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​In making the decision for purchasing an original vs a giclée, the decision is completely unique to each individual. It is important to note that originals can be on paper or on canvas, just as giclées can be on paper or on canvas. Trusting the art professional, whether the artist or his/her representative, is of utmost importance.

An original, like the two custom framed Lun Tse works above, is unique. It’s a “WOW” that takes our breath away—a memory of that special trip, a connection with the colors in the piece; it fills an area of our home or office to help us dream.  Many clients consider an oil or acrylic on canvas when pondering originals, but let’s recall etchings, engravings and watercolors are also originals . . . even though they require glass for protection. (In fact, through my certification class with PPFAA, it is now taught to glaze – either glass or acrylic – all originals on canvas as well for protection).

As a reminder, since we’re talking about originals, it is illegal to ‘copy’ by any means. From taking a photo and printing on paper, canvas, clothing, etc., making any type of copy is inappropriate. This is true for photographs as well unless a printed copyright release is given. Many misunderstand that the artist retains the rights as their property even though the original is sold.

Although many artists may offer commissions based on previous works, each one will have a touch of difference. As far as pricing goes, an up and coming artist is certainly the direction one would go when considering budget. Yet, once an artist is established, purchasing for investment purposes makes senses as well. It’s important to remember that all artists deserve their credit. This means assigning value to their time and experience—and that comes with a cost.

​Giclée has taken the place of offset lithographs in the print and framing world. The literal translation means ‘to sputter’. “The high end of inkjet printing is the giclée print … . The name is derived from the French verb “gicler” meaning to squirt, or more accurately in this case, an extremely fine spray of many different sized droplets. This application of overlapping dots of ink mixes, forming additional color combinations. The application of the inks in this printing process is so fine that there are no discernible dots or droplets on the final print.”— Steven Bleicher, Contemporary Color: Theory and Use, 2012​​​​.

Alethea talks about the same two works by Lun Tse featured above, custom framed as giclées and headed to the customer.

The reason many artists are choosing the giclée method over offset lithographs is in the details. Color separation is more intense in a digital setting plus, from a cost perspective, it makes sense. During the offset lithograph process, the entire ink batch needs to be mixed prior to printing; hence, artist proofs. One proof was created for each tweak of the ink to determine the appropriate mix. Now, a complete scan will computerize the artwork and therefore provide an appropriate ink distribution. From there, whether printed today or 50 years from now, the correct color combination will be printed each time. This is so important for signed and numbered editions, regardless of printing on canvas or paper.

Also, with giclée, size generally becomes irrelevant, because the computer will scale appropriately for the artist to grow the reprint as large or as small as possible (assuming a reputable publisher who will create and store the file at the highest dpi possible). 

So at the end of the day, original or giclée is completely up to you. One client may make the decision on an original because they can see the texture and development of a piece; whereas another client will say a giclée is just fine for their needs. There is no right or wrong decision.

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About the Author : Alethea Barras

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