Giclée prints step-by-step

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Discover how to do giclée prints step-by-step! Everything that you need to know as an artist or collector. All the secrets in this post!

As many of you know, several weeks ago I created limited edition prints of my works. I created these limited editions last April, on occasion of my participation in Artexpo New York 2018.
It has been a period of profound learning that I would like to share with you. This post will be useful for:

  • Fine Artists: Surely, many artists would like to make reproductions of their works but they may be lost with the process.
  • Photographers: Do not let your art end up in a folder or hard drive when you can expose it in a wall!
  • Collectors: There is also a lot of information that collectors may know when buying reproductions, in order to make sure they are purchasing quality reproductions. Artworks that have the quality to last over time, as well as the documentation they should receive when they acquire a reproduction.

The first time you face this process, you may feel a little overwhelmed by all the decisions you have to make. For this reason, I created this post in which I explain step by step all the secrets to do the best giclée reproductions of your artworks.

Litograph or giclée?

It is possible that some of you have never heard the word giclée. When we talk about giclée, we refer to prints made with high quality ink jet printers, with much higher resolutions than domestic printers. The direct translation of the French term is “to spurt”, which describes the way in which the ink is applied to the paper.
Obviously, when we talk about high quality, we are also talking about high price, so the production costs of a giclée prints series will be quite superior to the lithographic process. Keep in mind that the result will be incomparable. Also, the management of colour and the final result is much more customizable in the case of giclée printing than lithographs.
My recommendation is to choose giclée prints in case you want to do limited editions. In the case of open editions, I find more appropriate to make lithographs in four inks.

Professional photograph of your art

If you are a Photographer who already has your image ready to print, keep in mind that it is basic that it has a good resolution of 300DPI. Check in your printer company the maximum size of print so that your photo does not look pixelated.

If you are a Fine Artist who wants to reproduce your works, the first thing is to have a quality photograph of it. Many times, we think it is enough to ask a friend for his Nikon and get a good resolution photo and that’s it, but it’s not that simple.
It is very important that the colour of our artworks is correctly reflected in our prints. For me it was one of my main concerns.

Lighting

For lighting we need a properly illuminated image. It is preferable to use polarized light at the correct distance and angle. This prevents any possible shine in the image and it gets a uniform illumination.
Many times, the photos with flashlight damage our works and, little by little, the colour changes. Therefore, the lighting equipment used for the photographic shots should have total absorption of infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Colour

Another thing that helps considerably is a Colour Checker, which is an international colour card that the computer interprets, and then corrects the photography automatically.
You can see, in addition to the charm of the studio of La Casa de la Imagen, the complete equipment with which we make the photographs.
Sharpness is one of the keys that define any art reproduction, in order not to lose the subtle nuances with which the works were conceived and executed. That’s why we worked with a Hasselblad H3DII 40MP that guarantees the perfect reproduction of the smallest details and the subtlest textures that make up the works of art. We also used 6 polarized lights with 6400W of power. We use all possible means to achieve the best result.

First decision: the paper

This is one of the important decisions to make, so I recommend you think about it carefully. You have to consider the weight of the paper and its finish.

Weight

First of all, it is important to choose a consistent paper, thicker than normal. This will help make the reproduction more durable, since it will prevent wrinkles or folds. It will also facilitate the framing process and prevent the paper from falling off over time in large format prints.
In the case of my giclée prints, I used a paper of 320 gr.

Finish

We must also consider the finish, to choose mainly between matte, glossy and satin. It is very subjective, and it is important to have a reliable printing house that gives you the option to do the finishing and colour proofs necessary for a successful result.

  • Glossy finish: The gloss paper is the paper with which we will get more shiny appearance, since it has a reflective layer. It is possible that the use of a shiny paper covered with glass, gives lighting problems that distract from the contemplation of the work. It is a paper that must be handled with care, since any trace remains marked. For handling any type of paper, I recommend you to use appropriate cotton gloves.
  • Matte finish: It is interesting to use a matte paper when we want to add some texture to our work. There are many textures on matte papers, so they are a very good option in this case. Matte papers are very easy to illuminate in an exhibition, since they do not reflect, so they work very well with or without glass. You may see the colours a little off in the printing proofs but try to place a glass on top and you will see how the story changes! Another advantage is that it is more difficult to smudge when touched, but it is very fragile and scratches very easily.
  • Satin finish: Also called semi-glossy or baryta, it is between glossy and matte paper. It gives rich colour and is easy to maintain and manipulate, although the finish product is not as bright as glossy paper. If it is going to be framed with a glass, I think it is the best option.

Considering all this, the type of paper that I ended up choosing to make my giclée prints was the Hahnemühle Photo Gloss Baryta 320. It is a durable paper, with a guarantee of 150 years in stable lighting and climate conditions.
I recommend choosing a good quality paper. Otherwise, in a few years, the colours will be altered or the paper may turn yellow or may be damaged.

Paper chosen, and now? The inks

It is very important to make sure to use quality inks. There are many types of inks, dry-based, mineral, pigmented… My recommendation is to use the best pigmented inks you can find. It is useless to invest in an expensive paper, if the ink is going to be altered over time.

In this photos you can see me next to Jesús Rocandio, from La casa de la Imagen, a great professional with a lot of experience in the process of creating reproductions, who has helped me a lot. It is very important to have the option of testing, since there is no general rule in the case of reproductions, and it is good to see particular colour and paper proofs of each work.
It is also important to compare the reproductions with the originals to make them as accurate as possible.

Giclée print - Final review - Pako Campo

We already have the first tests, and the first doubts...

