Everything you ever wanted to know about giclée printing
Browse our extensive knowledge centre below. Click the questions to reveal the answers.
- Are there set up costs involved in having giclée prints?
Yes there are set up costs involved, but these should only apply the first time tat you have a particular image printed.
If, for example you take your original piece of artwork in to your chosen print partner to have it scanned or photographed then there will be a scanning/photography and proofing charge. Once the proof is made and you are happy with it then any correction is locked in to the file and the next time you want a print making the file can just be selected by your print partner and printed for you, no need to proof each time you have another print.
If you supply your own file for printing then your print partner will charge you for making a proof to make sure that you are happy with colours, density and the quality of the image. Again, all of correction info will be locked in to your file meaning that no more set up costs would be involved in making further prints in a month, 6 months or even a couple of years time.
The only time that further set up / proofing costs might be incurred is if you were to alter the paper or canvas that you are having your prints made on, then a proof may be required to check that colours etc remain the same on the newly chosen substrate.
- Will all art reproduce well as giclée prints?
There are certain things to consider when you set out on your first giclée print journey.
You need to be aware that metallic colours will not reproduce faithfully. Giclée printers do not use metallic inks. So gold, silver, bronze and copper are a bit of a problem. There are ways to reproduce the look of the colours, but they will never be appear as a metallic colour. The best way around this problem is to hand embellish your prints. Most giclée print substrates will accept paint, so you can paint the areas that should be metallic, making each print totally individual.
- Can I have a copy of the file once my work is copied?
Most reputable print partners or photographers will supply the artist with both a print file and a web ready file. If you are having your file made by your print partner they will also keep a copy of the file for future use on any orders that you might place. Different print partners will keep your file on record for different amounts of time. Best to check with your chosen print partner to find out how long they will keep your file. It's also best to check that they will not charge you extra fro supplying you with your files… remember, they are your files!
- Do giclée prints require any special handling?
The best advice here is to treat your giclée prints in the same way that you treat your original art.
Avoid touching the print surface, keep the prints away from liquid, don't display prints outdoors, make sure that if you are having the print framed that only archival materials come in to contact with your prints. Make sure that the framer is using conservation or museum quality mount boards. Handles and treated correctly, any giclée print made with authentic papers and inks should last a lifetime. Your giclée print really should be treated with care, but as an artist or photographer you will be used to handing delicate and precious materials.
- How does the giclée proofing process work?
The proofing stage of the giclée print process is very important, and is your chance to see how your prints will look before the final button is pressed and your prints are produced.
You will find that most giclée print partners will make your proofs on to the paper or canvas that you wish the final prints to be supplied on. That way you'll know exactly how the colours will reproduce. This is the stage where you can ask for any changes to colours, hues and density to be made, don't be afraid to ask and chat things through with your print partner, it's what the proofing stage is all about. Once you are happy with the proofs, which should be reasonably quickly if your print partner had an original to match to, the corrections are locked in to your file meaning that every time you have a new print made it should look the same as the last one.
The proofing stage is usually undertaken by the print partner alone, when either a file is supplied to them or after they have created a file from your artwork.
- Can the same image be reproduced on different papers?
You should only offer the same image on different papers if you are doing an Open Edition print run. The paper type and size information will appear on your Certificate of Authenticity if you are offering Limited Edition prints, and the very fact that the run is limited means that ideally you should just offer the print on one paper or canvas surface.
Your print partner will certainly be there to help you choose the print media best suited to any particular image. Remember, any print partner worth dealing with will have produced many different images on various print media during their time, and they are best suited to helping you choose the print media that best suits your particular image. But it does often come down to personal choice.
So the rule of thumb here is yes, in theory the same image can be offered and printed on different papers, but if you are offering your prints for sale as a Limited Edition, you should just offer it on one paper or canvas type.
- Does giclée print work for photographers as well as artists?
Absolutely! Great images, whether artist originals or photographs work fantastically well on fine art giclée papers and canvas. There's no reason at all why stunning photographic landscapes, detailed portraits or wedding photography won't work well as a giclée print.
Giclée printing is a fantastic and affordable way for both artists and photographers to offer their work as fine art prints.
- Where can I sell giclée prints?
The world is your oyster when it comes to selling your giclée prints. You can see prints on your own website, in galleries (both online and on the high street), at exhibitions, craft fairs, art markets, gift shops, the local Post Office….
