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Creating a Gicle Print Of Your Abstract Watercolor Painting

By admin | Sunday, April 25th, 2010 | Watercolor

The Artist’s Guide To Gicle Printmaking

In this article I am going to outline the basic procedure for making Gicle prints of your abstract watercolor artwork. I hope to make this clear and simple since there seems to be a lot of confusion with the recent explosion in printmaking technology over the past decade.

First of all I want to give you a definition of what a Gicle is:

A Gicle is any print created using pigmented archival inks on archival paper or canvas using a high fidelity digital inkjet printer.

The important thing to note is that a Gicle does not have to be on canvas. This is a common misconception. These prints can be created on a wide range of archival fine art papers such as textured watercolor paper or photo paper. It is also important to note that just because something is printed on canvas it is not necessarily a Gicle. There are many inferior quality canvases that are not archival grade. In most basic terms a Gicle is an archival inkjet print.
Now I will outline the entire process that you as an artist will need to go through in order to create Gicle prints, and offer my suggestions and options to help you get the results you are after.

Step 1: Digitally Capture Your Artwork

This is the most important step in determining the quality of your prints. You basically have three options, varying in price and quality, but each with its own benefits:

Scanning Your Artwork:

The best way to turn your art into a digital image is to have it scanned on a specialized high fidelity fine art scanner. These machines cost upwards of $100K, and therefore scans can be pricey – expect to pay $60-$200 per scan dependent on the size of your work, and your desired final print size (prices are usually based on file size, with current market prices at $1 per megabyte). The Cruse brand of scanners, made in Germany, are typically considered the benchmark in the industry, so ask your local Gicle printer if they use one of these.
If you use this method, a resolution of 150 dpi (dots per inch) or ppi (pixels per inch) will suffice at your desired print size. If you wish to enlarge then you can go up to 600 dpi or more. The lens on one of these scanners will cross your painting up to 300 times and then compile all the information into one large digital image of unparalleled detail.

These scanners never touch your artwork which is placed facing upwards on the bed of the scanner (as opposed to face down on traditional flatbed scanners).

Another great benefit of these scanners is that you will never have problems with glare, highlights, or shadows caused by impasto or heavy brushstroke techniques. The scanning head has a light which is always shining directly onto the piece of the image being captured, eliminating these problems.

Professionally Photographing Your Artwork:

An effective ‘second best’ method of digitizing your artwork. You can achieve beautiful Gicle prints from high quality photographs, and bringing a portfolio of work to a professional photographer should cost you less than scanning. Typical costs in Fort Lauderdale right now are $30-$50 per artwork, and I imagine that is fairly representative of nationwide prices.

There are some disadvantages inherent to photographing work:

– The camera is much further from the artwork than a scanner, and therefore the detail will never be the same. Minor changes in color due to ambient light between lens and artwork can also be a problem.

– Distortion may occur towards the edge of an art piece, especially in larger artworks. This can result in the colors or shapes breaking up and losing definition at the edge of an image.

– Shadows, highlights, and glare are more apparent, especially with very ‘brushy’ paintings with high build oil or acrylics. If you paint in this style you should give careful thought to scanning despite the higher cost.

– If you need to enlarge an artwork in its print form it may be more difficult than with a scan.
However, working with a professional photographer in a correctly lit studio can yield excellent results. This is still the most common method of capturing artwork, and with improvements in digital cameras every year, the results can only get better.

Photographing or Scanning Artwork Yourself:

If you’re on a budget then this is the way to go. It is entirely acceptable and great Gicle prints are still possible this way.

You will need a digital camera with at least a six megapixel capability. The more megapixels, the larger you can go with your prints. Remember, you need about 300dpi resolution at the print size you want.

You should also have a tripod, and a room lit with natural light or full spectrum bulbs. Or photograph outside on an overcast day. I will write a future article on photographing your own work – for now just experiment with lighting and camera settings until you get decent results.
Alternatively, try scanning your work on a regular flatbed scanner. You can stitch multiple scans of larger works together on image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

Obviously this method is less reliable than professional solutions, but it’s a great way to get started. You just have to be less picky about the accuracy of your print colors and the clarity of larger prints. However, with patience and practice you can create amazingly good prints and save a lot of money in the process. If you’re very prolific and create multiple paintings in a week which you’d like to print then you should probably go this route.