Giclée print - Quality control - Pako Campo
Giclée print - New limited editions - Pako Campo

We already have the first tests, and the first doubts…

I have already made the first impressions. The photo is perfectly clear. The paper is the best I have found. The colour is the same as in the original work. And now, how do I approach the development of the limited edition? How many copies? What size? How do I sign them? What documentation should I provide to the buyer? And how do I value them? All the answers, below.

Number of copies

First of all, consider the meaning of limited edition. If you do a limited edition, you agree to make a predetermined number of copies, and not to make more copies with the same characteristics. It is a commitment that you acquire with your clients, because if you print more, you would devalue their purchase.
Maybe in the future you want to reproduce the work to another size or medium, such as canvas or aluminum instead of paper, but they can’t be the same (unless you want to ruin your reputation).
About how many copies, you decide the level of exclusiveness that you want to give to your limited edition, but I like to make more restricted editions. Keep in mind that there are many collectors that only invest in series of few copies.
Obviously, you must decide the size of your series before they are available for sale, and inform potential collectors about it.

Print on demand

You may find the cost of printing the entire series at one time prohibitive, and in fact it is. Fortunately, there are other more recommended solutions. For instance, there are many printer companies with whom you can work on demand. This means that you do not have to print the entire series immediately. They save your files, as well as the print settings, and you can print them as you sell them.

How to sign your giclée prints

Depending on the type of paper, sign your reproductions with a sharpened pencil (on matte papers) or with an indelible marker (on satin or glossy paper). You should do it in the lower white border outside the image.
Add the number of the series, the date and your signature. You can also add the title of the work if you want. You can do it in many formats. I invite you to look for some examples in Google, but here I show you how I label my limited editions.
Be clear how you want to label your works from the beginning. You must be consistent with this format.

Register your work

Although the copyright is inherent to the artist from the moment of the creation of the artwork, it does not hurt to register your works in the intellectual property registry of your country or in the Copyright of the Library of Congress of the US. It will always be fundamental evidence in case of a claim of copyright infringement.

Artist proofs

As we have previously discussed, it is usual to generate some printing tests to measure the behaviour of the image with different finish papers or in several sizes. They are called “Artist proofs”. These prints are outside the numbering of the limited edition, and it is normal that the artist keeps them. In these tests, the numbering of the series is replaced by “AP” and numbered separately.
The usual thing is that these proofs have a higher price than the rest of the series, although it is the artist’s decision to offer them for sale or not.

Sale documentation

You must accompany your limited edition prints with the corresponding documentation, such as the Certificate of Authenticity and the Bill of Sale. It is important to generate all this information for your records, as well as for tax purposes.
In order to make the bill of sale, it is necessary that you advise correspondingly of the information that you must include depending on the country in which you live and its tax regulations. It is basically an invoice between the buyer and the artist. It must include several elements such as the data of both parties, date, invoice number, total price, description and serial number of the reproduction.
In case you sell several copies to a single client, I recommend you to make independent invoices. If the buyer wants to resell the print, he can include each invoice with the corresponding copy.
The Certificate of Authenticity is basic in the sale of any original artwork or reproduction. It is a essential document to prove that a work belongs to an artist. The buyer will also need it in case he or she resells the work or donates it to an institution, since it gives additional security over its legitimacy. A trustworthy Certificate of Authenticity must include a suitable image of the work, information about it, copyright and handling instructions.

Recap: Things to consider

  • Take professional photos of your artworks, at the best resolution and with the best lighting.
  • Use a heavyweight paper with the right finish to your work.
  • Use the best pigmented inks.
  • Make colour and paper proofs.
  • Decide the magnitude and characteristics of the series.
  • Sign and label the reproductions.
  • Make your Certificate of Authenticity.
  • Make the Sales Invoice.

Check my results!

Take a look to my limited edition prints shop. Short series with the best quality!

Giclée prints step-by-step
Hong Drone Trilogy - Limited Edition Giclée Print
Giclée prints step-by-step
#NovaY - Limited Edition Giclée Print
Giclée prints step-by-step
Hong Drone III - Limited Edition Giclée Print
Giclée prints step-by-step
Rainbow Empire - Limited Edition Giclée Print

I would like to give special thanks to:
My collectors: For encourage me to launch limited edition prints of my works.
Pablo Peña: For the great pics of the process.
La Casa de la Imagen: Thanks to Jesús Rocandio and his team for all their help and tips. Also to allow us to do the photo reportage.
Marta: Thanks for your help and your patience!
Sara: Thank you so much for your help and support!

Do you consider other things when making giclée prints? Do you have any question? LEAVE YOUR COMMENT!

Showing 6 comments
  • Audrey Delaye
    Reply

    Thank you, very interesting!
    And congrats for the resulr

    • Pako Campo
      Reply

      My pleasure, Audrey! Glad you like it! 😊💜💜💜

  • Patricia McParlin
    Reply

    Thank you..Your pieces work very well in print format…best wishes, Patricia

  • Lucy
    Reply

    Thank you for the step by step process. Do you have a template for the certificate of authenticity? I’ve looked on line and am overwhelmed with the options. Do you have any suggestions.

    • Pako Campo
      Reply

      Hi Lucy! Thanks for reading! Actually, I did it with Adobe Illustrator. I searched for certificates of other artists and I adapted them to my case. Afterwords, I asked to a couple of art consultants to be sure it is correct. I think it is quite complete, you can take it as a reference. 😊

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LightRails (2013) by Bill FitzGibbons - Pako CampoGiclée print - New limited editions - Pako Campo