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: printing
- archival
Of or about or pertaining to archives. A term that has been used extensively in conservation literature, but that lacks an internationally accepted definition. General understanding: with characteristics of long term stability (as in: archival quality). Considered meaningless unless qualified with additional information, data, etc.
- bon-a-tirer or BAT (bone-ah-ti-ray)
The proof accepted by the artist that is used as the standard for comparing all subsequent prints. Some printers require a signed BAT before production printing can begin.
- cartridge
The container for inks in inkjet printers. Chipped cartridges have electronic chips on them that can prevent refilling. Unchipped cartridges can be reused or used with inks other than those of the manufacturer.
- coating
The process of treating media or substrates to accept inkjet inks. Also, a thin covering providing protection from UV-induced fading, smudging and fingerprints, which may or may not improve the permanence of the print because most fading is due to visible light.
- cockling
(1) Describes the wavy or wrinkled appearance of paper when ink absorption limits have been exceeded. (2) A printing defect typically seen as deforming wrinkles on paper and usually caused by heavy ink loads or moisture.
- deckled edges
Fine watercolour papers have natural deckles on two or four sides. Frequently the look of a print is improved by tearing the paper rather then cutting it, creating "torn deckles." After tearing, a bone knife is used to smooth the edge and create the deckled look.
- Dmax
A measure of maximum density. When talking about paper and inks in digital printing--it can apply to many things--it is the blackest black possible.
- Dmin
Lowest level of density.
- dot
Dots make up an image in colour separations or halftones. Halftone dots will have a fixed density but have variable size (amplitude modulation).
- dot gain
The phenomenon that occurs when ink expands its coverage during printing onto a substrate; often caused by abnormal or excessive absorption by the substrate.
- dry down
The amount of time until inks are stable.
- expanded-gamut printing
Printing system wherein manufacturers add additional colours of ink to expand the range of the standard cyan, magenta, yellow, black (CMYK) inkset. Lighter densities of cyan and magenta (LC, LM) and orange and green (O, G) and multiple blacks are the most popular.
- fading
A subjective term used to describe the lightening of the hue of a colorant following exposure to the effects of light, heat, time, temperature, chemicals, and so on.
- finish
The surface properties of a material determined by its surface contour and gloss, texture, colour, smoothness, or other properties affecting appearance.
- format
Characteristic identifying size of printer, media, or graphic, according to width of media roll, printer's print area, or graphic. "Medium Format" is generally taken to be between 11-24" in width; "Large Format" (Wide Format), larger than 24" in width; and "Grand Format," larger than 72" in width.
- ink
A fluid or viscous substance used for writing or printing. In digital printing, the substance in inkjet printing (liquid or solid) that gets sprayed onto the medium; made up of a colorant, a solvent or vehicle, and various additives.
- IRIS or IRIS print
The branded inkjet printer that produced the early "digital fine art prints" and for which the term "giclée" was first used. Currently no longer being manufactured.
- laser printer
A laser printer uses a laser beam to write on a photoconductive revolving drum that is coated with toner, which is a fine, black powder. After the image is transferred to paper it passes through a pair of heated rollers or a fuser that melts the toner fusing it with the paper fibres.
- lithograph
The process of printing from a stone or metal plate on which the image to be printed is ink-receptive and the blank area is ink repellent. (see "Printing Technologies" analysis)
- matrix
Traditionally, the plate or surface upon which an image is inscribed in order to hold ink for the purpose of transferring the image to the substrate or paper. In digital terms the matrix becomes the electronic file located on a computer's hard drive or resident memory or stored on a disk or CD. This matrix is made up of binary encoded information that can describe to how the image file should appear on the digital raster screen or print.
- microporous
Refers to inkjet media with a receptor coating containing voids that the ink fills, rapidly absorbing the ink within the media rather than simply applying it to the surface of the media. This rapid absorption essentially makes it instantaneously "dry" to the touch.
- nozzle
In inkjet printing, the orifice in the printhead from which ink droplets are ejected.
- orientation
The direction that the page is printed; horizontal = landscape, vertical = portrait.
- output
In digital printing technology, to translate information from the computer to an external device (e.g., a printer or monitor); to print. Also, the visual display of digital information, or that which is printed or displayed.
- piezoelectric (or piezo)
An inkjet printing technology that uses electricity to "fire" the nozzle. (see "Digital Printing" analysis)
- portrait, portrait mode
The orientation of an image that is taller than it is wide; a setting controlling an output device to properly fit a computer document to the print medium. Vertical.
- print density or optical density (OD)
The print density of an inkjet hardcopy is the visually perceivable and densitometrically measurable absorption of light on the surface due to the presence of a colorant. OD only measures the surface density of a dry hardcopy, not the density of the total amount of ink that was sprayed onto the medium.
- print permanence
The resistance of a print to physical change of any type, from any source, be it light, heat, acids, etc.
- print service provider (PSP)
A commercial, digital printing agency or firm that takes an artist's image file and prints it to the artist's specifications.
- printer driver
Printer-specific software that allows a computer to communicate with the printer. If available, provided by the printer manufacturer. (see also "RIP")
- printhead
Part of a digital printer that is directly responsible for applying ink to a medium.
- printmaker
A person producing actual prints from the artist's master file, under the artist's supervision.
- receptor coating
Chemical layer adhered to the surface of the media that has the function of receiving and binding ink arriving from the printhead nozzle. (see "coating" and "inkjet coating")
- registration
A process used to align an image to a particular placement on a surface before printing or transferring to that surface.
- substrate
Ultimately, the material that receives the printed image. Sometimes called "media" in digital printing. The single or multi-layered base material of the medium, which can have a very simple or complex structure and is a carrier for the coating, if present.
- UV ink
Term used in relation to ultraviolet properties in inkjet ink, in two different manners: (1) ink that is resistant to UV light degradation, or (2) ink that is "cured" or dried by exposure to UV light.
- UV protective glaze
An acrylic sheet used in framing art. It has ultraviolet light inhibitors capable of filtering out 99 percent of UV rays (one of the causes of print fading).
- UV resistance
The resistance of something to change under UV light sources including daylight.
- water-resistant
A surface that can resist dampness but not a soaking of water such as that tolerated by a waterproof surface. Generally implies a lesser degree of protection against water than the term "waterfast," but still improves the material's resistance to water damage.
What You See Is What You Get. Refers to the ability to output data from computers exactly as it appears on the screen.
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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