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.
LIST OF TERMS: essentials
- artist's proof
One of a small group of prints set aside from the edition for the artist's use; a number of printer's proofs are sometimes also done for the printer's use.
- brightness
The overall intensity of the image. The lower the brightness value, the darker the image; the higher the value, the lighter the image will be. (see "chroma")
- Certificate of Authenticity
1. A written or printed description of the multiple which is to be sold, exchanged, or consigned by an art dealer. [CALIF. CIVIL CODE] 2. A written statement by an art merchant confirming, approving, or attesting to the authority of a work of fine art or multiple, which is capable of being used to the advantage or disadvantage of some person. [IOWA CIVIL CODE] 3. A written statement disclosing certain key facts about a multiple print.
- chroma
A measure of saturation associated with colour; degree of colour purity; relative brightness of a hue when compared to another.
- colour balance
The ability to reproduce the colours of a scene to some acceptable standard.
- colour calibration
A system of software and/or hardware that adjusts and coordinates colours between two or more digital devices. Colour calibration systems commonly compare device colour profiles and translate one colour model into a device-independent language.
- colour gamut
A range of colours that can be reproduced by a given system.
- colour management (colour management system)
An advanced technology that uses profiles of the input and output devices to maximize colour accuracy and consistency. Targets that include over 3000 colours are printed and measured with a colorimeter to create profiles for the various ink/media combinations. A combination of software and or hardware devices used to produce accurate colour results throughout a digital-imaging system.
- contrast
Tonal gradation between the highlights, midtones, and shadows in an image. High contrast implies dark black and bright white. Medium contrast implies a good spread from black to white, and Low contrast implies a narrow spread of values from black to white. Also, understood in terms of "Rate of Falloff." High contrast implies a rapid transition between black and white, whereas a slow "rate of falloff" produces gradual or smooth transition between light and dark.
- copyright
Legal basis for the owner's control of the usage of his images or artworks.
- digital
Type of data consisting of (or systems employing) discreet steps or levels, as opposed to continuously variable analogue data.
- digital art
Art created with one or more digital processes or technologies.
- digital fine art print
A fine art print made by any digital output process conforming to traditional fine art qualifications and requirements.
- digital printer
A non-impact printing device that is capable of translating digital data into hard copy output. Typically refers to printing with one of the digital output technologies (inkjet, electrostatic, thermal transfer, or laser photoprinting).
Dots per inch. A measure of the detail of a print. "Apparent dpi" refers to the fact that the eye perceives a giclée as having greater detail than in does in physical reality.
- dynamic range
The measurable difference between the brightest highlight and the darkest value.
- edition
The aggregate of identical prints produced from a single matrix. (see also "open edition," "limited edition," and "variant edition")
- gamut
A finite or limited range of colours provided by a specific input or output device, or by a set of colorants.
- giclée
(1) A print made by a digital process, typically inkjet. (2) A copy (typically identical) of an original work of art (as a painting) that was created separately and then reproduced digitally, specifically by inkjet printing. First used in this context by Jack Duganne in 1991 to describe prints made on an IRIS inkjet printer. Pronounced [ zhee-clay ].
- greyscale
An image having no colour hues but containing a range of grey levels as opposed to only pure black or white.
- highlight
The lightest area within an image. Also called "specular reflection."
- hue
The attribute of colour by means of which a colour is perceived to be red, yellow, green, blue, purple, etc.
- inkjet
A digital printing technology that uses nozzles to spray ink onto a surface. (see "Digital Printing" analysis)
- inkjet printer
A type of printer that sprays tiny spurts of ink onto coated paper. (see "Digital Printing" analysis)
- large-format
A printer, media, or print 24" or greater in width.
- lightfast
Resistant to the destructive action of light.
- limited edition
A number of multiples or identical artworks that are produced from a single master or matrix, all of which depict the identical image, and which may bear the artist's signature and numbers indicating the unique number of the specific print as well as the stated maximum number of prints in the edition. (see also "edition" and "open edition")
- matte finish
A low-gloss finish with very little reflective quality.
- media
Another term for substrate; the materials to be printed, such as watercolour papers, canvas, copper, wood veneer, cotton, or plastic. The common term used in digital printing.
- midtones
Tones in an image that are in the middle of the tonal range, halfway between the lightest and the darkest. Also called "middle values."
- open edition
An edition or set of identical prints from a single master or matrix that is not limited in number. (see also "edition" and "limited edition")
- pigment
Colorant consisting of particles made up of many synthetic dye molecules or carbon black. Generally more stable than dyes of the same colour. Pigmented inkjet inks are credited with better longevity and may have a narrower colour gamut. Finely ground insoluble dispersed particles that, when dispersed in a liquid vehicle, can be made into a paint or ink.
- print
1. In the context of fine art, an original work of art (as a woodcut, lithograph, photograph, or digital print) where the art object or artwork does not exist until it is printed. The print is made directly from the matrix by the artist or pursuant to his/her directions. Also known as "fine print," "work on paper," and "original print." 2. A physical image, usually on paper, produced by, but not limited to, such processes as etching, lithography, serigraphy, relief printing, photography, or digital methods. Prints are usually, but not always, produced on paper and in multiples. Traditional, photographic, and digital processes can be used to produce prints.
- print on demand
The ability of digital printing to produce prints individually or sporadically over an extended period of time, with consistency. This allows orders of a small number of prints when needed--"print on demand."
- profile
A file of data or values. In digital printing, generally used to refer to a colour profile, especially of a specific piece of equipment (monitor, printer, scanner, etc.) that enables the user to correlate colour consistently on various devices.
- proof
A preliminary print used to evaluate aspects of the image (colour, density, resolution, etc.) prior to final printing.
- rag (cotton rag)
In the context of paper manufacturing, cotton rags are a source for high quality cellulose fibres. In fine art printmaking, refers to rag content of paper, generally high-quality paper.
- reproduction
A copy of an original work of art. In the context of digital art, a copy of artwork that already exists in some other original form or material (painting, drawing, et al.) prior to the fixing of the image of that original work on the current printing matrix. (see also "giclée")
- resolution
A definition of resolution in terms of pixels per inch, or pixel density. Refers to the number of smallest discernable dots or pixels. A measurement of the "fineness" of detail reproduction given in line pairs per mm, or pixels per inch. (see "DPI" and "PPI")
- retouching
Removing imperfections or unwanted portions of an image.
- saturation
A measure of purity of colour. Saturated colours contain pure colour only, colours desaturate to grey. Saturation is a measure of the degree of pureness or movement away from grey. The amount of grey in a colour. More grey means lower saturation; less grey means higher saturation. If a colour has no saturation, it is a shade of grey. Saturation is also the degree to which a colour is undiluted by white light. (see "chroma")
- scan
The process of translating a picture from reflective art or transparency into digital information.
- scanner
A hardware peripheral that illuminates, reads, and then converts original text, artwork, or film into digital data. Types of scanners include flatbed, film, and drum.
- shadow detail
Subtle features in the darker part of an image.
- sharpening
1. A picture enhancement making the image have more distinct borders, areas, lines, or tones. 2. An option on some scanners that emphasizes detail by increasing the contrast of the boundaries between light and dark areas of an image.
- signed
Carrying an original signature of the artist. In law: 1. Autographed by the artist's own hand, and not by mechanical means of reproductions, and if a multiple, after the multiple was produced, whether or not the master was signed. [IOWA CIVIL CODE] [GEORGIA CODE SIMILAR] 2. The artist signed the print multiple by hand to signify the artist's examination and approval of the print. "Signed" does not mean the act of leaving an impression of the artist's name upon the print by any mechanical process. [HAWAII CIVIL CODE]
- soft proof
Viewing a digital image with a monitor instead of generating a hard copy proof. Can be done from a remote location via the Internet.
- variant edition
A set of prints of the same image but varying as to size, coloration, image consistency, materials, or being otherwise differentiated.
- watermark
A faint marking on the back of some photographic papers indicating that the picture was taken by a professional photographer. Also, term for a faint image superimposed on a digital image to protect rights of ownership. An identifying mark or symbol imbedded in the substrate on which the art is made, usually referring to the maker of the substrate.
- white point
The colour and intensity of a device's brightest white. With printers, this is usually the white of the paper. With scanners, the colour that when scanned produces values of 255, 255, 255 (RGB). Ideally, the white point is 100 percent neutral reflectance or transmittance. (see also "reflectance")
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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