Giclée Print Care
Congratulations on your purchase of a Limited or Master Edition giclée print. What is a giclée print and how do you take care of it? On this page we talk about what a giclée print is and list ways that are recommended by the paper and canvas manufacturers and museums on how to take good care of your newly purchased artwork.
Artwork is an investment in so many ways. Aaron uses quality materials and archival methods in caring for artwork, from his fine art prints to his original artwork.
QUICK CARE GUIDE FOR Giclée LIMITED and MASTER EDITIONS (More detailed guideline below)
What is a Giclée print?
Giclée prints are an extremely high quality print. There’s a few attributes that make a giclée print what it is.
The resolution on a giclée print must be printed out at least at 300 DPI (dots per inch, the more dots per inch, the higher the resolution) or higher. To understand more about resolution you can read this article from CreativBloq
Both of the Giclée prints Limited, and Master Editions are printed at 350 DPI or higher, exceeding traditional standards.
Material Quality: All materials used to make the prints should be archival quality. “Archival” is a term that is used a lot in marketing jargon. It basically means a print that is more resistant to deterioration over time, as a result it will stand the test of time. Two of the main components that make a giclée print archival are the type of ink and paper/canvas that is used to create the print.
Dye-based vs Pigment-based ink:
Most printers use dye-based inks. Dye-based inks consist of a colorant that is fully dissolved and suspended in a liquid. Dye inks are cheaper to manufacture and therefore are the most common type found in inkjet printers. While dye based inks are generally good quality they are not as good as pigment-based inks.
Pigment-based inks are the type of ink used when making a giclée print. Pigment inks consist of very fine color particles dissolved and suspended in a liquid. Pigmented inks are more expensive, are considered archival because they have a longer lifespan (some formulations designed to last 200 plus years), superior color quality, and the reduced possibility of the print smearing or fading.
Aaron uses pigment-based inks on all of his prints.
Paper / Canvas Quality:
There are 3 attributes that make up paper/canvas quality for a giclée print; OBA’s, Acid and Lignin free, and the base material wood pulp or cotton rag.
OBA’s or optical brightening agents are found in many printing papers. Some archival papers contain OBA’s and some do not. OBA’s make the paper look extremely white/bright. They do this by absorbing UV light which then bounces back as visible light in the blue spectrum, giving the impression of a brighter white. OBA’s will fade over time.
An acid-free and lignin-free paper or board is a purified material that will not break down over time and become acidic. The lignin breaks down into acid and will yellow or discolor the paper or board and whatever else contacts the paper or board. Lignin is an organic substance found in wood pulp. The lignin breaks down into acid and will yellow or discolor the paper or board and whatever else contacts the paper or board.
Finally, the last aspect of the paper quality for a giclée print is the base material. Traditional wood pulp-based papers tend to have lignin which as stated earlier break down into acid and tend to yellow and break down over time. The acidity in lignin can be removed from the wood pulp papers through a chemical process, but in general they are not used for archival giclée prints because of their natural lignin properties that become acidic.
100% Cotton rag papers and cotton canvas are typically what are used when making giclée prints. They have superior longevity to in addition to being able to absorb and hold onto pigmented inks for better color quality.
The paper/canvas material Aaron uses for his Limited Editions and Master Edition prints are OBA free, acid and lignin free, and 100% cotton rag paper. However, none of this information about how Aaron uses quality materials will matter if the artwork is not cared for. Below is a more detailed explanation of how to care for your giclée print.
How to Handle
When handling fine art prints, drawings, or paintings. It’s a good idea to either:
- Wear gloves or Use a clean cotton or microfiber cloth
- Avoid touching prints with bare hands in order to keep skin oils off the print
Where to Hang
- Somewhere there is room temperature - artwork in general does not do well in extreme temperatures hot or cold.
- Avoid hanging in high humid areas, hang your giclée print in a dry area
- Avoid exposing the giclée print to sunlight or any UV light of any kind (even if you have UV protecting glass)
- Other locations and things to avoid are areas with high airborne dust, solvents, adhesives, smoke and other similar contaminants. These can also permanently damage your print.
- Never use any form of liquid, chemical or spray products to clean your paper or canvas giclée prints.
- From time to time it is recommended to dust them with a light feather duster.
Framing your giclée print
It is strongly recommended that you get your print professionally framed. Some framers to look into are Michaels arts and crafts, Hobby Lobby, or your local framer. Be sure to request archival, acid-free materials for mats and backing. This will aid in the longevity of the print.
