A giclée is the very highest quality print you can buy. The method became popular in the second half of the 20th Century with dealers like Galerie Maeght as it enabled them to sell the very best reproductions of works by leading artists at the fraction of the originals' price.
The word ‘giclée” derives from the French verb “gicler” which means “to squirt or spray” ink onto paper. In contemporary terms, they are essentially the very highest form of inkjet print.
There are four main factors that give giclées a higher value than prints.
1: Colour - the primary advantage is that giclee prints are printed using 8-12 different colours rather than the standard 6 on a regular inkjet printer so the gradients are more fluid and the colours more intense and accurate.
2: Resolution - along with the high standard of colours, the resolution quality of the giclée is second to none. The ink applicators are so microscopic that the resolution beats the quality of many of the best printers. They typically print up to 5,000 dots per inch (dpi) whereas a giclee printer's nozzles are about the diameter of one millionth of a string of hair. Their resolution is therefore much higher in far better gradients, deeper colours and finer finish.
3: Surface - the substrate that the giclée is reproduced onto is vital in maintaining the high standard of the print. Large format giclee printers are designed to print onto artist quality papers and heavy wieght canvas at large scales; so it is often hard to tell the difference between a giclee print and an original piece.
4: Longevity - for the serious art collector, this may be the most significant difference; pigment inks and archival substrates ensure museum-quality results and guarantee a print that, when cared for properly, will last a life time, with little or no decay for over 100 years.