Some Practical Experiments in Giclée Printing

These are extracts of several emails from sellers of giclee art prints. I have rearranged the extracts by subject and removed references to their and other companies so as not have them confused with paid advertising.

General:

  1. Up until recently we never bothered to advertise our prints as giclee because personally I agree with the idea that its just an ink jet print and no one really knows how long these things will last. I wasn't happy that with a Canon, HP, Epson printers, pigment based inks, and every single solitary media we've tried - and we have tried many; they all ran when wet. Because of this we are priced substantially less than our competition, we have a strong sense of conscience and since we could not empirically state that this print was archival, in our opinion, we didn't state it. The only reason we now say on our site (and you have to be looking for it) that we print giclees is because so many people have asked us. (from Mi, August 2004)

  2. I make giclee prints, and I have to agree with (almost) everything you said. These prints are difficult to produce, and they are NOT user friendly.
    For the artists with horror stories, I have to say it's their own fault. If you don't take an active role in the reproduction of your art (or anything else you're paying big bucks for), you don't know what you'll get until it's too late. (from Aa, August 2004)

  3. I really think all these concerns about the prints are a little silly. I get a lot of concern about the water fastness of the prints, yet no one has ever asked me about the water fastness of my watercolor paintings. I don't let the kids touch any of the art on the walls, original or reproduction, and I don't leave it out in the rain. As for fading, my original art fades in the sun too (although not as fast). All in all, I think that if you treat it well, your giclee prints will probably last longer than you will, and will certainly last longer than you care to look at them. (from Aa, August 2004)

Fixatives and Other Coverings:

  1. Anyway, we use a product called [name and manufacturer of fixative deleted]. We use the fine art version which is made for archival canvas and said to be able to withstand the stretching process. Our experience with this product has made us feel substantially better about the prints as it has worked. We use a roller to apply 2 coats of the fixative to the product and once dry you can wipe vigorously with a wet rag and no damage. The only potential issue would be if you wet the back of the canvas, so certainly its still only water resistant, but hey if you soak a piece of art, what the heck are you doing anyway? (from Mi, August 2004)

  2. The [brand name] coating has a dual purpose, it has a uv protectant and and prevents water and humidity damage. We wanted to provide as much protection as possible since as I said I don't put much stock in pigment or dye inks. I can also tell you that the giclees are so sensitive to moisture that once our little dog sneezed on one and the colors changed, just like it would with a standard ink jet print, you know little rings where the moisure hit it. That started our search for the fixative and so far we haven't been disappointed. I've heard of a media (that our plotter supply people can't seem to locate) that has a fixative built in and seals the ink as it dries, I'd really like to find that stuff and try it out. While the clear jet stuff has really made us feel better about our prints, its pretty caustic smelling and not too fun to work with. (from Mi, August 2004)

  3. Up until we used the fixative we were very vocal with our clients that they mount the giclees and use UV glass, now we instruct them to avoid direct sunlight and tell them that they can have the print stretched. So I would happily do an experiment with regular glass and uv glass but it will have to wait as we are about to be subjected to that hell called moving. I can tell you that the UV glass does work as we have a client that owns a shop that faces the rockies and gets a temendous amount of sunlight throughout the day, they have a print facing that window and I believe its been hanging for nearly 2 years and I can't see any visible fading. We also have dye inks on prints in that same shop hanging on their walls that are behind normal glass and they too look very good. (from Mi, August 2004)

  4. Any solvent based fixative or varnish will protect [giclees from moisture], but will also alter the colors slightly.
    I've tested everything from spray fix to Thompson's deck sealant, and I have the following recommendations:
    1. Don't use anything acrylic - it's water based, and makes the prints run.
    2. Deck sealant turns everything yellow - but really makes them waterproof - at last you can hang your art in the shower!
    3. Use a spray varnish rather than a brushed one. The ink sits in a thin layer on top of the print, and even a soft brush can scratch it.
    4. Spray fixatives don't protect against water at all.
    5. Just like watches, these coatings are water-resistant, not waterproof, but the spray varnishes all protected the prints from wet hands, and a small glass of water down the front side of the prints.

Inks:

  1. Another bit that you might find interesting is that we've tested both dye and pigment based inks on several pieces of media in the real world with shocking results. Now granted we were not in a lab setting, but each piece was subjected to the exact same standards. We are in Colorado which is pretty much ON the sun and everything here gets bleached out and quick, as I can demonstrate with my car upholstery! We placed 4 prints in a window with over 6 hours of direct sunlight daily , each with half coated with the [brand name] product and left them there for about 6 months. Amazingly enough after all that time, there was no visible difference in the uncoated sides of the dye and pigment inks, so the giclees faded just as badly. The coated sides on all 4 however were as bright as the one print that we had stored in a desk. So from our real world tests the giclees really aren't much better, than standard prints, which is very sad. Now granted no one should have their art in direct sunlight for a myriad of reasons, but we thought real world tests are certainly more realistic than labs. (from Mi, August 2004)

  2. As for pigmented inks, their chemical properties indicate they (probably) won't fade, but they also look like crap. The dye based inks will fade, no matter what you do. No one knows how long they'll really last, but I've got some that are 10 years old and still look good. I also have some I left in the sun for three months, and they are ruined. (from Aa, August 2004)

  3. I have many serigraphs made by in the mid 80's that were printed on archival papers and framed by archival means and the paper is yellow as granny's teeth. (from Fr, January, 2006)



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