What is a giclee printer and what is it used for?

Answered by Stephen Beals, Digital Pre Press Manager and Writer

I am interested in giclee printers and papers. Who manufactures giclee printers? What is the difference between poster printers and giclee printers?


The dirty little secret is that giclée is simply the French term for inkjet printers. However, in common usage it is used to define a higher level of quality than desktop inkjets and also implies that the user is printing on higher end substrates such as canvas. But keep in mind that today's desktop printers now produce superior output compared to the original IrisGiclée printers made from a Creo/Scitex proofer popular in the 90's.

In short: giclée printers are essentially inkjet printers used for fine art reproduction. Many of the printers used commonly in pre-press operations like the high-end units from HP (HP has recently introduced a new Z-series of inkjet printers), MacDermid Colorspan, Roland, Mutoh and Epson (there is a new 3700 model to add to the wide-format ultrachrome family) all make good fine art print devices.

Most of the high-end devices have at least 6-color print heads and more likely 8 or 12. For example the Epson 9800 has three different blacks and two each of magenta and cyan (each color has a "light" version to supplement the standard color print head) for a total of eight print heads (and eight ink cartridges!). The Roland Hi Fi Jet Pro has twelve. You get two of each color and either a light cyan and light magenta or an Orange or Green. Orange and green are used to push a higher color gamut, which is known as "hi-fi" color.

For more information about giclée printers, go to www.fineartgicleeprinters.org. They discuss and review printer hardware, inks, media, RIPs and even offer books on how to set up a business. Every page has a note at the bottom giving the date it was last updated, so be sure to check and see how recent the information is. It's a very deep site, so some of the links are pretty old. But they also have late-breaking news (like info about the new printers from HP and Epson).

We have to admit giclée certainly sounds more expensive than inkjet. The biggest difference is that if you use the term giclée, you might get away with charging more.

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at stephenbeals@mac.com.
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