What is the Difference Between Lithograph, Giclée, and Photomechanical Graphic Art?

For those exploring the idea of purchasing fine art, the plethora of terms for prints that may look very similar to one another at first glance can be confusing. However, those terms, strictly speaking, are not interchangeable. Knowing which is which will tell you how a particular piece of art was produced and can provide a clue as to the work’s potential value.

What is the Difference Between Lithograph Giclee and Photomechanical Graphic Art | Auction King

Lithograph: Lithography, which dates from 1796, is a method of printing from a plate directly onto a smooth surface. An artist paints an image onto the plate using a substance that will attract oil-based inks, while the other areas of the plate are dampened with water to repel the ink. The plate is then pressed onto paper to create the image. Old-fashioned methods of lithography used oil or wax to draw on a limestone plate, while modern methods use a polymer applied to a flexible aluminum plate. In fine art printing, a limited number of prints are usually made from a single plate, which may then be destroyed to permanently cap the number of artworks made from it.

Giclée: Giclée (pronounced zhee-clay), is a more modern technique of producing high-quality prints. The term was coined in 1991 to describe high-resolution fine art prints made on professional quality 8- to 12-color inkjet printers. This production process offers some significant advantages to artists. Because giclée prints are produced from digital files, artists can create original artworks directly in digital form and customize the sizes of prints made from that artwork. The technique can also be used to produce copies of original artworks in other formats from digital photos. It’s an excellent choice for producing just a small number of prints, since the technique essentially amounts to print-on-demand for fine art images. And when it is done on archival quality paper with pigment-based inks, giclée offers superior color reproduction and excellent longevity. A high-quality giclée can last 100 years or more if properly cared for.

Photomechanical graphic art: These types of prints are typically reproductions of artwork originally produced in another medium, such as a print of an oil painting. They may be produced by methods such as offset lithography, which combines lithographic plates with offset printing (where an inked image is transferred first to a rubber blanket and then to the final printing surface). Because of the significant time and expense involved in setting up a print run, printers will make hundreds of copies of the same artwork. The longevity of any given print depends greatly on the quality of the paper and inks used. This type of print is an affordable choice for those looking to enjoy art without the prohibitive cost of purchasing an original.

Purchasing at auction is a great way to begin or to add to a fine art collection without blowing your budget. Auction King has a frequently updated selection of lithographs, giclées, and photomechanical graphic art available. Register for a free account today, and you’ll be on your way to the art collection that expresses your individual style.

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