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Your Guide to Giclée Printing & Art Reproduction

We have built a guide for our customers to generate more awareness surrounding different components of Giclée printing. This style of printing was designed specifically for fine art reproduction. In our guide you will learn about the history, limited edition printing and sizing for the praised Giclée method. At ABC Fine ART we are excited to contribute to a growing fine arts community through additional education alongside our services.

Giclée Printing – Origin of the Term

The term “giclée” originates from a form of fine art reproduction that was done on Iris printers. In the beginning, since the 1980’s, Iris printers were, and still are used to digitally reproduce fine art onto canvas, paper, silk, etc.

It didn’t take long for the appeal of iris printing artworks to catch on, and there were plenty of artists who quickly saw the uses and attraction of reproducing their artwork with the digital printer. Artists loved the fact that the Iris printer would produce reproductions with high resolution and color accuracy, perfect for selling their work.

A notable artist by the name of Sally Larsen used the Iris printer for reproducing her well-known Transformer series of artwork. She later did an entire photo exhibition for the group, Crosby, Stills, Nash. A member of the group, Nash, liked the photos so much that he bought his own printer for his own artwork as well. Even Disney used the printer to print out images from their 3D animation system. Nash eventually used his own printer to start a company called Nash Editions by working with colleagues interested in graphic printing. This led to one of his employees coining the term “giclée”, referring to their improved form of fine art reproduction.

Nowadays there is a difference between modern giclée and the original ones. An older print from that era is referred to as an Iris Print, while the modern ones are referred to as Giclée Prints. This distinction was made because of the vast increase in quality between the older Iris Prints and giclée prints. With advances in technology the Iris printer itself is no longer in use, as modern printers use archival inks and are less expensive than the original printer to make. However, without the original Iris printer, reproductions of fine art would be much more difficult and the high quality giclée wouldn’t exist.

Limited Edition Giclée Printing

– What is a limited edition print?

When an artist prints their artwork as a set of fine art reproductions for sale, they will almost always print a finite number and then stop. Usually giclée print runs will number around 100, this generally ensures the limited run of prints maintains rarity and collectability, but not so low as to prevent customers from finding them. However, any artist can dictate their own number of prints for their giclée print runs.

Also, you can tell a limited edition print run aside from a regular print as the limited edition prints are most often signed by the artist and numbered in the corner for example, 1/100, 2/100 etc. Occasionally the limited edition prints will be retouched up by artists, just to add something to each piece.

Originally, when the reproduction of art wasn’t digital, the methods were much more difficult. For example one method involved a printing plate called a stone which would be carved and colored by the artist to be able to create prints. These older methods resulted in decreasing quality of the prints as more prints were created. As a result, as soon as the artist was no longer pleased with the quality of the image being printed, they would stop, resulting in the creation of limited edition print runs.

– What does AP or Artist’s Proof mean?

An artist’s proof is a special subset of the print run of one of their pieces. When an artist does a print run of one of their pieces of artwork, the first few, usually 10% of the whole print run are artist’s proofs. So, for example, in a limited edition print run of 100, there would only be 10 prints that were artist’s proofs, resulting in a total of 110 prints.

The difference between these and a regular print, or even a limited edition print, is that usually, the artist owns their own APs. Artist’s proofs are usually numbered in the bottom, like 2/10, so the buyer of the print knows their print is part of a small set of works.

– What does AP mean on a print?

When you look at a print, sometimes you will notice there is an “AP” written on the image somewhere. This is the symbol of the earlier mentioned, artist’s proof, so a print that is signed, numbered, and has an AP is the most valuable and rare kind of print. In some cases the symbol of an artist’s proof will be written as EA, meaning épreuve d’artist, the French term for artist’s proof.

There are two other, much less common types of prints, marked as PP and HC. A PP is an even smaller run called the printer’s proofs. These prints are not hugely common, but are a tiny print run that are signed and given to the printer in appreciation. An HC would be an hors de commerce, which is another, less common kind of print run. These can number as low as 5-10 pieces of the entire print run, and are the prints used by gallery owners or shown to art dealers.

– Are artist’s proofs more valuable?

When you buy an artist’s proof, because the artist usually owns them, you’re usually getting it straight the source making the artist’s proofs more collectable and usually 10%-30% more valuable than a limited edition print. Aside from the fact you get it directly from the artist and natural collectability of these low numbered prints, the reason they are more valuable began long ago.

When printing didn’t use the digital printers of today, reproducing art was much more difficult and complicated, as such, in the printing process of the past, the first 10% of a print run were of a noticeably quality than the others, increasing the value of an artist’s proof by virtue of it being a better product. Today there is no difference in quality, it is simply a matter of rarity and the fact you get it, closer to the artist’s hand, personally from the artist.

– Giclée Printing Edition Numbering

In any limited run of a print there will be an edition number on the image somewhere. This number is usually represented as a fraction like 3/100 or 45/250 to show what number of a print run it is. So, if a print has a number on it, that means it’s either a limited edition or an artist’s proof and the number represents when it was printed during the process.

Giclée Print Size – Original or Enlarged

When reproducing your artwork there are many different sizing options you have, you could maintain its original size or enlarge it to whatever size you might feel is better based on several factors. Some artists aren’t sure whether or not altering the size of your artwork makes it less genuine, or less your art, neither are the case, enlarged prints are just as valid as ones that maintain their original size.

When altering the size the of your print there are a few things to consider. If you’re sending us a digital scan of your artwork you have to make sure you have good resolution. There is a chart on our website that shows the correlation between image resolution and the possible sizes you can print well on. As long as the resolution fits to what size of print you would like to make, it will be no problem.

The other option that would eliminate the need for you to send us a scan at all, would be to come visit us in-store where we can scan your artwork ourselves. Doing the process at ABC Fine ART would allow you to have your artwork enlarged to whatever size is desirable without having to worry about your own scans.

Giclée Prints – Artist Pricing For Sale

When pricing your own art for sale, there are a lot of things you can take into account to decide what a good price will be. The main things to consider when deciding how to price your art , are the cost of printing it and the costs of selling it (an art gallery’s cut of the pay or the price of a booth at a market for example) however there are more.

When selling your art you obviously want to make a profit, so those numbers are important to know so you aren’t taking a loss or just breaking even. Unless you’re already top tier artist with fans all over, a good guideline for pricing is to make your artwork’s price be between 2.5 and 4 times the price of each print.

Some artists may already have their own website which they sell art on, this is usually much cheaper than the cost a gallery might ask, which is one of the reasons the guideline goes from 2.5x-4x.

Giclee vs Photographic Print

A Photographic print is a form of printing that you may have heard of before, however, this is different from fine art giclée reproductions.

Photographic print, also called white light printing is a method for printing photos that works by exposing the negative of the photo over photosensitive paper to white light. Chemically this works similarly to the developing of photo, but can be much bigger and isn’t relegated to just photo paper. However, this kind of printing is usually used for posters; it can also be used for wall mounted photographs. Giclée on the other hand, is a reproduction of fine art using scanning techniques as described earlier, but it still has the potential to used for photos as well.


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