Is Original Art Too Expensive?  Try a Giclée Print Instead

Is Original Art Too Expensive? Try a Giclée Print Instead

Have you ever seen an original artwork that you would love to see hanging on your wall only to find that the price was out of your reach?  You wouldn’t be alone — the gap between a budget and a beautiful piece has stopped many aspiring art buyers from starting their collections. 

But, if finding an original work of art seems like a pipe dream, there are affordable and elegant alternatives at every price point. Enter the giclée print. Produced through a sophisticated process using professional-grade large format printers, specialized papers, and archival pigment inks to create a high-quality reproduction, many artists offer giclée prints as more affordable alternatives to original works. 

The combination of pigment inks and archival papers ensures that a giclée print will look as beautiful as the day it was created, for many years to come. To better understand what makes giclée prints so special, let’s look at how they are created.

 
How Giclée Printers Work

Giclée is a French term meaning “to spray,” which is derived from how a Giclée printer works. Giclée printers are essentially a high-quality version of an inkjet printer that you might have in your home. Prints are created by spraying droplets of ink onto the paper through small nozzles, just like a home printer. The difference is the spray nozzles on a giclée printer are much finer, able to deposit millions of ink droplets on every square inch of paper.

Giclée printers also have a wide range of printable colors due to their expanded set of ink cartridges. While most home printers have only four colors of ink (also known as CMYK, which stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) or up to eight colors when it comes to some photo-quality printers, giclée printers have 11 or more color cartridges. This gives them the ability to provide fine tonal gradations, subtle tones, and smooth shadows. Reproducing accurate tonal quality requires billions of colors so having more ink cartridges with varying shades makes a dramatic difference.

 

What does archival mean and how is it achieved? 

At its simplest, archival means that the artwork will last for a long time, without degradation or fading. Archival prints, including giclée prints, have two critical elements that determine the relative archival properties: ink and paper.

Giclée printers use pigment-based inks, which hold fine particles suspended in liquid. They have excellent inherent archival qualities, such as being weather-resistant, scratch-resistant, water-resistant, and fade-proof, as well as being more vivid and opaque than other types of inks. These inks are rated to maintain their vibrancy for up to 200 years.

A giclée print also requires archival paper specifically designed for durability. Giclée fine art papers, including printable canvas, are made with cotton, not wood as you might find in traditional printing paper or newspaper.  These cotton-based papers have coatings specifically developed for pigment-based inks with a texture and finish that give giclée prints a true “museum quality” feel and appearance.

Paper made from wood, like newsprint, also contains lignin, which is the chemical that holds the cellulose fibers together. Lignin also oxidizes and breaks down the paper easily. Newsprint paper, for example, contains 30% lignin and will darken and tear easily, and after a short time become hard and crumbly. That may be good for newspapers or other disposable papers that will likely find their way to a landfill or recycling center, but not for artwork you want to hang on your wall for a long time.

Giclée archival paper is also acid-free. Standard paper made from wood pulp is usually acidic and becomes increasingly so the older it gets.  It’s the acid that often turns paper yellow and causes it to become brittle over time. Acid can also leach onto other items in contact with the paper so if you are storing a non-archival print on top of an archival print, the acid from the non-archival print could end up damaging the archival print as well.  

UV light and heat can also speed up the acidic chemical process that causes the degradation of paper. You’ll often see the edges of old book pages that have been sitting on bookshelves exposed to light appear darker in color than the rest of the page. For a paper to be called archival, it must have a pH value between 7.5 and 10 so that acidity won’t break down the fibers. 

Archival papers also use optical brightening agents, or OBAs, that make them look radiantly white. OBAs absorb UV light and then bounce it back as visible light in the blue spectrum, which gives the appearance to the human eye of extra brightness, making a print look truly amazing.

 

How to inspect quality when buying Giclée prints online

While any image can be printed on a giclée printer, how close the image comes to the original artwork depends on how the image was prepared or captured into its digital form for printing.

