate their quality. You might want to try sending the same image to a few different printers to compare their quality and service. Or you can try one that represents themselves to you best from the information that you read on their web site. Of course, word-of-mouth and references are always a good source. Ask your artist friends who they use.

Some giclee printers offer scanning services (capturing your artwork digitally) and build the proofing cost into the fee. Others only offer printing. But the important thing, and this is very critical, is if they understand and know what to look for when making a reproduction of your work. If they have your original work of art as a reference, that would be best. The next best thing would be to provide them with a “match” print, which they can use as a guide. If they have no reference, they can still provide you with a proof to check against your original. It is during this proofing process that you can evaluate the skill and the quality of the printer.

Value Added Services:  There are some additional things you should consider. For example, if you sell your work via your own web site or another site, can you rely on your printer to send the work directly to your customer? If they can “print-on-demand” and  “drop-ship” to your customer, that would save you a certain degree of time and money – a definite advantage. Also, do they save your final “approved” image for future orders? Do they backup their files regularly? Do they charge you for that service? Do they have a gallery of their artists work available for sale? These are all important things to consider in the mix.

If you go through these steps and perform a thorough evaluation, you should be set for a long time.

Why Even Bother Making a Giclée?

There are two things to consider -- "leveraging" and "extending".

Leveraging: Think of the time that it took to create your original painting. You can sell it once and start working on the next one. Or you can "leverage" the time that it took and to make that original and make more money by selling giclees.

Extending: Another benefit of making giclees of your work is that you can broaden the audience for your work by making it more affordable. Offering giclees on high quality 100% cotton rag paper or canvas can be the next best thing to an original for a reasonable price. Don't think of a giclee as undercutting your original. Think of it as widening the market for your work. Eventually, that same customer who first bought a giclee might someday buy an original.

Common Myth - Giclées Are Expensive to Produce?

A common myth about giclée prints is that they are very expensive to produce. Actually, if you look hard enough, there are plenty of reasonably priced giclée printing companies out there. They may not be in your back yard, but they are out there. If you are reading these words, you have probably already discovered that your local sources are either too far away or too costly.

One reason why making a giclée print can get expensive is during the first and most crucial step -- scanning, capturing or "digitizing" your original art. Obviously, if you are a photographer or a digital artist, this is not an issue. But if you are a painter of any kind (oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, etc.), it can become a rather large obstacle. Short of packing and mailing your original work, there are some relatively inexpensive methods to capture your artwork that you can probably do yourself - locally. We found one site that offers some practical help on scanning your artwork.

OK. My Giclée Prints are Ready. Now How Do I Sell Them?

There are many venues for your work. Brick and mortar galleries, online galleries, your own web site, art fairs, interior designers and by contacting art buyers directly (ever think that picture at your dentist's waiting room could use an upgrade?).