Friday, January 25, 2019

A Bit About Giclée Prints

Copyright © Edward Riojas

“Things” happen, it is true.

As if I needed to be reminded of this, I recently was put at the mercy of things beyond my control in the form of my giclée print supply. The gentleman who produces prints for me informed me that his printer was in need of service. Having but one machine, and it being during the weeks leading up to Christmas, this was not good news. It happened as Christmas print orders crested.

I truly relish the work my ‘print guy,’ Stan Boes, does for me, and this became painfully obvious during those days when waiting for repairs. And prints. Of course, it had to be a perfect storm. His repairman was taking a vacation during the holidays. Then the wrong part arrived. Then partial solutions, and more waiting.

Giclée prints are the state-of-the-art way to reproduce a fine art image. If you can’t afford an original painting, this is the next best thing. The prints are infinitely better than any other kind of reproduction. They are so colorfast that giclée prints have been called “the hundred year print,” although their colorfastness could outlast that milestone if kept out of sunlight and in a decent climate. Museums and galleries use this technology in reproductions they sell, and the prints are of such high quality that it is acceptable for the artist to sign them – something usually reserved for etchings, woodcuts, and the like.

Printer of the type that produces giclée prints. (Courtesy photo)
The machine that produces these prints is a distant cousin of typical ink-jet printers, but similarities end there. Ink-jet printers that handle giclée prints are seemingly on steroids. My home computer’s printer, for example, uses one black ink cartridge and another cartridge with three colors. Those which create giclée prints typically have 12 ink cartridges containing specific colors. The machine Stan uses can kick out a print four feet wide by 20 feet – the size of the largest paper roll it handles. And the paper isn’t run-of-the-mill 20 lb. bond – it’s Hahnemuehle fine art paper.

Of course, the image itself is made to jump through some demanding hoops way before the printer takes over. A single image begins as several high-resolution photographs – taken by myself – which are then converted from raw images to a usable format, “stitched” together, and imaged so they look as close as possible to the original. They are then transferred to Stan’s computer, which can fine-tune the image even further. The digital files, which can easily be 80 megabits or more, are then sent to the printer.

The printer issue that necessitated repairs was a pump and hose for a dark blue ink. While the print head itself holds a certain amount of ink, it could not be fed more from a separate reservoir during the printing of blue-heavy images. Hence, the printer could crank out some images perfectly, but it would peter out on others.

One particular image, “Madonna and Child,” gave the most headaches. I wanted desperately to have that image printed, but before proper repairs could be made. Finally, I took a better look at the digital image itself, and realized that it had massive amounts of blue in it. By separating out the color channels, I selectively reduced the blue and punched up other colors. It was essentially digital slight-of-hand, and the result was an image much closer to the original. How did I know it was a better image? The original painting hangs directly above my computer monitor.

And, yes, it printed beautifully.

No comments:

Post a Comment