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to giclee or not to giclee

David James Cormack
2015 Archival Pigment Photographic Print on 100% cotton rag
82.55 x 46.99 cm (32.5 × 18.5 in)

Above is an example of an image that my husband, Dave, extracted photographically while pondering a section of bark on an Aspen tree. I see beautiful dancers gracefully leaping and twirling. The image is as it was captured and not manipulated any further than standard darkroom adjustments to the digital negative. The abstract image is a stunning, archival pigment, original photographic print from his visionary series "Barklore."

Notice that I did not use the G word.

"Giclee" is a "dirty," over/misused word. I will refer to the term for this post only and then wash my mouth out with soap.

I generally refer to a "David James Cormack" original photographic work as “archival pigmented photographic print. I know that it is a “mouthful” but it is crucial to be specific when labeling a work that has any digital element. One will want to take care to not use the G word and must also be mindful of not misleading the market as to exactly what they are investing in.

Below are brief, digestable exerts from some of the sources that I have found while trying to understand the terminology and cultural concepts regarding the digital print. I am most interested in discussing two distinct types of digital print: the original piece of photographic art and a limited edition photographic art print/run. Many people only know the definition of a giclee to be a reproduction of an original piece of art.

I am, as time permits, trying to educate myself on this subject and will update as I am able.

The controversy over the giclee is not really that surprising. The history of art is filled with rejection of new technique and media like abstract art and even the use of acrylic paint. I find it interesting that the process of the giclee can be viewed as commercial pumping out of product in a time when both silkscreen printing and lithograph printing are acceptable processes for art production. Especially the lithograph technique which is offset printing; the same process used for newspapers, magazines, posters etc. Just the printing process alone can take 20 minutes, an hour or even more time to digitally produce one fine art print. That is not including any post or pre printing preparation time. The fine art digital printing process is slow in comparison to lithographic offset printing.

I can attest that the operating of advanced digital software is no easy task. I challenge anyone to sit in front of a sophisticated digital lab and produce a quality product. The whole process is time consuming with a steep learning curve and requires a serious skill set. Yes, almost anyone can put out a piece of junk art from a computer but this is true of any medium.

Some of the following sources are not as current as I would like but as far as I am aware the the acceptance of the fine art digital print is only progressing.

"Technique changes but art remains the same." Claude Monet.

Herland, M. B.

Mamta B. Herland addresses 'The Impact of Giclee' on The IDEA #7

“…A shift towards digital print in future art Digital printmaking, not unlike photography and silkscreen in their infancy, has been the target of scepticism. In this chapter it is examined if the scepticism is still extensive, with the intention to evaluate if there is a shift towards digital print in Fine Art. ' ….”

In-text: (Herland)

Bibliography: Herland, Mamata B. 'Mamta B. Herland Addresses 'The Impact Of Giclee' On The IDEA #7'. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.


"Giclée reproductions are recognized as "the next best thing” to owning the original and can be found in the world's finest museums and art galleries. There are various image permanence ratings for each combination of ink and media used in Giclée fine art printing. Wilhelm Imaging Research's image permanence ratings have been provided to the public about expected display-life for various ink and media combinations used in Giclée fine art printing."

In-text: (

Max D. Standley

Major Museums and galleries that show giclées include:

o The Los Angeles County Museum

o Laguna Museum of Art

o Metropolitan Museum, New York

o Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

o Philadelphia Museum of Art o San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

o The British Museum

o The Corcoran Gallery (Washington D.C.)

o Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art o National Museum of Art

o The New York Public Library

o The Washington Post Collection

In-text: (Max D. Standley and Maags MacLoch and Designs)

Bibliography: Max D. Standley and Maags MacLoch,, and MacLoch Designs. 'Want To Know More About What A Giclee Is?'. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.

TeraJet | About Digital Pigment Prints

Digital Pigment Print Definition

The term "pigment print" is used generally for any type of printed image that uses strictly pigments. Pigment printing processes have been utilized since the middle of the 19th century. The image stability of pigment printing is superior to that of any other method of printing, including traditional silver-halide or metal-based. Digital inkjet printing has seen a surge in the use of the pigment ink as ink sets have been refined to be compatible with the latest in high-resolution inkjet technology. Where archival dye-based ink sets exhibit excellent color gamut, pigment inks excel in permanence. A dye is molecularly soluble in its vehicle, but pigment is not. Pigment particles tend to be large enough to embed into the receiving substrate making them water-resistant. The particulate nature of pigment inks ensures their archival superiority. A particle of pigment is less susceptible to destructive environmental elements than a dye molecule. Many digital papers have coatings which enhance color gamut. However, these delicate coatings are susceptible to scuffing and scratching, and diminish the archival properties of the print. Prints made with coated substrates are not considered true digital pigment prints. Considering the above factors, TeraJet defines a digital pigment print, sometimes referred to as a pigmented paper print, as a digital image rendered onto an uncoated, natural fiber substrate with pigment inks.

The Emerging Digital Print Market

As the nascent genre of digital art and photography gains acceptance in the art community, creative professionals are turning to digital prints to manifest their work. This market has grown rapidly as a function of the elevated quality of digital prints. As a result, the digital print is now a formidable and common photographic and fine art medium. The major auction houses of Philips de-Prury, Christies, & Sotheby’s regularly hold fine art and photographic sales that include digital prints. Notable artists and photographers that employ the medium include Annie Liebovitz, Philip-Lorca di Corcia, Chuck Close, Wolfgang Tillmans, William Eggleston, and Catherine Opie. Recent auctions of digital prints have fetched $10,800 for Annie Leibovitz, $9,600 for Chuck Close, and $22,800 for Wolfgang Tillmans (April 23/24 2004, Photographs, New York, Phillips de Pury & Company.) Catherine Opie photographic inkjet prints demand $5400 per image (April 27 2005, Photographs, New York, Phillips de Pury & Company.) The digital pigment print marketplace is emerging rapidly. One of the world’s largest photographic print shows (The 2006 AIPAD Photography Show) in New York City included over 15 major galleries that deal digital pigment prints and inkjet prints from the photographers they represent worldwide.

In-text: (

Bibliography:,. 'Terajet | About Digital Pigment Prints'. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.

What is a Giclée? Tips for Describing Your Inkjet Printed Art

I’ll leave you with these 5 tips for describing your digital art:

1. Whatever you decide to call or label your art, always tell the truth.

2. Do your research. Learn as much about your printmaking technology as possible.

3. Choose a reputable printmaker or print your art yourself using archival inks and media.

4. Choose a term that your market will understand. If there isn’t a term out there, create your own term and educate your audience using your marketing channels.

5. Be able to communicate your printmaking process effectively to your dealer and buyers. The more they understand, the more likely they will make a purchase. And finally (this really isn’t a tip), your art is not worth more or less because it was printed digitally. Price your pieces fairly and always act with integrity in your business dealings. Ultimately, your art will sell because someone loves it—not how it was printed.

In-text: (Fidelis Art Prints)

Bibliography: Fidelis Art Prints,. 'What Is A Giclée? Tips For Describing Your Inkjet Printed Art'. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.

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