Gicleé Editions

Gicleé Prints Can Boost Artist Earnings

If you are an artist or are interested in artwork, you have probably heard the term “gicleé. It is a French word used to describe the process of making high-quality reproductions of original artworks or photographs that can be sold as limited or open edition prints.

What are gicleé prints? Simply stated they are inkjet prints with a pedigree. The word itself means “to spray,” and gicleés are made by the process of using high quality inkjet printers to spray tiny dots of colored ink onto paper or another medium.          

It all started in the late 1980s with the introduction of the Iris printer, a machine originally intended to make check proofs for offset printing presses. The machines used four inks similar to those used by the printing presses, the familiar CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) color sets. Unfortunately, the Iris printers didn’t do a good job of matching the results seen on the presses.

However, it was soon discovered that while the Iris machines did not have a bright future in the pre-press market, they could be used to make striking reproductions of scanned photographs or digital files made from artwork. Graham Nash, of the music group Crosby, Stills & Nash, saw an opportunity and in 1989 purchased an Iris printer to reproduce his photographs. Two years later he founded Nash Editions to produce high quality fine art reproductions using the Iris system. One of Nash’s printmakers, Jack Duganne, coined the term gicleé to describe the results.

Although gicleé prints made on the Iris printers were pleasing to the eye, they were not very stable. The inks were water-soluble and a single drop of water could easily ruin a fine print. Efforts were made to solve this by spraying or laminating a protective layer onto the prints. Later, inks were improved but the Iris system was never able to produce prints that could be described as truly archival, able to hold up for the long term.

Around the turn of the century Iris printers were overtaken by large format printers made by other companies, notably Epson. These printers use pigment inks that are more durable and able to resist the ravages of time and the environment. While most of today’s versions still use ink sets based on the classic CMYK model, additional ink tones have been introduced to further improve the quality of reproduction.

For example the 17- and 44-inch Epson fine art machines used at Moab Printworks have a total of nine UltraChrome inks installed, including a choice of matt and photo blacks (used alternately depending on the qualities of the paper) plus light black, light light black, vivid cyan, light cyan, vivid magenta, light magenta and yellow. When printed on acid-free papers, these inks are truly archival and will remain bright for a hundred years or more with proper care.

We can produce a complete limited edition or print-on-demand, which is the best choice if you choose to offer an open edition. We have a high-quality scanner that can handle smaller works, and can photograph larger works with a top-line Nikon camera to produce large working files. We will fine tune the image in Photoshop and make a proof print for approval before creating an edition.

Gicleé editions can give your artwork a kind of immortality by making fine art reproductions that continue to sell for years, even long after the original might have been sold. We can print your art on fine art papers, and even canvas or metal.

To discuss the opportunities of making gicleés part of your marketing plan, give us a call at 435-355-0121.