What is Giclee?

Toronto Fine Art Giclee Printing Articles

Giclee Print Art with flowers

The term “Giclee” (English = “a squirt” or “fine spray”)  was coined in 1992 by one of the print makers at Nash Editions in California, a French-American by the name of Jacque Duganne. Nash Editions is a fine art print studio started by Graham Nash of the music group Crosby, Stills and Nash (later plus Neil Young). Nash was an avid photographer who wanted to use an early professional inkjet printer called IRIS Inkjet (which had been designed for accurate prepress proofing in commercial printing by IRIS Graphic Systems) for the purpose of printing editions of his own photographic work as well as fine art printing. But galleries were not pleased by this new device. To them, any print made by digital means had very negative connotations in the art world. No fine art repro-gallery wanted to believe that anything printed by digital means on an industrial machine that sprays ink could be considered “fine art.”   Conventional photographic, fine art, darkroom printing processes with their limited editions still had a strong hold on that. So, he came up with an alternative, synthetic, French term to describe the prints. Hence, the term “GICLEE” was born.

Similarly, Nash and Mac Holbert, manager of Nash Editions, came up with the name “digigraph” for this type of print. But, Giclee stuck, unfortunately. Steak Poivre somehow sounds so much more appealing than Pepper Steak and Serigraph sounds more enticing than screen printing.

Now, to some, the term “Giclee” has come to be associated with the combined processes of digital reproduction of fine artwork which culminates in an archival, pigment, inkjet print on fine art papers or canvases as opposed to standard lab prints which one might purchase from a corner camera store where dye based prints are rendered to cheap glossy papers. To others the term simply equates to highest quality, archival print on fine art papers.

Giclee represents an elegant, state-of-the-art reproduction. However, instead of “Giclee,” we prefer to use the description “Archival Pigment Inkjet Print” from a  “Digital Reproduction” as described at the top of this page.  Clearly, this is much longer. But it is perfectly accurate, whereas “Giclee” is simply a term which was coined in an attempt to overcome a stigma. Nevertheless, a rose by any other name…..