Giclee Printing General Information
Giclée (pronounced "zhee-clay"), is an invented name for the process of making fine art prints from a digital source using ink-jet printing. The word "giclée” comes from the French language word "le gicleur" meaning "nozzle", or more specifically "gicler" meaning "to squirt, spurt, or spray". It was coined by Jack Duganne, a printmaker working in the field, to represent any inkjet-based digital print used as fine art. The intent of that name was to distinguish commonly known industrial "Iris proofs" from the type of fine art prints artists were producing on those same types of printers. The name was originally applied to fine art prints created on Iris printers in a process invented in the early 1990s but has since come to mean any high quality ink-jet print and is often used in galleries and print shops to denote such prints.
The earliest prints to be called "Giclée" were created in the early 1990s on the Iris Graphics models 3024, 3047, 4012 or "Realist" color drum continuous Hertz inkjet printers (the company was later taken over by Scitex). Iris printers were originally developed to produce prepress proofs from digital files for jobs where color matching was critical such as product containers and magazine publication. Their output was used to check what the colors would look like before mass production began. Much experimentation took place to try to adapt the Iris printer to the production of color faithful, aesthetically pleasing reproductions of artwork. Early Iris prints were relatively fugitive and tended to show color degradation after only a few years. The use of newer inksets and printing substrates have extended the longevity and light fastness of Iris prints.
Beside its association with Iris prints, in the past few years, the word “giclée,” as a fine art term, has come to be associated with prints using fade-resistant "archival" inks (including solvent inks) and the inkjet printers that use them. These printers use the CMYK color process but may have multiple cartridges for variations of each color based on the CcMmYK color model (e.g. light magenta and light cyan inks in addition to regular magenta and cyan) which serves to increase the apparent resolution and color gamut and allows smoother gradient transitions. The most common printers used are models from manufacturers such as Canon, Eastman Kodak, Epson, Hewlett-Packard, ColorSpan, and Roland DGA. A wide variety of substrates are available including various textures and finishes such as matte photo paper, watercolor paper, cotton canvas, or artist textured vinyl. Indeed, a new industry has been created in supplying the media for this emerging market.