Photo: B. ROSSI

What is a Digital / Giclée Print?
A fine art print reproduction in which a digital file of an image is printed by a special ink-jet printer that sprays ink directly onto the surface of a substrate, is sometimes called “Giclée” or “Iris” print. Such a digital print can match colors within millions of possible hues. The term “Giclée” is tossed around rather freely when it comes to Digital Fine Art Prints. Originally, Giclée applied to output on an Iris inkjet printer, specifically the Iris 3024, 3047, or the 3047G (renamed the Iris GPRINT in 1998). But today in the art community worldwide, Giclée refers to Digital Fine Art Prints made on any high-quality inkjet printer.

Will the Digital Prints last?
A big question with digital printing is longevity. Will the Giclée hanging on a gallery wall today look the same in your office or home a decade or two from now?

Henry Wilhelm has been watching stuff fade since 1976. As director of research for Wilhelm Imaging Research, an organization in Grinnell, Iowa, USA, that tests and researches colorfastness and staining of digital output and photographic print materials, it's his business to evaluate how artwork holds up over time. Back in the 1970s, he studied photographs to determine their longevity. Now he watches inkjet printouts, too. Wilhelm tests for fading by subjecting artwork to high-intensity light while maintaining normal humidity and temperature levels. "It took a long time even with color photography," he explains, "to gain a certain level of image permanence." He's found that when printed with special inks on archival papers, Iris prints should last for many decades to come.

The most important fact to remember is that all color fades. As far as Giclée prints are concerned, some original watercolors and most lithographs will fade faster than a well-made Giclée. Unlike lithographs and serigraphs, Giclées have undergone extensive, third-party fade-testing. While the predicted display life depends on many variables, under typical home or office lighting, and depending on the papers used, Giclées made with wide-gamut pigmented inks are estimated to last over 130 years without noticeable fade.

Giclée printing is ink-jet printing, the same process used by the ink-jet printer hooked up to your computer right now. Does that mean that a Giclée print is a bad print? Not necessarily. Fine art lithography uses essentially the same process as the cheapest mass production printing machines, and fine art etchings and engravings are made by a process which was used until very recently for the cheapest book illustrations.

Caring for your Giclée Print
We recommend that you treat your Giclée prints the same as any original watercolor. It should be protected from water and should not be placed in direct sunlight. Giclées printed on paper should be frame mounted behind glass. Giclées printed on canvas are treated with an acrylic varnish to aid in their protection, however careful treatment is still desirable.