Seriously, there are many websites out there offering giclée prints for sale. The best way to find out where prints are sold is to do some research, in fact do lots or research… you can never do too much research. Think about where there will be a lot of foot fall, where your style of images might be in demand. Some galleries will only sell original works, others sell originals alongside giclée prints. Have a wander around some galleries, go to local art fairs and exhibitions… ask questions of other artists, they're a friendly bunch!
- How do I present a giclée print for sale?
There are many ways to present a giclée print for sale to you potential print buyers. Some will cost more than others, some may get you more buyers than others and some will take up more space than others (an important thing to think about if you are selling from limited space at an art fair for example). Here is a brief outline of some of the options available to you.
If you are selling prints online then you might just want to offer prints rolled in a postal tube, by far the easiest and most cost effective way to send your prints out to clients. If you want to offer a 'print only' option but either don't want to roll them or don't need to roll them then they can be supplied flat, with a card backing wrapped in cellophane. They could be presented in an aperture mount, ready for the print buyer to get framed, when considering this option it's best to make the aperture mounts fit an 'off the shelf' frame, so that the print buyer doesn't have to go and have a custom sized frame made.
Alternatively, if you wanted to go the whole hog then you can offer your prints in a mount and a frame. Be careful with this option though, as you don't want to lose potential sales because the frame is not to the buyers liking, probably best to also offer it as a print only option also.
If you are offering canvas prints then you can either offer then stretched and ready to frame or you could also offer them as roles canvas prints. The rolled canvas print is the ideal option for sending a canvas print abroad, the costs of sending larger stretched canvases can be astronomical.
Many giclée print partners will be able to help and advise you on the best way for you to present your images.
- What is an aperture mount?
An aperture mount helps to protect your giclée print can at times enable your print buyer to purchase an off the shelf frame for the mounted print to fit in to.
A precise aperture (opening) is cut usually in the centre of the board, but it can be offset to give a slightly larger border on the bottom edge. Mounts come in a huge variety of colours, some of which are available in conservation quality board.
Double mounts can be cut to enable you to have 2 different (but complimentary) colours, with the bottom mount just having 5-10mm showing, this can be very effective with some images. Mounts can also be cut with more than one aperture so that many images can be framed together, this is more usual for photographs rather than art.
- How do I sign a limited edition giclée print?
If you have decided to go with a limited edition print run then you should make sure that when the prints are made there is sufficient space under the image for a signature, title and edition number to be placed in pencil. There is a recognized convention for this, with the edition number, say 25/85 appearing on the bottom left, the artists signature on the bottom right and the title of the print in the middle. Over the years I have found that a soft pencil, for example a 4 – 5B will be best for making these identifying marks on your giclée print, but different papers will warrant different pencils, so a little bit of trial and error on an off-cut of paper will be a great idea before you set about marking the actual print.
- Can a giclée print be printed at different sizes?
Yes is the basic answer to this. Most artists rarely, if ever, have their work printed larger than the original. Obviously there are times when this may be ended, but in general prints are made at the same size or smaller than the original piece. If the prints are to be larger than the original then this just be taken in to consideration at the scanning stage, as a larger scan would have to be made to enable the original work to be printed bigger.
If you are offering your prints as limited editions then the available size(s) must be determined before the print run starts, as the sizing information needs to appear on the Certificates of Authenticity and as a limited edition it can't be changed during the print run. The best advice on a limited edition print run would be to stick to one size and on one paper or canvas type.
When ordering different sized prints always take the aspect ratio in to consideration, for example a square original can not be made in to a 20" x 16" print without some heavy cropping! The best thing to do, if you are not sure is to talk to your print partner for advice. Always give clear sizing instructions when ordering a giclée print… 'Half Size' is not really a sufficient way to order a print and can cause much confusion, always be clear and concise when ordering the size of you prints.
Bear in mind, that if your print is offered as an open edition then the only limit to the soils that you can offer are the quality of the digital file and the size of your print partners printer.
- What is a Giclée print?
To put it simply it’s a fantastic and affordable way for artists and photographers to offer their work as fine art prints. For the artist that’s a godsend, the same painting, drawing or pastel original can be sold time and again as either an open edition or limited edition print.
Rather than selling the original and then having to move on to the next piece many artists are now utilizing the ‘print on demand’ aspects that giclée printing offers. Gone are the days when offset lithography was used to make art prints, when plates had to be made for a print run to happen, a large print run then had to be ordered to make the expense of having the plates made viable.
