The Ultimate Guide to Giclee Prints

What exactly makes a giclee print a is a giclee print?

Many artists have the same questions:

  • What is a giclee print?
  • Can you just print it on your own?
  • Is there a special paper of ink that makes a giclee print err… special?

A giclee print is a high-quality, long-lasting reproduction of your art.

If your goal is to sell art online, offering giclee prints to your audience is a great option.

However, in order to offer a giclee art print, it has to meet three basic requirements.

The three basic criteria of a what makes a giclee print a giclee print

Here are three core answers to the question, what is a giclee print?

Essentially, a giclee print is created with a type of inkjet printing. But, not all printers for art are created equal.

  1. Image resolution
    Any image that is to be printed as a fine art print needs to be created at a resolution of 300 dots per inch (DPI). This means you have to know what you're doing when you're photographing fine art or have a scanner you use to capture the image or scan the art must be capable to do so at 300 DPI. When setting up a digital file that you will use to make a fine art print, make sure it is at least 300 DPI. This will make sure your fine art print has the sharpest image quality without any of the blurriness.
  2. Paper choice
    For fine art printing, ideal paper choices will say “archival” quality, “acid-free”, and consists of a 100% cotton or rag base. For example, Hahnemühle paper is one of the best paper brands in the world. Perfect for longevity and color reproduction. There are many different types of professional papers out there.
  3. Printer and ink
    A giclee print is typically created on special printers for art that uses pigment-based inks. Pigment-based inks can go upwards of 100-200 years without much fading. With these types of printers, each color is in its own ink cartridge and there are typically 8-12 separate colors.

A giclee print compared to a regular art print?

When you ask yourself, what is a giclee print? There are three things to consider:

  1. Document resolution. A fine art print must be a minimum of 300 DPI resolution.
  2. Choice of paper. Look for key terms on the box, such as archival, 100% cotton or rag, and acid-free.
  3. Use the right ink and printer. A fine art print is typically created on a large format printer that uses pigment-based inks.

Learning how to make giclee prints has its advantages. When you learn how to print your own art prints, you can sell art online and print them as they sell from your artist website.

To clarify, it can be a great way for you to produce your own prints rather than requiring a second party to print for you. Where you would face large upfront costs or having to purchase a minimum order without any guarantee you'll sell all of the prints. Another benefit of knowing the answers to the question, what is a giclee print.

Knowing all these details can help you establish solid ways to earn from your art while making sure you follow some best practices.

What should the dimensions be of your giclee prints?

There’s no specific print size that sells more than the other. The only main consideration to make is to offer common print sizes. This way it's easier for your collectors to frame it.

These are the most common fine art print sizes:

  • 5”×7”
  • 8”×10”
  • 8.5”×11”
  • 11”×14”
  • 16”×20”
  • 24”×36”

Determining your print sizes is really up to you, the type of work you make, and who your collectors are.

As the creator of the work, you probably have a good idea if your work looks better smaller or larger. Of course, the aspect ratio will determine the overall size of your fine art prints as well.

While the paper sizes above are common sizes easy to print – we have to talk about image size. It’s best to include white space around the border of the print. This protects the image and also gives you room to sign the print. While also making it easier for your collectors to frame. (More on signing the print below).

How big should the edition sizes be for your giclee prints?

You may choose to have a few different sized limited edition runs for the same artwork.

For example, you may decide to print a total of 100 editions of a work that are 8×11 in size, 25 editions of the same work that are 11”×14”, and 10 that are 16”×20”. Offering each edition at a different price point.

What is a giclee print signature process look like?

In the collector’s perspective, having the artist's signature on a print can increase the value of the print.

An ‘edition’ of a print is a limited set of identical prints. Each edition in a print must be identical. If there is a discrepancy in quality, ink color, or even the paper quality these prints shouldn’t be included in the edition.

Editions should be labeled with the specific print number followed by a slash / then the number of total prints in the edition.

  • 1/100 print number 1 from a total of 100 prints
  • 25/50 print number 25 from a total of 50 prints

Here are some best practices for signing giclee prints:

  • Always sign your prints using a pencil not a pen. As strange as this seems, pen and ink make your print more vulnerable to fraud as signatures can be printed. Pencil can’t.
  • Sign your name, initials, or monogram on your prints below the bottom-right edge of the image.
  • Mark the edition number below the bottom edge of the image on the left-hand side .
  • If you want, add the title of the image in the middle between the signature and the edition number. Titles are often written between inverted commas – ‘Title’.

Also, to keep the quality and value of your limited edition fine art prints consistent:

  • Do NOT sign an unlimited/open edition print.
  • Do NOT sign any art prints you are not happy with.

Should you offer hand embellished giclee prints?

If you ask some artists, what is a giclee print? They will tell you it's something you should still customize to give it a more limited edition feeling.

Often artists will hand embellishing a print is a great way to make each of your limited edition fine art prints unique.

A hand embellished print just means you go over certain areas with paint.

Typically, you don’t want to use oil paint for this. You're better off using acrylic paint or a watercolor wash. This really depends on the medium the original work was made in.

The sky's the limit for your creativity with hand embellishing. Just make sure whatever you’re doing for your hand embellishments, it’ll stay archival and last a long time.

Final thoughts on the big question, What is a giclee print?

Yes, there is a lot to think about if you ask yourself, what is a giclee print? As you learn how to make giclee prints. Everything depends on what is viable for you right now.

What is your budget?

How big is your audience?

Do you have an art website to sell from?

Are you primarily going to sell your art prints at conventions?

All good questions to ask yourself before you learn how to make giclee prints.