Comprehensive Guide for Giclee Printing

by Michael McCarty
Founder, Tribeca Printworks

What is Giclee Printing?

If you have been searching for ways to make your artwork or photographs come to life, look no further than the impressive method of giclee printing. Giclee print is a fascinating alternative to typical printing jobs where you can see more detail and longer preservation for your artwork, photographs and artifacts.

Learn more about giclee prints and how you can benefit from this printing method for any project.

Where Does Giclee Come From?

As a starting point, the word itself, pronounced “gee clay,” is of French origin. However, its use in the world of fine art printing is an American construct. Loosely translated, it means “to spray.” Printmaker Jack Duganne of Duganne Editions in Santa Monica coined the phrase in the mid-1990s to refer to prints made with emerging technology. The digital printers in use at that time, Iris printers, did indeed spray the ink onto the paper’s surface, deflecting away the droplets that the image did not require.

The name caught on even though the Piezo drop-on-demand printers used today replaced the Iris printer and use a very different process. Piezo drop-on-demand print technology often features eight or nine ink cartridges feeding into a print head with tiny charged crystals within the chamber of each color. The crystals vibrate to release the appropriate amount of ink “on-demand” via electrostatic charge to produce your print.

What Is a Giclee Print?

In today’s world of fine art and technological advancements, giclee printing is a type of digital printing that creates a higher quality outcome for photographs, artwork, collages and other designs that come to life on paper. The main difference between giclee printing and standard inkjet printing is the tones printers use.

Most printers you can find in stores and available for public use contain yellow, black, cyan and magenta. In contrast, giclee printing uses a wider selection of less common shades, including light magenta, light cyan, orange, green and grays. With the broader scope of colors to print your images with, you can enjoy a higher-quality printing process that lets your work shine naturally.

Understanding the Giclee Printing Process

One of the defining characteristics of giclee prints is their rich detail. However, to earn its name, a giclee print must meet an established set of criteria:


To create a giclee print, one would use a wide-format inkjet printer. It’s essential to use inkjet technology when creating a giclee print, as these printers can hold the eight ink cartridges needed to fully reproduce the print. Having additional inks also allows for a broader spectrum of color than the three-ink system you find in traditional printers.


An image must be 300 dots per inch (DPI) or more to be a giclee reproduction, meaning the original image must also have a 300 DPI or higher resolution.


Giclee prints use pigment-based inks for the rendering process. This switch to a higher-quality ink ensures the image has a longer life span without significant fading.

Benefits of Giclee Printing

Although you may not hear the term “giclee” much in the art world, this printing method has many benefits when preserving your photographs or artwork with the highest quality finish. Whether you intend to print your work, create new hanging artwork at home or in public, or plan to preserve old photographs, giclee print can be your new go-to choice for quality images for everyone to admire!

The benefits of giclee printing include:

  • Portfolio production: If you are working on an artwork or photography portfolio, giclee printing can help you capture your efforts in high definition so others can admire the details of your work. The quality of each image can make your portfolio come to life so you can continue to gain recognition for your talents while broadening your creative horizons for future projects.
  • Longevity: One of the most significant features of giclee printing is the preservation of images, artwork and artifacts that anyone can use. Giclee print lasts 200 years without signs of fading or natural aging that most images show after storing for long periods. This benefit is perfect for those who hang artwork and artifacts in museums or enjoy preserving family photographs for future generations.
  • High definition and quality: The careful printing process of giclee techniques and the wider range of shades used for each image gives the final product the highest quality possible. Most printing options use pixels and dot screening to recreate original photos. However, giclee printing relies on the broader spectrum of available colors to capture the original piece perfectly for a high-definition replica you can admire for years.
  • Reproduction: Giclee printing is the perfect option for people who sell their photographs or artwork. Since giclee print can replicate an original piece without the quality decreasing with each copy, artists can enjoy selling as many images as possible with the high definition and detail that admirers love.

What Images Are Best for Giclee Printing?

Since giclee printing specializes in high-quality details and longevity after producing your chosen image, the best images you can print are ones you want to preserve for years to come. However, you can still select giclee printing for any of your decoration or exhibition needs if you simply enjoy the look of high-definition photographs and artwork.

Many choose giclee print for archival photos and artifacts because this printing method leaves no visible dot screen pattern and replicates even the smallest details. History lovers also enjoy the high-quality production of renowned artwork from well-known artists or significant artifacts.

Choosing the Right Printing Materials

The type of paper you choose for your giclee print can enhance the image and change how the viewer interprets it. Some things to consider when selecting your paper for your giclee print include:

  • Texture: Consider whether you want to complement or replicate the media you are printing. For example, textured paper can turn your photograph into a fine art print.
  • Weight: The weight of the paper you choose can impact how appealing your print is.
  • Coating: All paper for giclee printing has a coating, which means the surface has some enhancement to improve ink performance. Additionally, the paper coating you choose can impact how bright the print colors appear.

It is also essential to consider whether fine art or photo paper is best for your print. While photo paper is excellent for printing photographs and other images, fine art paper is best for giclee prints. Fine art paper has a textured surface that adds a greater depth to the colors in your print while reducing fading.

Giclee Paper vs. Canvas

You can choose giclee printing for various types of material to print your image on, including high-quality paper and canvas. While both these options are appropriate for displaying prints around your home or office, there are a few notable differences that can make your decision easier.

Many artists use the convenience of canvas prints to display their artwork or photographs with ease. With a canvas print, you do not have to frame or add glass protectants to preserve the image. You only need to print your work on the canvas and hang it wherever you please! With paper prints, you can find framing options and a glass cover to help protect the image when you display the print. This difference typically means a small change in pricing based on whether you need a frame.

Both options are wonderful for showcasing your work and preserving beautiful photographs for you to enjoy for years to come.

Collaborating With Print Studios and Professionals

Thanks to numerous advancements in printing technologies, thousands of studios now offer the option for giclee fine art prints. However, owning a wide format inkjet printer doesn’t necessarily qualify a printing studio to make giclee prints.

When looking for a printing studio, you will want to consider factors such as how long they have been in business and the materials they use. Firms reproducing art for at least five years have a more in-depth relationship with giclee printing. Qualified digital printmakers will also offer a more comprehensive selection of materials and be able to tell you the advantages and drawbacks of each one.

Another way to ensure your collaboration with a print studio is beneficial is to communicate effectively. Being specific about your project name, how many prints you require, and your turnaround time can go a long way in ensuring your print is correct. Additionally, it is a good idea to include specs like project orientation and any finishing details.

Lastly, as with any partnership, you will want to take the time to nurture and grow your relationship with your print studio. Discuss issues immediately to ensure you and the print studio can correct them quickly, and offer praise when projects turn out well. Investing time into your relationship with your print studio ensures you have a reliable source for all your giclee printing needs.

How Can Tribeca Printworks Help You?

If giclee printing sounds like the perfect way to highlight your artwork or other images you love, Tribeca Printworks can help make these prints come to life! Our team of artists, art lovers and enthusiasts value working with artists of all experiences and aesthetic preferences so we can get to know more about you and your work when you print with us.

At Tribeca Printworks, we prioritize providing you with the highest quality images with the help of giclee printing for all your decoration, restoration and exhibition needs. You have the creative freedom to choose between expertly curated paper selections and giclee print options to give your work an extra spark when you’re ready to display your piece.

Get started on your giclee print project today.

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