Types of Art Prints

A modern, superior type of fine art print called "giclees"

Giclees (pronounced "SHE-clays")are a relatively new form of archival quality fine art prints.

This topic can be complicated because of the variations that are possible in fine art.

The term "giclee" is a French term meaning "spray of ink", as the inkjet printers spray millions of tiny drops of ink onto a substrate.

The term "giclee" distinguishes high end, archival, fine art inkjet prints from ordinary inkjet prints, just as "serigraph" distinguishes high end, archival, fine art silkscreen prints from ordinary, commercial silkscreen prints.

Giclees can be scanned reproductions of existing art such as paintings or drawings, or they can original giclees.

"Original giclees" in this context means that the art has not been reproduced from art that exists in another medium, such as a painting or drawing.

Giclees are:
printed on artists' canvas and stretched over wooden stretcher bars or
printed on paper and framed under glass or
sometimes printed on other substrates such as aluminum.

Prints on canvas are commonly referred to as canvas giclees, giclee canvas, canvas prints and giclees of canvas.

Giclees – whether they're on canvas, paper or aluminum – are the best form of art print available today. They are generally superior to older print media such as serigraphy, lithography and etching because those older media may require require use of toxic materials, are inefficient to produce and therefore are usually more expensive, and might not give all artists the looks that they want.

Giclees are coveted by collectors for their fidelity and quality, and desired by galleries and artists alike because they don't have to be produced in huge quantities with their large layout of capital and storage.

Giclees are either printed directly from digital files, or from scanned digital scans of the artist's painting, thereby saving generations of detail-robbing negatives and printing plates used with traditional litho printing.

My giclees are high-resolution, archival art prints, which I print slowly and laboriously – one at a time – using archival, fade-resistant inks on acid-free paper and archival giclee canvas.

I like giclees because the inks and substrates are archival, and some of the colors are richer than the colors I can get from acrylic or oil paints. (One of the compliments I hear repeatedly is that people love the vibrant colors in my prints). During my digital enhancement of my reproduction giclees before printing, I'm able to boost the vibrance of the colors so that the reproductions are more bright and vibrant than the original paintings are.

I also varnish each print by hand, using the best archival varnish on the market.

I trim each print – using a ruler and art knife – and I inspect each print to check for flaws before numbering and signing the print.  I print and fill in the accompanying certificate of authenticity. I print the the prints and their corresponding certificates of authenticity to the public.

I cull the prints for flaws.

Flawed prints that cannot be fixed (about 10 percent of all prints printed) are cut into pieces and recycled, ensuring consistent, high quality throughout the edition, but adding to the cost of production and reducing my profit. I cull the prints to ensure the highest quality for my customers.

For canvas prints, I sign each one the front, and record the title, size, dimensions and number on the back.

For paper prints, I sign and number each print on the front.

I control every aspect of the printing, thus ensuring that the quality of my prints is maximized

I have turned down requests to relinquish control of my printing to other companies, even though I might have made more money by releasing control.   I don't want other people diluting the quality of my prints. And the major giclee publishers are not known for varnishing giclees they publish. Lack of varnishing make s the giclees susceptible to scratches, moisture damage and premature fading.

Giclee printing –  contrary to popular misconception – is not mass production. There is a significant element of hand-crafting and individual attention involved for each art print, and I am involved in every stage of production of my giclees. It is a slow process. Each print is printed individually and painstakingly.

I think some people confuse giclee printing with offset lithography – the process used to print books, magazines. and brochures. Offset lithography represents mass production; all of the prints in a print run are printed at once, whereas with giclees, the prints are printed painstakingly one at a time on big, archival inkjet printers and there's much attention given to each individual print.

The people whom I've encountered who criticize giclees for their quality were all people who aren't giclee artists and had no idea of what giclees are. They were completely ignorant of even the basics of giclee craftsmanship.

I meticulously record in my books the history of each of the prints: first documenting the fact that the print has been printed and that it is therefore part of the inventory, and after the print has been sold, the selling date, and the name of the buyer are also recorded, so each print has its history recorded.

