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THE GICLEE PROCESS -- WHAT AND WHY?

If you are close to the world of art these days, you will see and hear a good bit about giclee prints. In this article we will fill you in on the giclee process, and hopefully you will feel comfortable with the advantages of this new medium. Giclee printing has been around for quite a few years. It started with the Iris printing machines that created an image by squirting or spraying fine dots of pigment on the print medium. (The word giclee has its origin in a French verb that means to spray or squirt.) The Iris machines were a hit with the art industry. They produced beautiful, high quality reproductions with excellent detail and color. Other manufacturers began to produce similar machines, and the giclee print became an established item in the catalogs of many publishers.

What makes the giclee process desirable to artists and publishers? The answer lies in the comparison of the giclee machine with the lithograph machine. The lithograph printers are huge pieces of equipment that can easily fill up a large room. They are very fast, and can print many thousands of a good quality art reproduction in a short time. Because the machines are so expensive, large quantities of an image must be run to minimize the cost of production. This means the publisher must print a large number of prints in order to reach a reasonable selling price. However, if the original quantity printed is 5,000, and sales average only 500 prints per year, the publisher may have large numbers of prints and dollars tied up in inventory for many years. In contrast, the giclee printer is smaller and less expensive. However, it is much slower. It may take up to an hour or more to produce one large giclee print. The giclee image is very precise, and has excellent tonal qualities making it a favorite with artists who like to see their works published in the best possible manner. Quality of reproduction of the original art work is a major plus for the giclee process. In addition, the number of giclee prints can easily be determined by the artist or publisher. If the artist would like a limited edition of 50 or 100 prints, it presents no problem. No large stocks of prints need be kept in inventory. Each order from the customer can be printed on demand. However, the cost of the giclee will be higher than a lithograph print, since it is made one at a time, and its production is monitored by a skilled craftsperson to ensure quality.

What makes the giclee process desirable to the art lover? The giclee process produces a beautifully detailed image with great faithfulness to the original colors of the artist's work. A plus for the art lover is the fact that the giclee machines are quite versatile. They can print on a great variety of fine art papers, as well as on high quality artist canvas. The machines can also produce a variety of sizes of prints from a single source. The art collector can often find a favorite image in three or four different dimensions ranging from an intimate 5"x7" to a magnificent wall-filling 60"x72". Giclee canvas prints are a special item for the art lover. These canvas prints are very close in appearance to the original works of art, and they are framed without glass, so that nothing separates the eye of the viewer from the color and detail of the image.

Is Giclee right for you? That decision will depend solely on you. If you are interested in a quality presentation of a particular artist's work, then giclee would be your choice. If you are selecting a piece of art for a special gift to discriminating people, or you want to make a really special statement in your home or office decor, again, giclee would be your choice. In these cases you may consider the extra cost to be worthwhile. If you are trying to dress up a vacant wall in one of the rooms of your home, you may not be as concerned with the quality of the reproduction, but may be more interested in the subject matter or general color or appearance of the item. In these cases, you may consider a lithograph to be just fine. And it will serve your needs very well.
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