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Going it alone, Giclee printing 101

My oh my, in just one month how things have changed. In my last post I was prepping a digital file of my ‘Coming Home Tress’ gouache painting for Giclee printing. I wanted to offer it as a Giclee print and was ready to send it to a commercial printer. Spoiler alert, I didn’t.

Instead I had the balmy idea of buying high quality inkjet printer and making my own Giclee prints. I already own a very decent scanner, a MacBook Pro and Affinity Photo. How hard could it be…?

I’ve got a headache…

Well, quite actually. It’s one thing to get your head down, do the research and buy the kit, but quite another to use it in a skilful, coordinated manner.

You can’t just scan a picture and bung it out to the printer. Getting a Giclee print out the other end which honours the original is fraught many pitfalls. Yeh, Giclee printing is harder than it looks.

But then, I knew this. Fortunately, for part of my working life I was a graphic designer. Having worked closely with commercial designers and printers I already had an inkling about what I was getting myself into. To be honest I was hoping that some of their dark arts had somehow rubbed off on me.

I did know I needed to up my colour management game. So I bought a Datacolor SpyderX monitor calibration tool along with their standardised 24 colour target and cube. Adjusting my monitor to approximate the colours I’d print has already been a huge help. And scanning or photographing the colour target along with my paintings gives me a standard colour benchmark to work towards.

I’ve had more than a few cold sweats thinking about how much I’ve invested: new hardware, paper stock and packaging. But, rationally I know this is a ‘good thing’.

Trial by colour

Making the first few prints has been a learning cliff. Each has taken a ridiculous amount of time, but I am getting faster. Slowly I’m beginning to learn which particular settings I should tweak to achieve the colour shifts I need. I’m at the point now where I can predict that what I’m seeing on screen will look right when printed.

Except blues. Blues can be problematic, particularly cobalt blue. Inevitably there will always be some colours which simply cannot be reproduced utterly faithfully. Acceptance of the physical realities I can’t change has been a big step forward for me.

Giclee printing, a few examples

So far I’ve added 8 high quality Giclee prints to my Etsy shop, mostly A4 with a couple of A3. I’ll be adding more week on week but meanwhile here are just three:

A4 Giclee print of The Coming Home Trees
A4 Giclee print of The Coming Home Trees
A4 Giclee print of Colmer's Hill
A4 Giclee print of Colmer’s Hill
A4 Giclee print of Klaus the fox cub
A4 Giclee print of Klaus the fox cub

So, am I chuffed?

Oh so very yes! The freedom to print my own high quailty Giclee prints is completely game changing:

  1. I don’t have to hold huge stocks of prints just sitting in a drawer.
  2. I can experiment and see how any of my pictures will print without having to think about third party costs.
  3. I can offer you my prints at a more reasonable price, passing on production savings to you.
  4. Not having to worry about additional costs also means I can offer a greater range of prints more quickly.
  5. No more leaving colour matching to someone else. Removing any long-distance to and fro.
  6. No time or delivery bottlenecks, or anxiety about quality while waiting for prints to come back from a print shop.

I am now in a position to offer prints of paintings which would never be available as originals. These paintings are either not for sale or are trapped in one of my sketchbooks. And I’m already plundering them.

My journey with Giclee printing continues, but so far I’m extremely chuffed with what I’ve achieved – insert smug face here… And yes, watch this space!

Footnote:

In case you were wondering, Affinity Photo is an excellent Photoshop look-a-like. I was a long time user of Photoshop, but Affinity does everything PS can in its own quirky way. And for a £47.00 one off payment with free updates it’s far more affordable than Adobe’s ongoing subscription model.