Capturing the detail and texture of the original and ensuring that the digital image has the color accuracy, tone, and gradations of the original requires more than just a quick snapshot with an iPhone camera. It requires high-resolution cameras, and a proper lighting setup to ensure that all the details such as brushstrokes and texture are properly captured. The image must also be free from glare, which can be particularly difficult when photographing oil paintings, where the hot spots of shine coming off the painting can overwhelm the digital sensor. Poor lighting can also make the image seem uneven in shading and brightness or may even change the colors captured by the digital sensor. 

More problematic is using a camera that doesn’t have the resolution to capture an artwork at its original size. For example, assume the original artwork is 24×32 inches. To print an image that size on a giclée printer, the image would have to be around 60 megapixels. An iPhone 13 camera is only 12 megapixels. While you can increase the size of the photo with software, blowing up an image too large will create pixelation and blurriness as can be seen in the detail of the image below. 

Is Original Art Too Expensive? Try a Giclée Print Instead - Art Guide by Artrepreneur

Blowing up a low-resolution image can end up being blurry and pixelated

Unfortunately, when buying giclée prints online, assessing quality is often not possible by looking at the low-resolution images generally shown.

At sites like Artrepreneur, curators review each work before accepting the piece into the Giclée Print Shop. Potential buyers can also view a watermarked version of the high-resolution file we use to produce each giclée print so you assess the quality for yourself. 

So, if you are unable to hold the print in your hand prior to purchasing, be sure that the work is from a respected site so you can be confident that the quality of the giclée meets the museum-quality standard. 

Once you hold your giclée print in your hand and see it up close, you’ll know you have purchased something special. The prints have beautiful highlights, extended mid-tones, and rich shadows. The colors are rich and vibrant with crisp details, amazing color accuracy, and a wide tonal range that makes it feel like an original work of art, not merely a picture of one. Giclées are an excellent alternative to the original work and well worth the price.

Have you ever bought a giclée print?  Let us know what you think about them. 

Steve Schlackman

As a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing, Steve has a unique perspective on art, law, and business. He is currently serving as the Chief Product Officer at Artrepreneur. You can find his photography at artrepreneur.com or through Fremin Gallery in NYC.

Pick the perfect canvas size every time

Pick the perfect canvas size every time

Style and substance matter when choosing artworks for your home, but perhaps the most important consideration is canvas size. After all, the perfect-sized piece could be the ultimate finishing detail to your interior decor. But a canvas size too big could overwhelm your space and make it look cluttered, while an artwork that’s too small won’t make an impact and could look, dare we say, unsettling.  
 
Make like Goldilocks and find out how to measure for the canvas size that is just right — and avoid spending your art budget on a beautiful piece you love only to bring it home and find it doesn’t fit your space. Grab your measuring tape and a calculator to follow our wall art size guide.
 

Consider your location

Before you buy, decide where you’re shopping for. Is it that large blank wall in the living room? Over your sofa? Perhaps a statement piece in the entryway? Or a small piece of art for your kitchen? We’re all about falling in love with that special piece of art. But it would be a real bummer to bring it home and have nowhere to put it. So before you make the purchase, make sure you have an idea in mind of where you want to place it. 
 
Another consideration is whether you’re shopping for a single piece or a gallery wall. If you’ve got a large space to fill and a smaller budget, a variety of affordable framed prints or canvas sizes in an arrangement might be the right idea. Instead of finding one larger piece with your measurements in mind, you could put together an arrangement in a similar theme, style, or movement that showcases your taste and personality (and keeps you from having to choose just one.) 
 

Measure and multiply 

Interior designers say wall art should fill 60–75 percent of the available wall space. To find out what canvas size you should choose, measure the width and height of the available wall space — which means only the wall space that doesn’t have design details like moldings or mantels or the part that is covered by existing furniture, like the back of your couch. Then multiply the number by both 0.60 and 0.75. Now, you have the range you can fill with one or a variety of canvas sizes. 
 
For example: If you have a blank wall that is 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide, you will then multiply both 5 and 8 by 0.6 and 0.75. The ideal height of the artwork would be between 4.75 and 6 feet while the ideal width would be between 3 and 3.75 feet. Shoot for an unframed canvas of that size and you’ve got some wiggle room when you take it to the framers. 
 
