giclee printing terminology
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From gamut to giclée to gamma

We have included a glossary of terms on this website which we feel will be of benefit to whoever is involved in the giclée printing process. We find that our clients have a good grasp of the exacting standards that they need, and some essential vocabulary could be helpful. This glossary will hopefully help the process of producing giclée editions for our customers.
- achromatic colour
Neutral white, grey, or black that has no hue.
- additive colours
The three additive primary colours are red, green and blue. When these three colours of light are mixed in equal proportions, they will produce white light. Also known as additive primaries.
- black point
Colour that when scanned produces values of 0, 0, 0 in a scanner. Ideally, the black point is 0% neutral reflectance or transmittance. (see also "white point")
- calibration
The act of setting or adjusting the colour settings of one device relative to another, such as a monitor to a printer, or a scanner to a film recorder. Or, it may be the process of adjusting the colour of one device to some established standard.
- chromatic
Perceived as having a hue; not white, grey or black.
- chromaticity
Dimensions of colour stimulus expressed in terms of hue and saturation, or redness-greenness, and yellowness-blueness, excluding the luminous intensity; generally expressed as a point in a plane of constant luminance.
- CIE (Commission International de l'Eclairage)
The international commission on illumination. A set of colour standards based on mathematical modelling of human vision and light. CIE colour spaces are used for the communication of colour independent of a specific device.
- CIE LAB (L*a*b*)
A colour model to approximate human vision. The model consists of three variables: L* for luminosity, a* for one colour axis, and b* for the other colour axis.
(see "colour management")
Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (or Key) are the four colours used in process-colour printing. Also known as subtractive colour, the colour black is achieved by the presence of all inks.
- colorant
Any substance that imparts colour to another material or mixture. Colorants can be dyes or pigments.
- colorimeter
An instrument used for colour measurement based on optical comparison with standard colours. An instrument used for colour measurement based on optical comparison with standard colours. An instrument used for colour measurement based on optical comparison with standard colours. An instrument used for colour measurement based on optical comparison with standard colours.
- colorimeter
An instrument used for colour measurement based on optical comparison with standard colours.
- colorimetric
Of, or relating to, values giving the amounts of three collared lights or receptors-red, green, and blue. Adjective used to refer to measurements converted to psychophysical terms describing colour or colour relationships.
- colour compression
Shrinking the colour gamut of the original to the colour gamut a device will represent.
- colour curve
A graphic mechanism for displaying colour measurements and for making colour changes to an image. User adjustments to the angle and slope of the curve implement colour changes to one or all of an image's colour channels.
- colour model
A colour measurement scale or system that numerically specifies the perceived attributes of colour.
- colour profile
Also called "device profile," or simply "profile." This term refers to the relationship between the colour models of the system devices.
- colour saturation
Colour Strength. A measure of colour purity, or dilution by a neutral.
- colour space
Three-dimensional mathematical model enclosing all possible colours. The dimensions may be described in various geometries giving rise to various spacings. The parts of the visible spectrum which can be reproduced in a given medium. (i.e., RGB for computer monitors, CMYK for print, web safe index colours for the world wide web)
- colour temperature
The colour spectrum of a "black body" radiator heated to a given temperature on the Kelvin scale. The manufacturer's method of indicating the colour of a light source in degrees Kelvin (K); i.e., 2700K (yellow/white), 4100K (white), 5500K (blue/white).
- complementary colours
Two colours that, when combined, create neutral grey. On a colour wheel complements are directly opposite the axis from each other; blue/yellow, red/green, and so on.
- dye
A colorant that does not scatter light but that absorbs [and therefore reflects] certain wavelengths [of the electromagnetic spectrum] and transmits others. Dyes are generally organic and generally soluble in water or some other solvent system; or they may exist in such a finely dispersed state that they do not scatter light and behave as though they were in solution. The dividing line between a dye and a pigment may, therefore, be indefinite and dependent on the particular total system involved.
- gamut compression
The editing of an image to reduce the colour gamut so that the image can be displayed or output within the limits of a particular device.
- gamut mapping
The plotting of an image colour gamut into the CIE colour space.
Hue, luminance and saturation: a colour model based on these three coordinates of colour, where Hue is the dominant colour, Saturation is colour purity, and Luminance is the light/dark characteristic of the colour.
- monochrome
An image made of a range of only one colour.
- palette
The number of colours a device is capable of displaying and producing. Also the tools used in paint programs.
- process colour
The mechanical process of reproducing a full colour image with the three primary subtractive colour inks and black (CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black or "K"). When viewed under a loupe, the individual colour halftone dots can be seen in a process colour image.
A colour model using red, green, and blue; the additive primary colours. Video display systems use RGB data to create screen images.
- subtractive colour / reflective colour
The colour mixing system associated with pigments, as opposed to pure light. The term refers to the CMYK colour space used by conventional and digital printing devices to produce full-colour printing. Theoretically, when all three subtractive primary colours are mixed together the resulting colour is black. (see also "CMYK")
- tristimulus values, CIE
Amounts (in percent) of the three components necessary in a three-color additive mixture required for matching a colour; in the CIE system, they are designated as X, Y, and Z.
Some terms here are taken from the Glossary of Digital Art and Printmaking, compiled by the Digital Art Practices & Terminology Task Force (DAPTTF).
Copyright © 2006, DAPTTF. See:
Please browse the Glossary which has been divided into the following four sections:

Core vocabulary for all publishers.

Used for scanning, proofing and printing.

Technical words for digital imaging.

Some giclée printer's terminology.
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