Properly made giclees are archival and last far longer than than offset lithographs. My giclees on paper should be framed under glass. They last even longer under u.v. glass. Giclees should not be exhibited for extended times in direct sunlight. Exhibition in lower light is preferable to prolong image permanence.

Beware of art prints that appear to be giclees but which are actually canvas transfers, meaning offset lithographs that have had their ink transferred onto canvas. They are a cheap imitation of canvas giclees, but don't last long because the offset lithographic inks aren't archival.

Giclee printing allows for more vibrant colors and a broader color gamut than mass production offset lithography because most of the giclee printers use seven to twelve ink colors instead of the four colors normally used in offset lithography, and the inks are long-lasting pigmented inks rather than dye-based inks.

Giclees are expensive to print because of the high cost of equipment and materials used, and the amount of care required to hand-craft these archival prints one at a time.

The hand-crafting, archival materials and the increasing reputation of the artist all serve to enhance the value of the prints for art collectors.


My prints are giclees – not photographs

Some people incorrectly refer to my prints as photographs. 

The prints are giclees – not photographs.

Photographs are images – especially positive prints – that are recorded by a camera and reproduced on a photosensitive surface.

Giclees (pronounced she-clays) on the other hand are images produced by spraying a fine spray of electrically charged particles (as small as one picoliter) of ink onto a substrate (usually canvas and sometimes paper and less often other substrates such as metal plates) using an array of ink dispensed from approximately seven to 12 ink cartridges mounted in the printer.

Many inkjet printers are called "photo printers", but technically, the name is inaccurate because of the differences I described in the last two paragraphs. Basically, photos are made in cameras (and in the past in darkrooms), by exposing a light-sensitive material to light, whereas inkjet are made by spraying electrically charged particles of ink onto a substrate.

I have come up with a modern, simplified print naming and numbering system for my editions

I have re-defined the way that archival, limited edition art print editions are named and numbered.

I have abandoned the traditional, archaic methods of having a main edition along with a small suite of identical prints of the same size (artist's proofs) because I discovered that that approach doesn't fit people's needs.

Instead, I've switched to a new, easy-to-understand print classification system whereby prints are published in two, three, four or five sizes: small, medium, large and for some images extra large and extra, extra large (and as of 2012 Max, Max Large and Max Extra Large are also now available for some images.

My new system fills the needs of the art print enthusiasts much better than the old one, because different people want different sizes of print, ranging from tiny to gigantic.

I've found that as I published more types of prints, I and my customers became increasingly confused about all the different print types I offered.  I offered artist's proofs and in some cases large artist's proofs and publishers proofs, because various art gallery owners and retail customers asked for them.

My solution to clear up confusion about the many different types of prints offered was to streamline the designation of all new editions. The prints are now published in these sizes:

Small and

The longer the image is the more likely it is to also be published in these sizes:
Extra Large
Extra, Extra Large
Extra, Extra, Extra Large
and since 2012, the following even larger sizes are available for some image.  These will be printed only on demand:
Max Large
Max Extra Large

Edition sizes are also limited to small sizes to ensure that the value of the prints is maintained and enhanced over time.

My number of prints in my editions are also now consistent.

Since 2012, the canvas prints are limited to only 300 prints for each size, and there may be as many as 30 artist's proofs at each size.

The new paper prints (new since January, 2010) are limited to only 100 prints for each paper size, and there may be as many as ten artist's proofs per print size.

The actual number of prints printed may be far less than the numbers I just described above, because I only publish prints if there's a demand.   So if there's only a demand for five, ten or fifty prints for a particular image, that's the number of prints I will print.

Tony Max Print Identification

I sign the prints canvas prints and paper prints in the image area.

For the canvas prints, I publish descriptive information on the edges of the canvas. (For stretched canvas prints, the information becomes wrapped around the backs of the prints.) The information includes the print's title, size i. e. (small, medium, or large), dimensions, edition publishing date, Tony Max copyright statement and the Tony Max Web site address.

If you plan to get one of my canvas prints stretched by a picture framer, ask the staff not to cut off that print information.