Step 2: Prepare Digital Files for Printing:

Once the digital file is uploaded to an image editing program it is cropped to size and carefully reviewed for minor flaws such as scratches, blemishes, and dust particles. These can be corrected easily on-screen. The image can be compared to the original painting and any obvious color problems can be addressed. Resolution and output print size is checked. Most print makers will perform these services at no charge with your print job.

At this point an artist signature can be removed from the digital image for artists who like to personally sign every print
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without a duplicate original printed signature (there may be an extra charge for this).

Step 3: Proofing and Color Correction:

This stage can take from 5 minutes to 5 hours depending on the quality of the digital image and the desires and budget of the artist.

A first small proof print is usually made almost immediately for direct comparison to the original artwork. From there, necessary color corrections can be performed. For highly accurate color correction proof ‘strips’ are made. These are 2′-3′ segments of the artwork which can be laid directly on the surface of the painting for a direct comparison. Good proof strips will virtually disappear when laid on the painting.

Color corrections can become costly so if you’re an artist who is VERY particular about colors and accuracy then you should definitely go with a scan to capture your artwork as that will give the most accurate results and require less color correction. Print makers will charge anywhere from $50-$150 per hour to color correct your work.

A reliable Gicle printer will provide you with a proof for free or a very minor fee prior to printing the full size print. Make sure to inquire about this up front as any print maker who can’t do this may be trying to hide poor quality work.

Step 4: Printing the Final Piece:

After proofs have been reviewed by the artist the final print is made. Today’s Gicle inkjet printers will print at resolutions of 1440 ink droplets per inch or higher, giving unsurpassed detail. A 24′ x 36′ print will take anywhere from 7-25 minutes to print depending on print resolution.

Gicle inkjet printers typically use 8 or more pigment-based ink colors (as opposed to dye-based inks which fade more quickly). This gives Gicle prints the ability to match virtually any color an artist can create. Traditional printing presses use only 4 ink colors.

A quick aside: Despite the technology used in Gicle print making, it is a popular myth that ‘you can’t distinguish a Gicle from the original.’ I have yet to see a Gicle print that looks identical to the original painting in every single way. To the untrained eye this may be the case, but to artists and printmakers it is virtually impossible to achieve. Having said that, technology comes extremely close – just bear this in mind as you work through the process of making your first Gicle prints.

Step 5: Protective Coating of the Print

This separates the good prints from the best prints, and applies only to prints on canvas. Some printmakers will use canvas that is already finished in glossy, matte, or satin coating prior to printing. In those cases the ink is the last layer of the print, and therefore very susceptible to scratching and atmospheric damage. The best Gicle prints are coated post-printing with a varnish or veneer formulated specially for the materials being used. This coating helps protect from scratches, UV damage, and moisture. Without this coating I doubt that a print can actually qualify as being archival.

The coating is applied by foam roller or spray for a perfectly smooth finish with no brush strokes. Or, it can be brushed on to simulate paint strokes. At this point the Gicle print is finished and ready for sale by the artist. However, some artists take it one step further.

Step 6: Embellishing Gicle Prints:

This stage can actually be performed before or after step 5, it’s up to the discretion of the artist. In order to create one-of-a-kind prints for collectors, many artists ’embellish’ their canvas prints with paint strokes. This works especially well for artist’s who create brushy impasto style originals. Although the strokes can be clearly seen on a Gicle print, the texture is missing. By adding brush strokes to the print, the artist adds texture, originality, and value to their Gicles. Typically an embellished Gicle edition is limited to 25 prints or less to maintain high value among collect
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ors.

And that’s about it from start to finish. I know it was a little lengthy, but I hope it has illuminated the somewhat misunderstood process of Gicle printmaking.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. Thanks for reading!

By: Mark Stylan

Article Directory: http://www.articledashboard.com

For Prints on Canvas or giclee prints visit Print That Image website.

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