"Giclee" is a french word. It's thought to be derived from "le gicleur" meaning "nozzle", or "gicler" meaning "to squirt, spurt, or spray". Giclee prints (pronounced zhee-clay) are art prints which are produced using ink jet printing. The process is far superior to older, standard forms of making prints. The "giclee print" images are scanned digitally and come out with very high resolution results. The prints are done on various surfaces including cotton canvas, matte photo paper, water color paper, or artist textured vinyl. The color quality of giclee prints is very accurate to the original work.
The term "giclee print" was coined in 1991 by Jack Duganne, a printmaker working in the field. The earliest prints to be called Giclee were created in the late 1980s on two different Iris Graphics models of continuous ink-jet printers. (Iris Graphics was taken over by Scitex. Scitex is now owned by HP) Iris printers were originally used to make proofs for product packaging and magazine publication where color matching was very important. With their output, colors could be checked before mass production began. There were many efforts to adapt the Iris printers to the production of artwork; thus the original prints called "giclee prints". These early prints, though, began to show deterioration of color after only a few years. Today, many giclee prints are still mistakenly called Iris Prints.
Modern printers are capable of producing superb prints for photography as well as fine art marketplaces. Among the present manufacturers of the professional 8-color to 12-color ink-jet printers which produce giclee prints are Epson, MacDermid Colorspan, and Hewlett-Packard (HP). These printers use the CMYK color process, but have more than one carriage for each color. For example, light magenta and light cyan ink cartridges are added in addition to standard magenta and cyan to produce the excellent color quality of giclee prints. This quality has landed giclee prints in museums and galleries all over the world. Some of the museums where you may find them are in New York's Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Chelsea Galleries. In the UK, the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery has a large collection of giclee prints.
Giclee print images are digitally archived. Once an image is digitally archived it's a simple process to make additional prints, so artists have a way to reproduce their work on demand without the high costs. The artist doesn't have to pay for promotion or storage of large offset print runs, so the process can be done more reasonably. Film and negatives used in the past would lose quality over time. This is not the case with archived digital files.
With giclee prints, artists have control of the production of their images, and many individual artists own and operate their own printers. They can reproduce the images in accordance with size and medium requests from individual clients. For artists who don't have their own printers, there are many avenues available for having their giclee prints produced by other companies.
Giclee prints now look so similar to their originals that recent auctions have brought £7,175 for Annie Leibovitz, £6,400 for Chuck Close, and £15,150 for Wolfgang Tillmans. For those "normal" individuals who love the look of giclee prints, one should be able to have them in their home without breaking the bank. Most run from £20 and up.