Hanging artwork over a sofa, bed, or mantel? Another measurement you’ll want to consider is that the width of the piece should be two-thirds to three-fourths of the width of the furniture or fireplace. That means you can multiply the width of your couch by 0.66 or 0.75 to find the best canvas size.
 
Canvas size

Regardless of picture or canvas size, the art should be hung at eye level.

 
Finally, you don’t want to place your artwork too low or too high. Hanging a piece of art at eye level is essential to enjoying your special piece every day without having to strain or stoop down to look at it. About 60 inches from the center to the floor is the ideal height you want to shoot for. If planning a gallery wall, consider the entire grouping as one piece to find the perfect center point. 
 

Visualize your canvas size

Now that you know where you want to place it and the ideal size the artwork or artwork should be, it’s time to picture the canvas size in your actual space before hitting purchase. 
 
Have you made up your mind on whether you’re going for a single statement piece, a pair of matching prints, or a gallery wall of smaller artworks? Time to decide, because the size of your canvas isn’t the only measurement that matters — how much space is around your artwork is important too. Give your artwork room to breathe to keep your space from feeling busy, but don’t space it so far apart that the arrangement feels disjointed and lacks unity. The space in between your artworks will contribute to the total of your magic number, so you’ll want to know it if you’re buying multiple pieces. For gallery walls, about 2-3 inches of space is a good rule of thumb. Keep it consistent across all the pieces for visual harmony. 
 
Another number you should have in mind is standard canvas sizes. Small canvases measure 4”x6” or 5”x7”, while anything below that is considered mini. Medium-sized canvases are typically between 8”x10” and 16”x20”. Large canvas sizes are anything 18”x24” and above. 
 
Square or rectangle? It’s up to you. The next step is to visualize each canvas size on your wall to achieve a look that is symmetrical, pleasing to the eye, and balanced. 
 
There are a few ways to picture how an artwork or an arrangement of pieces would look in your space that play to your strengths: 
  • Painter’s tape or sticky notes: Mark out standard canvas sizes directly on your wall by measuring and taping, then stand back to see if it’s to your liking. 
  • Photoshop or art placement apps: If you’re digitally savvy, tools like Photoshop allow you plan where you should hang your art and play around with gallery wall arrangements. With photos of the space you need to fill and the size of artworks you want to buy — or the digital files themselves — you can drag and drop to your heart’s content. There are also a variety of art visualization apps available for download that you can explore. 
  • Butcher paper: Try the old-fashioned way by tracing standard canvas sizes on butcher or craft paper and cutting them out. You can arrange the sizes on the floor before you tape them to the wall to see how they would look. 
Placing meaningful artwork in each room of your home truly makes your space your own. Along with subject matter, color palette, and other visual considerations, don’t forget canvas size when shopping for that perfect piece. It can make the difference between a room that feels busy and one with a pleasing design where you want to spend your time. With a couple of handy measurements and some visualization exercises, you’re halfway to finding that finishing touch. 
 

 

Key takeaways: 

  • Make a decision on which area in your home you’re shopping for and whether you’re going for a single piece or a collection of artworks. 
  • Aim to fill 60–75 percent of your available wall space while hanging the artwork at eye level and maintaining a consistent space around each piece. 
  • To find the magic number, measure where you want the art to go and multiply by 0.66 or 0.75. 
  • If going above your sofa or on your mantel, artwork should be ⅔ to 3/4 of the width. 
  • Keep your measurements handy when shopping in person or filter by size when purchasing art online. 
  • Practice arranging art by size with digital tools like Photoshop or physical ones like painter’s tape or butcher paper. 

What rules have you learned for choosing artwork that’s right for your home — and have you ever made any design mistakes because you forgot to measure? Share your stories and tips in the comments section. 

 

Steve Schlackman

As a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing, Steve has a unique perspective on art, law, and business. He is currently serving as the Chief Product Officer at Artrepreneur. You can find his photography at artrepreneur.com or through Fremin Gallery in NYC.

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