What is the difference between a giclee print and a linocut print?

Giclee is a French word that is pronounced “gee-klay” which refers to a fine art print.  In a fine art print, the artist either scans or photographs an original piece of art in order to digitize it.  Once in the computer, the artist spends time cleaning up the image and matching the color of the original piece.  The image is then printed on a professional ink jet printer.  Good quality giclee prints are printed on archival paper (Ph neutral) and printed with pigment based inks.  High quality paper and ink ensure the artwork will last a long time and will be light-fast (meaning it will not fade).  With all artwork, putting the work behind glass and keeping it out of direct sunlight will also help protect the work to increase its longevity. 

Linocut is a type of relief printmaking which is very much like woodcut.  A drawing is transferred to linoleum and the image is carved out.  In relief printmaking, the artists cuts away everything that they do not want to print.  The image is in relief, hence why we call linoleum and woodcut relief printmaking.  The artist then inks up the plate, covers it with paper, and then presses the image onto the paper.  They can do this by hand burnishing or by using a printing press.  Artists are also concerned with the longevity of their prints and use archival paper and light-fast inks. 

With both kinds of prints, the artist can create an open edition, or a limited edition run.  In open editions, the artists can print an infinite number of prints from the image whereas in limited editions, only a certain number of prints are made.  Limited editions are seen as more valuable as there are fewer of the prints in existence and tend to cost more.

The key difference between the two types of prints is variation and handmade feel.  Because giclee prints are printed on a computer, every image will look exactly the same.  However, each linocut print is handmade by the artist and thus there is individual variation between each print.  This variation increases if the artist adds character to the print run such as painting each print with watercolor.  In linocut printmaking, each piece is both a reproduction and an original work of its own. 

I have been offering both types of prints of my work.  I find that there are advantages and disadvantages of each type of print.  With giclee prints, I spend a lot of time on the computer (not my favorite thing) cleaning up images, so they are ready to print.  But it is very easy for me to order more prints with my local print shop if I need more.  I do prefer the handmade feel of linocut prints and I have much more control over the process of printing.  However, making large runs of prints can consume time, which I often lack. 

There also seems to be limitations as to how much detail I can get when carving linoleum when I work in such a small format. It is quite difficult to get the lines as thin as an ink pen.  But I continue to work on technique and design so I can enhance the detail as much as possible.  I also am working on accepting the fact that they are two different mediums and it is ok that they don’t look the same. Both types of prints have their unique and beautiful qualities.

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