In regards to the glass there are some options and every framer will have something different to choose from. Always ask to see what they have available and preview how the artwork looks under the different types of glass, before deciding what glass to go with. Keep in mind some glass can distort or change the colors of the art. Generally a museum archival glass has excellent clarity and is archival.
Another thing to keep in mind is while most UV glass blocks the majority of UV rays from affecting the artwork. It's not 100% protective and still not a good idea to expose the artwork to UV, or sunlight of any kind.
Below is an article from the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute explaining in detail how they recommend caring for paintings. The information they provide also relates to caring for prints as well as most art
Caring for your Giclée print (More detailed guideline)
Giclée fine art prints are renowned for their extreme longevity and for delivering near-perfect integrity to an original work in terms of colors, brush-strokes and textures. Which is why they are displayed in the world’s finest museums, art galleries and private art collections.
In general it’s a good idea to get them framed as soon as possible.
General pointers when handling a giclée print
- Giclée prints should be cared for in the same way as an original piece of art
- This means that dirt, dust, moisture, oils, adhesives, solvents, heat, and anything that could scratch, dent or crease the paper should all be avoided when you are handling your print
- Only handle the print with clean, dry hands (it’s probably very unlikely, but if you own a pair of white cotton gloves then they are perfect for the job, but if not, a cotton or microfiber (microfiber cloths are typically your eye glass cleaning type cloths) cloth to hold the print will work too, as skin oils can stain the paper
- Use two hands to support your print and hold it by the edges, that way it will not bend and you will avoid finger-smudges on the face of the print. As dents, creases and oily marks could be permanent
- Keep your new giclée print covered with the acid-free tissue paper that it was posted with (or the acid-free protective sleeve for smaller prints) until it is framed, to avoid damage
- Don’t use your hands to wipe off any dust as this can also damage the surface of your giclée print. Instead, use a dry, clean, white lint-free cloth or a photographer’s lens-brush
Flattening your rolled-up giclée print
- Find a surface that is flat, smooth and hard. Clean it of any dirt and particles that might damage your print
- Unpack the inner tube from the outer tube; your print is wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and rolled around the outside of this inner tube
- Carefully remove the print from the postal tube whilst keeping it covered in the protective acid-free tissue paper
- Lay the print out, image side up, on the flat surface
- With the tissue paper still covering the print’s image, on the ends and around the middle of the print, place a few clean and dry objects that are smooth, flat and heavy…books are perfect
- Let your giclée print relax overnight – if it still isn’t flat when you remove the books, replace them for a few more hours. Never be tempted to use an iron, steam, or moisture to flatten it – as this will definitely damage it!
Cleaning your print
- Never try to clean a giclée print with a damp cloth, water or solvents
- We recommend using a clean, white, dry, soft lint-free cloth or a photographer’s lens-brush to gently wipe off dust
- Using a white non-colored cloth will allow you to see when dust has been collected
- To avoid staining the giclée, do not clean with a dirty or dark colored cloth
- Do not expose prints to direct sunlight. Heat and UV radiation will greatly accelerate fade and paper damage
- Always store prints in a climate controlled environment. 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% relative humidity are the benchmarks you should look to when storing prints. Moving air is a big factor in print fade. Try to keep prints in an acid free storage box or print sleeve / bag.
- Always use archival quality mounts and mat boards. Make says that 100% cotton Rising Museum Board for mounting prints.
- Do not spray mount. Inkjet inks are sensitive to moisture and changes in humidity.
- Do not use tape to adhere the picture to the mounting board as the adhesive in the tape can cause damage to the
- edges of the picture. There is a lignin and acid free tape that is safe to use by Lineco and can be found at most art stores like Dick Blick and other places, but in general it's a good rule of thumb to not use tape.
- It is recommended to use photo corners or strips to mount the print to the mounting board. When it comes to mounting and framing your valuable artwork, archival photo corners are an excellent choice. It may be tempting to take the easy way out and use spray or liquid adhesives for mounting your artwork, but there is a danger in doing that to your artwork. Adhesives may react with the chemicals used to produce the image, causing substantial damage.
- Last but not least, making sure the back of your frame is sealed can help to prevent damage as well.
There are several articles written on how to care for your artwork. The information here is provided through Aaron's personal experience, paper manufacturers, and museum's websites.
Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute