What is a giclee print? (+4 reasons they’re worth the investment)

Ooo-lah-lah, giclee! Such a fancy term with it’s fancy-pants pronunciation (zhee-clay). So what’s all the fuss about a giclee print? Well, let’s start with the word’s meaning. Simply put, giclee is the French word for “to spray” or “to squirt,” and it is generally recognized in the industry that the term refers to ink applied on a substrate. In effect, a giclee is a top shelf inkjet print. All giclee prints are technically inkjets, but not all inkjets are giclees. It’s like comparing generic, grocery store seltzer to San Pellegrino….San Pellegrino is technically sparkling water or seltzer too, but not all store bought seltzers are San Pellegrino…make sense? (Side note: I’m drinking generic seltzer as I’m writing this…it’s raspberry & lime, sodium free, and terribly refreshing.)

So why are giclee prints so special? You know, besides the cool name? Check out these 4 reasons:

Comparison of original painting and a giclee print
“Quakertown Free Press Building” painted by Bucks County artist Jimmy Lukens

1) Color

Your regular ‘ole inkjet printer sitting on your desk may be a nicer one, and may even provide you with good quality photo prints to put in that picture album for grandma (she’s not on Facebook, obviously), but it’s likely to use no more than 6 inks. Large format fine art printers, which are typically considered giclee printers, use 10+ inks (ours uses 12!), allowing for finer gradients and much more vivid hue and depth of color. Giclee prints are also created with pigment inks, rather than dyes, providing more accurate color reproduction.

2) Resolution

Resolution is the dots of ink per square inch or in technology terms, the amount of pixels per inch. The more dots you have in a print and the finer they are, the more realistic your reproduction will appear. A desktop inkjet printer may boast a high resolution output, but a giclee printer also boasts a high resolution, paired with a finer spray, so the smoothness of the print is substantially more sophisticated and high brow.


3) Substrate

Our giclee printers can print on a huge variety of substrates with various thicknesses and finishes. This means that we can print an image that was originally a watercolor, on a very high quality, heavy, “cold-pressed” paper to achieve the most realistic reproduction possible. The same goes for canvas. We are able to use artist grade canvas because our fine art giclee printers can handle the thickness and texture of the substrate. It’s also important to mention that giclee prints are archival, meaning they will never yellow or deteriorate, and if you encounter anything less than that, it should be avoided. Like generic seltzer…

4) Longevity

A giclee print is created to last. 100+ years of life is standard without the degradation of inks resulting in fading color. Our giclee prints are slated to last up to 200 years, so make sure you pick art that the great-grandchildren will like.

A fine art giclee print is a valid investment when the cost of an original artwork is too high. It’s also a fabulous option for artists looking to offer a lower price point to customers, while maintaining the quality and originality of their work.

Additional challenge: How many times did I use the word “giclee”? If you guess correctly I’ll buy you a San Pellegrino…


  1. Do you have Cynthia Osborne by Miller primitive portrait print?
    I commented in the past, I cannot find my way around your site at all.
    It used to be so simple and easy. Sorry.

    • Hi Beverly, I’m sorry you’re having trouble navigating our site. The goal of the new site was to make finding the art you want easier and faster, but it does still need some tweaks here and there (which we’re working on!). I was unable to find the image you’re referring to – could you possibly send us a jpeg or the full artist name to our email address? artists@encore-editions.com Thank you!

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