Background on Giclee Printmaking


The term giclee originated a few years ago as a marketing attempt to distinguish prints made with high quality, large format inkjet printers from prints made with ordinary desktop inkjet printers.

Unfortunately, at the time the term was introduced, some printers were still using non-archival, dye-based ink systems. Also, low quality prints made with cheap, desktop inkjet printers have been represented as giclee prints. For some people, the term giclee became associated with these substandard prints.

Some people in the industry no longer refer to true archival prints as giclees. You may see archival prints described as "true giclees". Whatever terminology is used, be sure that your printmaker is using archival media.


In the early 1990s, some people in California began experimenting with large format printing of photographs using digital methods. The early experiments used fine art papers and printers that were designed for pre-press proofing, primarily made by IrisTM and RolandTM.

The early experiments were a mixed success. The images were stunning in their color saturation and resolution. Prints of water color paintings were difficult to distinguish from the originals with the naked eye. However, there were problems with image permanence. The vegetable-dye based inks developed for proof printing were not intended to produce a long lasting print. When exposed to UV light and humidity, some of them faded and others failed through color shifting.

Nevertheless, the prints were so much better than anything that had been seen up to that point, that a considerable effort has been made to develop media systems that allow us to make archival prints while retaining the color gamut, saturation and wide choice of substrates (water color paper, other fine art printmaking papers, canvas, exotic fabrics, etc.) that made the process so appealing in the beginning.

State-of-the-art media systems produce prints that show predicted print life in excess of 200 years in laboratory accelerated-life tests.

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