Giclée and Inkjets

About 10 years ago, inkjet color printers were great for printing those color note cards and newsletters at home. The expensive ones were used for the office and presentations and colorful letters to clients. Inkjet for printing high quality, fine art? Never!

Advance forward to today and you have a large demand for fine art prints and that demand is being met with inkjet printers.  Traditional print techniques — etching, lithography, and screenprinting,  are getting a run for their money with digital printmaking. Questions of legitimacy, quality, and longevity are being met with postiive answers when it comes to producing  fine art in  limited editions, or reproductions of existing art with inkjet printers.

So where did all this begin? Originally the Iris inkjet graphics printer was used. Specifically the 3024, 3047 and then the Gprint. The Iris was at that time being used for traditional prepress color proofing. It was not thought of as a fine art printer. The french word giclée, (Zee Clay) which translated literally, means “squirt”, was used to describe the inkjet printing process with the Iris printers.

Now, with the advance in inkjet technology, the inks used and the paper being printed on, Iris printers no longer dominate the market as THE giclée printer. Roland, Colorspan, Epson and others have technology that rivals the best prints made on an Iris printer. In fact, if you compare black & white prints from an Epson 3000 using inks sold by Cone Press Editions, and with their printer drivers, to the same print done on a Iris, you’ll find the Epson wins hands down. Tonality, resolution, crispness is amazing. What does all this mean to you the consumer? Your options for obtaining giclée prints are now expanded greatly. The inkjet technology for high quality fine art prints exists. Combine that with the skills of a master digital printer and you have fine art prints at reasonable prices.

Fine Art Print Collaboration

Creating images for digital printing is highly individualized. The technology for producing fine art prints requires a close working relationship between the artist and the fine art printer. Each artist has there own interpretations and requirements. Not only can the inks make a difference in color fidelity, but having the right papers matched with those inks is critical to the final result. What is good for a color print will not give you the same results for traditional grayscale (B&W) prints.

Adding to the process is the calibration that has to occur between the scanning process, color correction and the final print. What looks good on your computer monitor may not print at all like what you see on your monitor. This is where high end calibration tools are used to ensure that a picture holds its color fidelity across all the working mediums. Very good prints can be made using todays printer techology right from the comfort of your home. To get archival, and exacting color matching though requires investment and experience in high end tools used for the digital printing process. That is typically not a common home investment.

An example of this can be seen in printing the same picture on different media such as a glossy photographic paper, matte finish, canvas or watercolor paper. Without each media having calibration profiles that are used in the printing process, you will get mixed results in the way the color reproduces on the paper.


With these advances in the digital technology and inkjet printing, an artist no longer has to produce an entire run of their Limited Edition prints at once. Now prints can be printed on demand. Initial investments in the Limited Edition creation process is less than with traditional methods. Yet the quality is just as high. Additionally, with digital printing, an artist can decide whether or not she wants to produce Limited Edition prints in different sizes to accommodate the wishes of her customer. It is a win-win situation. The artist benefits, the buyer benefits.


All images © Copyright 1999, S. Joseph Sharnetsky.