When someone asks me if I do giclée printing, or if a particular print is a giclée print, I have learned that I cannot say simply yes or no without first asking “What does giclée mean to you?”. That question often gets me funny looks, and sometimes gets me a little bit of an attitude, but it really is quite necessary.

People seem to have developed different understandings of the word giclée. In fact, rarely do I get the exact same explanation from multiple people. For some people giclée printing means any reproduction on canvas, for others it means specifically painting reproduction. For some it must be in a limited edition for it to qualify as giclée, some people say it must be printed on archival paper, some people have no idea what it means and just say it anyway, and so on. I’ve even had someone tell me that the original painter must also add dabs of paint to the final print themselves in order for it to be a true giclée print.

There was a time when (and perhaps the time is still now in some places) the idea of printing via inkjet printer and/or computer was taboo. It was cheap. It wasn’t art. It wasn’t understood.  Still, inkjet printers can make some incredibly high quality prints, so something had to be done about this. Thus, the term giclée was created (thought to be derived from a French word meaning “to spray”) to replace the idea of getting an “inkjet print”. Originally the term was applied to prints made from a specific type of printer that isn’t made anymore.

You must admit, it really does sound nice doesn’t it? Would you rather have an inkjet print or a giclée? Me too, nevermind that they’re the same thing. Of course, it’s a good thing for both printers and artists that the term giclée came to be used. Inkjet printers can make some of the best prints you can buy, and they can do it one at a time instead of you having to make 1000 prints at once like it used to be. I’ve had people tell me they don’t want inkjet prints, they want giclée prints.

On that note, I’ve heard quite a variety of pronunciations of the word giclée, so I’ll do my best to explain the way it is said. The “G” in giclée is pronounced like the “J” in Jacques Cousteau. Or like the “Zs” of Zsa Zsa Gabor. The “I” is pronounced like the “E” in “easy”. The “clée” is pronounced basically like “clay”. Zs-EE-clay. Zseeclay. Giclée.

In short, giclée printing simply means high quality printing on an inkjet printer, and that’s what Imaging Arts Printing does, whether it be on canvas, various papers, or even metal. You will likely hear or read of other ways of defining giclée and that’s just fine, though most of those definitions came after the word first started being used and have added on to its original meaning. Different people understand things different ways all the time. The important thing here is to make sure that next time you’re asking someone about giclée printing that you and the other person are speaking the same language.

So, do we do giclée printing? Well that depends, what does giclée mean to you?