Giclee (pronounced "Jee-Klay") is a French word that roughly translates to "spray fluid." Giclee prints are produced using a large, expensive and very sophisticated inkjet printer. A high-resolution digital image or scan of the original artwork is made, input to a computer which drives the giclee printer, and then an extensive proofing process is done until the printed image matches the original artwork as closely as possible. Then the correct printer settings are stored digitally so that uniform and consistent giclee prints of the artwork can be made in any number at any time. Giclee prints can be made on paper, canvas, card stock, even metal foils, and they use archival inks which stress tests show to be lightfast for 100 - 200 years. A giclee printer requires no plates, nor special setups, other than the initial calibration and proofing to establish the correct digital settings, and feeding the correct paper or canvas substrate into the printer. Then, any number of prints can be made at any time without an arduous print run, and without accumulating inventory which must be stored and cared for. Giclee printing generally has more colors available (a larger color gamut) than lithographic printing to better match color of an original artwork.


By contrast, the traditional lithographic printing process requires four (sometimes more) images of the original artwork to be made - one for each of the typical four colors of ink which will be used to make the print. These images, each made with a filter of a particular color, break the original into very small dots, which will become raised surfaces on printing plates, to help give graduations of that particular color when the print is made. Then, several printing plates are made (one for each of four different ink colors), and after some careful printer setup, the paper will go through the printer four times (changing the plate and ink color each time), and each color will be printed in sequence. At the end of the run, each print will consist of many small color dots, in four different colors, which the eye blends into the colored image. Usually, a large run of all the prints to be done at one time, in order to control the consistency and quality of the prints, and be relatively economical and affordable - the individual cost per print is usually lower for lithographic printing. But a large print run results in a potentially large inventory of prints which must be stored and cared for until sold. Lithographic printing is still the preferred method for large quantity of repetitious printing is required (e.g., printing magazines, books, etc.)


Art prints may be giclee prints, or traditional lithographic prints, although the advantages of giclee printing are significant for artists, and giclee printing is becoming mainstream for artwork. Art prints may be printed on either high-quality paper or canvas. Giclee prints on canvas can look remarkably like an original oil or acrylic painting. Art prints are often limited edition prints - the maximum number of prints in the edition is guaranteed not to be exceeded by the artist, and each is signed and numbered by the artist. The limitation in the number of prints enhances, and usually increases their value over time - there will never be more of them than the limited number in the edition. If a lithographic print, the printing plates are usually destroyed when the number of prints in the edition are completed. Prints that are made on paper are normally framed under glass, usually with one or more mats to enhance the appearance of the print. Prints on canvas are not framed under glass, but framed just like an original oil or acrylic painting - either stretched and tacked on a canvas stretcher frame, or mounted on a rigid panel/board, then simply tacked into the rabbet of the frame. All prints should be hung in a location that does not get direct sunlight, moisture, or physical abuse.