The ABC's of giclee printing

What is it? : Initially, giclees (jhee-klays) were developed as a proofing system for lithographic printing presses. However, it soon became apparent that the litho presses were having a difficult time delivering the quality and intensity of the giclee proofs. Giclees are produced directly from high resolution digital files thus saving generations of detail-robbing negatives and printing plates used with traditional litho printing. That said, the giclee printing process provides better color accuracy than other means of reproduction.

Printing : Typically, giclee prints are produced using professional 8-Color to 12-Color ink-jet printers. These modern technology printers are capable of producing incredibly detailed prints for both the fine art and photographic markets.

Materials : The giclee printing process utilizes archival quality, pigmented inks which are extremely stable. Some of the more current inks are rated to last up to two hundred years without fading according to testing lab Wilhelm Research. The fine art paper and canvas used to make giclee prints are all specially coated to make the surface more receptive to pigmented inks.

Giclees vs Lithographs : Lithography uses tiny dots of four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to trick the eye into seeing various hues and values. Colors are achieved by printing different size dots of these four colors. Giclees use inkjet technology but far more sophisticated than your desktop printer. The process employs six colors of pigmented inks (light cyan, cyan, light magenta, magenta, yellow and black) and finer, more numerous, printheads. The result is a wider color range and the ability to use various surfaces to print on. The ink is sprayed onto the page, actually mixing the color on the page to create truer shades and hues.

The Market : Having evolved into the new darlings of the art world, giclees are priced midway between original art and regular limited edition lithographs. Limited edition litho prints are usually produced in editions of 500-1000 or more (all at once) while giclees rarely exceed 50-100 high-quality reproductions (one at a time). The quality of the giclee print rivals traditional silver-halide and gelatin printing processes and is commonly found in museums and art/photographic galleries including the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and NYC’s Chelsea and Soho galleries. According to Giclee Print Net Inc., “Recent auctions of giclee prints have fetched $10,800 for Annie Leibovitz, $9,600 for Chuck Close and $22,800 for Wolfgang Tillmans.”

Rixx Editions Giclees : My hand-signed/numbered, limited edition giclees are meticulously produced by Rick D’Alessandro of Rixx Editions. I’ve worked with him for approximately 5 years and continue to be amazed by the superior quality of his finished product…… he even makes me look good.

The following is an excerpt from Rick’s website at“Rixx Editions equipment and techniques are highly specialized and proprietary and have been painstakingly developed over the past 10 years. Therefore, we do not divulge information about them. Rixx Editions is the leader in this field... bar none. This is our business first and foremost.Our work speaks for itself. Galleries have placed originals next to fine art reproductions and in most cases their clients had difficulty picking out the original. Our work does not look like an overblown picture, soft and blurry with excessive amounts of paint hiding the poor quality. We are the best at what we do! Rixx Editions uses the highest quality archival inks, canvas and fine art paper media, the same quality we use for museums. These products cannot be found on the open market. Fine art reproductions will last upwards of 120 years without fading. The weight and feel of both the canvas and textured fine art media is excellent. You will notice the quality and the unbelievable realism of the fine art reproductions immediately."


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