WHAT EXACTLY IS A “GICLÉE”?
“Giclée” (pronounced zhee-CLAY) is a French word meaning “to spray” or “to squirt” and refers to the continuous tone ink output done by special large format printers, as opposed to process printing where images are created from thousands or millions of separate tiny dots, or plate printing where images degrade with use. Although “Giclée” is actually the inkjet printing process, the term is most often used as a reference to the highest quality fine art reproductions. The highest quality “Giclées” actually result from a three-part process:
1. THE “IMAGE CAPTURE”
No printer, no matter how experienced, can print what isn’t there! That’s why the most important of the three steps should be handled by the most experienced fine art or professional photographers, with the latest & best technology. Fine art photographers like the ones here at Chromazone Ink, use a large format digital scan system capable of capturing trillions of colors for each image. That’s why you can see the finest details in their output, like individual fibers in your canvas. If a reproduction is pixelized, it could be inferior printing technology, but it is more likely because the system used to digitize the image was not capable of achieving high enough resolution for true fine art standards.
Sure, you can get extremely low cost image capture out there, and in many cases, that will work just fine for small reproductions, but when your job requires ultra-high resolution, a 35 mm format digital camera, no matter what brand, simply cannot reproduce what a digital scan back that attaches to a large format view camera can produce. Read about our “BetterLight” technology here to better understand our superior image capture technique.
How do we know what others use??? Because we often are asked to re-shoot art for artists who went down the “inexpensive” road only to find out the results were unsatisfactory with reproductions, even at 16″ X 20″ in size (to the trained eye). When these customers show us the low cost files and ask us to re-shoot them, our software shows us the exact technical specifications that the inexpensive image capture files were created with. We can literally see that the files are often “upsized” manually, (“Interpolation” is the technical term) which always yields some distortion and lack of detail when small files are “stretched” to become bigger files. Our BetterLight scanback is able to capture trillions more bits of information than a digital camera alone, therefore we never need to “stretch” our files, they already include all the digital information they need to have.
Getting the color on the reproduction to match the original is the next challenge. Quality hardware helps, but it isn’t enough. It takes a professional with software color management experience and a good old-fashioned discriminating eye to achieve the most subtle color matches. “Giclées” should always be printed on the same equipment the proofs were originally calibrated on in order to achieve the highest visual fidelity and consistent reproduction. When Chromazone Ink does the image capture, the next step is to meet with the owner and do a comparison of the proof against the original. Once approved, we present the owner with a CD of the digitized image which they are then free to take anywhere to have printed. Just remember though… taking it to another printer will require another proof. Just because an image looks great on our equipment doesn’t mean it will on someone else’s. You will need to go through the image proofing process with each printer you use, so you should always keep one proof to match against if you don’t have the original. Expect there to be a charge for a different printer to do color corrections and calibrations on your digitial file to make their printer match your proof.
The quality and attention in the first two steps show up in step 3! The equipment and materials used for fine art and high end photographic output are critical, and while there are many different types of dyes and pigments that are used, they need to be “archival” and they need to be protected.
The combination of inks and canvases is also important because certain canvases are coated with special substrates made to accept and bond with certain inks. We have seen inferior printing jobs where inks literally crackle or even slide off a canvas when the canvas gets wet or is exposed to heat or humidity over time. That will not happen with properly paired materials. Our giclée reproductions have been laboratory tested (and Florida backyard tested!) and are guaranteed to last upwards of 80 years when hung out of direct sunlight in most indoor conditions.
Again, you can use an online coupon service or a big warehouse store to get very low priced photo & art giclée reproductions, and for decorative uses, those canvas services are pretty decent, just don’t display them beside one of ours because you’ll see and FEEL the difference! When you are creating fine art or photography for discriminating collectors, the finish & structure make a difference! The best quality & longest lasting “giclées” will utilize archival materials, UV coating, a covered back and include weight appropriate hardware. Canvases will also be stapled to the stretcher bars on the back as opposed to on the sides. You should not be able to see light through a canvas when it is hanging in your festival booth!
Archival materials include stretcher bars that have a raised outer edge so that the stretched canvas has as little contact with the wood as possible. “Archival” also describes acid-free canvas or paper on which the inks are sprayed. Finally, the best quality “giclées” will have a covered back to keep impurities from making contact with the backside of the canvas, and will include hanging hardware of some sort, unless the art is framed. In that case, the frame should have the hanging hardware. Chromazone Ink proudly meets all of the above criteria, in addition to having industry specialists doing quality control at every step.