Authentic giclée prints are made on specialist acid free pH neutral heavyweight fine art papers, at no less than 250gsm in weight, supplied by such companies as Hahnemühle, Epson and PermaJet. Prints are made using pigmented inks, which today offer lightfast colours of over 100 years. The inks are made from finely ground colour particles which are suspended inside liquid. When this combination of substrates (papers and canvases) and inks are used you can offer your print buyers the reassurance that kept under the correct conditions their giclée print purchased from you will last them a lifetime.
- How do I choose?
Start by asking around, talk to other artists or photographers that have had giclée prints made. How did they get on with the process? Were there any problems? What did the printer do if they went to pick up the prints and they didn't like them? (With adequate proofing of new work before going to print, this last problem should never happen, but choose the wrong print partner and it just might).
Once you've either got a recommendation for a printer to use, or you have looked around the the internet and found one or more possibilities you should always make an appointment to go and see the printer. If you've been recommended to a printer then you might want to ask the person who recommended them to go along to the initial meeting with you. This may help you to make sure that you ask all the right questions and gather all the information that you are going to need.
- How much does a giclée print cost?
This is one of those 'How long is a piece of string?' question. There are many factors involved in the costing of a giclée print. From the size of the print to the type of paper or canvas that the print is being made on.
When it comes to checking out prices the best advice would be don't make your decision on print partner just based on their pricing. Cheaper printers do not necessarily offer a fully professional service or will not be using bona fide proven (Blue Wool tested) materials. Having said that, the most expensive printer in town might not be your best choice either. This is where talking to other artists is an invaluable source of information when looking for your chosen giclée print provider.
You may hear some horrible stories about the printer charging a fortune for his services, equally you might hear great recommendations on the printer charging really competitive prices or vice versa. Getting a nice cross section of opinions on printers, their services, prices and ease of dealing with them is a really good way to find a route to discovering your ideal print partner.
- Should I have my originals scanned or photographed?
This pretty much depends on the original in question. A scan will give the best quality and largest file, but not all originals lend themselves to scanning. 3D or pastel originals for example would have to be photographed, the last thing either an artist or the company producing the scan want is for any pastel from the original to offset on to the scanner bed. Larger originals would have to be scanned in sections and then stitched together in Photoshop, this is an involved and time consuming process, but it does produce some stunning results.
Each original piece will need to be treated as an individual and your chosen print partner will be best placed to offer advice on each piece that you need to have copied.
- How long would it take to scan or photograph my art?
The scanning or photography of your artwork is just the start of the process of having your art produced as giclée prints, but it is an extremely important part of the process. Your final prints can only ever be as good as the file that they are being made from. Once the digital file is captured a proof print will be made so that colours and density can be checked and altered if needs be.
The length of this process will vary a little depending on the overall size of the original being photographed or scanned, but typically 3-5 working days will be the norm for this part of the process.
- How do I know if giclée prints of my art will sell?
The best place to start is to do some research by looking at online galleries, take a look at their best sellers lists, you'll get an instant grasp on the styles that are popular at the moment. Although the world wide web can be a daunting place to start researching, after all there's thousands of artists and gallery websites out there all trying to grab peoples attention, it will quite quickly give you a feel for current trends.
Talk to other artists, especially ones that already offer giclée prints for sale and see what has worked, and perhaps more importantly what has not worked, for them. You may well end up getting some nuggets of information and even some great marketing tips from them.
Take some time to walk around commercial galleries, there's many out there. From the large chains of galleries to the smaller independent galleries. No need to take your work around with you to start with. Just take a stroll around galleries to see what kind of work they offer, get a feel for the galleries before approaching them with any work. Try different towns and cities, different regions may cater for different styles of art. Some art galleries will only sell original work, others will already be selling prints, some will sell framed prints, some will sell prints in aperture mounts without frames.
Research is your greatest friend for this big question.
- Should I offer my prints as open or limited editions?
Something to take in to consideration when deciding whether a print is going to have a limited or open edition run is greetings cards and postcards. Although there are no hard and fast rules here, it is actively frowned upon to produce greetings cards and postcards from an image that is available as a limited edition print. After all, how limited is limited if there are hundreds or even thousands of greetings cards and postcards in circulation of the same image?
