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What is a giclée, anyway?

Ever wonder how the name giclée originated and how they are made?

The word giclée (zhee-klay) was created by Jack Duganne, a printmaker working at Nash Editions. He wanted a name for the new type of prints they were producing on the IRIS printer, a large-format, high-resolution industrial prepress proofing inkjet printer they had adapted for fine-art printing.

He was specifically looking for a word that would not have the negative connotations of “inkjet” or “computer-generated”. It is based on the French word gicleur, which means “nozzle” (the verb form gicler means “to squirt, spurt, or spray”).


Artists generally use inkjet printing to make reproductions of their original two-dimensional artwork, photographs, or computer-generated art. Professionally-produced inkjet prints are much more expensive on a per-print basis than the four-color offset lithography process traditionally used for such reproductions.

Four-color offset lithographic presses have the disadvantage of the full job having to be set up and produced all at once in a mass edition. With inkjet printing, the artist does not have to pay for the expensive printing plate setup or the marketing and storage needed for large four-color offset print runs. This allows the artist to follow a just-in-time business model in which inkjet printing can be an economical option, since art can be printed and sold individually in accordance with demand.

Inkjet printing has the added advantage of allowing artists to take total control of the production of their images, including the final color correction and the substrates being used, and it is even feasible for individual artists to own and operate their own printers.

Canvas print

A canvas print, also known as a stretched canvas or canvas art, is the result of an image printed onto canvas which is stretched, or gallery-wrapped, onto a frame and displayed. Canvas prints are often used in interior design, with “stock” images, or customized with personal photographs.

Printing method

Reproductions of original artwork have been printed on canvas for many decades using offset printing. Since the 1990s, canvas print has been associated with either dye sublimation or inkjet print processes (often referred to as Repligraph and Giclée, respectively). The canvas print material is generally cotton, or a cheaper alternative plastic-based Poly Canvas often used for the reproduction of photographic images.

Modern large-format printers are capable of printing onto canvas rolls measuring 1.5 meters (59 inches) or more. Modern examples of inkjet-based printers capable of printing directly onto canvas are the HP Design jet z6100 and the Epson Ultra Chrome 11880. Printers such as these allow artists and photographers to print their works directly onto canvas media, with slow print speed settings available to ensure print quality is not diminished.

Printed canvas for wall art is generally of a weight around 400 gsm and should be 100% pure white cotton for a more exact color representation.

Construction methods

After the image is printed, the canvas is trimmed to size and glued, or stapled to traditional stretcher bars, or a wooden panel and displayed in a frame, or as a gallery wrap. The frames are usually constructed from solid pine and underpinned for added strength. A print that is designed to continue round the edges of a stretcher frame once gallery-wrapped is referred to as full-bleed. This can be used to enhance the three-dimensional effect of the mounted print.

Uses for prints

Canvas prints are commonly used in home decor, either chosen by professional interior designers, or by the home-owner. Canvas prints can be mass-produced and available through high-street retailers and home-improvement stores, such as Ikea, or personalized one-off canvas prints produced from the individual’s own photograph, or drawing, usually uploaded via the Internet, or ordered direct from social media websites.

Canvas prints are often used as a cheaper alternative to framed artwork as there is no glazing required and the pine frame is not usually visible, so do not need to be varnished, or treated.

Canvas prints are quickly becoming a dynamic trend for modern home development and design due to ability to turn one print into several pieces.

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