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Giclee printing compared to Lithograph printing

Giclee printing compared to Lithograph printing

If you’re thinking of turning your digital images or artworks into printed form, it makes sense to compare the different types. Here we’re looking at the two most popular types of fine art printing (Offset) Lithograph printing and Giclee printing UK.

Let’s look at each of these types of printing and how they work, what’s the process and the pro’s and cons of Lithograph printing and fine art Giclee printing.

What is Giclee printing

Giclee (pronounced g-clay) is derived from the French verb bicker, which means ‘to squirt or spray’. The word Giclee is used in the fine art printing business as a way of describing the digital printing process of combining pigment inks with high quality archival paper or canvas. Fine art Giclee printing offers a superior stable quality of inkjet printing for artworks.

In the Giclee printing UK process the pigment based inks ‘squirt’ microscopic dots onto a high quality art paper or canvas. The archival paper and canvas have a membrane coating which allows the pigment ink to lie on the substrate (paper or canvas). The membrane is a sticky substance, so papers and canvas need to be handled with care. With Giclee printing services the image is created from a digital file of the original artwork, or from digitally created images including ones created on iPads.

Pros of Giclee printing

Giclee printing UK process is on demand printing. So artists and photographers can use Giclee printing services for one Giclee print at a time, keeping costs low and that you don’t need fine art Giclee printing until you have a sold a Giclee print and no large print runs storage issues either.

Giclee printing uses a minimum of 8 inks and unto 12 pigment inks in the printing process. This means with fine art Giclee printing the most subtle shades and hues of colour can be achieved, allowing for more accurate colour matching to the original artwork.

The substrates (papers and canvas) used are archivable (long lasting) usually a cotton rag material and they are heavy weight papers with a choice of textures and finishes (gloss, satin, matt and variations in between).

Both the Giclee papers and the pigment inks are archival, so there shouldn’t be any problems with the Giclee print fading or paper yellowing. Depending on how the Giclee print is stored or exposed to sunlight, the Giclee print can last anywhere between 70 to 200 years. Meaning Giclee prints can last for generations.

Cons of Giclee printing

When an artist or photographer is considering a limited edition Giclee print run, because Giclee printing services are able to print on demand, good record keeping of the numbering of prints needs to be done, usually by a reliable fine art Giclee printing company.

Each Giclee print takes longer to actually print and larger Giclee prints can take several minutes, due to the amount of pigment ink applied and in turn this can mean the Giclee print needs to be left to dry before packaging. The Giclee print is dry to the touch on print, but it’s wise to allow it to settle on the membrane.

What is Lithograph printing

In simple terms Lithograph printing (officially called offset lithograph) involves the image being split into 4 individual colours and then exposed onto photosensitive aluminium plates. The plates are then inserted into a press and onto a roller. Each plate is coated with one of the 4 colours of ink (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). The coloured image is now rolled (offset) onto a cylinder (also known as a blanket). This makes an impression onto the paper that’s being fed through the press. The paper moves through each coloured set of rollers, creating a complete colour image onto the paper.

Pros of Lithograph printing

Lithograph printing is ideal for large volume printing, which means it costs less per print.

Generally it takes no more than a second to print a lithograph print and is ideally suited to large commercial printing needs such as magazine printing.

Cons of Lithograph printing

When you’re considering lithograph printing for fine art, it can be quite expensive with the initial set up charges. An artist or photographer will need large volume print runs of their artwork to justify the initial costs. This can also cause storage issues for the artist or photographer.

It can be very difficult to colour match the print to the original painting, so if you’re looking for a close representation of your artwork, this might not be the best printing option for you.

Most Lithograph printing is on less heavy weight papers with a smooth texture. This can make the fine art print look quite flat and the paper isn’t archival.

There are only 4 ink colours used in the printing process, which limits the range of subtle hues and shades of colour in the fine art print. Generally the inks aren’t archival either.

In conclusion

There are more advances being made with Giclee printing, making it a popular choice for artists and photographers. Giclee printing produces a high resolution, wider gamut (range) of colours, with a vibrant and defined crisp finish to the print. The reliable longevity of Giclee prints and the shorter print runs makes it a favourite with collectors too.