There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding if you want to offer your prints as limited or open editions. Of course you don't have to offer exclusively open or limited editions, you can have a mixture of both. You may have a series of prints that you wish to make more collectable to your print buyers, so you will offer those as limited editions, on the other hand you may have created an image that you think will be able to sell time and time again, or that you also wish to have as greetings card or postcards, so you will offer that as an open edition.
- Can giclée prints be produced on different paper types?
Yes, they can. There are many different finer giclée papers and canvases that you can chooses from. Obviously different print partners will stock different papers, some may offer unstacked papers by special request. Most reputable print partners will have sample packs of the papers that they stock to help you to choose which paper or canvas is best for your image and style of work.
To be classed as an authentic giclée print the paper must weigh in excess of 250gsm, with most coming in at around the 300gsm mark. Authentic giclée papers and canvases, coupled with authentic inks will mean that your giclée print should last a lifetime, with 100+ years colour permanence expected if the prints are kept in the correct conditions.
- Can a canvas print be classed as a giclée print?
To put it simply yes it can.
There are different grades of canvas available from most print partners. Many High Street printers will use a lower grader canvas, suitable for displaying holiday pictures on that will be replaced in a few years. However, a high quality fine art printer will use a cotton based canvas which is classed as a giclée substrate and will also give the end user the benefits of the longevity of a giclée print.
Once the canvas has been printed it can be stretched over a variety of depths of stretcher bar. You can choose to have the image wrap around the bars, have a plain white canvas wrap, mirror the image on the wrap or sample a colour from the image as the wrap. All options are effective, but different images lend themselves to the different options. The finished and stretched canvas should have a giclée varnish applied, these are usually available in different finishes of matt, satin and gloss. The varnish is advisable as it helps protect the canvas from UV light, helps to protect the surface from abrasion and also enables the canvas to be wiped over with a soft damp cloth (very handy when there are sticky little fingers about the house!), all of which will help to prolong the life of the canvas.
- Do I have to offer a certificate of authenticity?
There is no hard and fast rule that Certificates of Authenticity have to be offered to your print buyers, but both limited and open edition print runs are more often than not supplied with a Certificate of Authenticity. Many print companies will offer this service with giclée editions, or you may wish to design and print your own, or design your own and then pass the file on to you print partner so that the COA (Certificate of Authenticity) can be made along with the print.
There are certain pieces of information that should always be included on your COA's and they are as follows: Name of the Artist/Photographer, Title of the image, Image Size, Print Medium, Print Media, Date of Issue, Edition Size (if limited), Edition Number (if limited).
Most COA's will also include a thumbnail image of the print in question and a statement to confirm that the print is an authentic giclée print. The certificate will, in the case of a limited edition print COA, be signed by both the artist and the printer to confirm its validity.
- Can giclée prints be made from a digital file that I supply?
The best advice is that you have your artwork copied by the people that are ultimately going to be producing your prints. This is something that is well worth considering when looking for your ideal print partner. Putting it quite simply, it has to be better to be able to take an original piece of art in to a print company, have them either scan or photograph your work then they will produce the proofs with the original still in their possession, making it easier for colour and density management of the printed proofs.
Of course, having your artwork copied by a professional will incur a cost, and it's a cost that can be avoided if you were to make the file yourself. However, you have to take into consideration that this is a one off cost in the production of your print run. You also need to consider that the final prints will only be as good as the file that you supply. There are many factors to consider when photographing or scanning your artwork. A full guide to doing just that can be found here.
- Can I have one giclée print produced at a time?
One of the greatest benefits of the giclée print process is that you can have just one print made at a time. That is ideal for any artist that doesn't want to tie money up in a stock of prints in the hope that they will sell.
This means that if, for example, you wanted to offer prints for sale on your own website, you could in fact have a print made when it is ordered. The ‘print on demand’ aspect of giclée printing comes in to its own when selling prints on the world wide web. Choose the right giclée print partner and they will produce your print and send it off to your client for you.
The days of having your money tied up in shelves of print stock have now gone.
For more comprehensive answers to all of your giclée print questions check out the book 'Van Gogh Died Broke (But you don't have to)', written by our very own Gary and available on Amazon now.
About UsphotoART GB was established in 2005 by Gary Jeffrey and Bob Law, the GB in photoART GB! With many years experience of image handling gained in the traditional photographic darkrooms behind them, Gary and Bob have transferred their knowledge and skills to the digital arena. photoART GB prides itself in the level of personal friendly service provided, and we're always happy to talk through your specific requirements with you, tailoring our services to each individual clients needs.
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