What Should I Call My Prints?

16th September 2015 Printing , Papers & Presentation


We're often asked what is the best description to use for prints made at Image Science, or prints made on home pigment inkjet printers. When prints are for sale, this can be an important question and can help your print buyers know what they're buying, and therefore help you make sales.

Image by Jon Schultz Art
Image by Jon Schultz Art

Pigment Ink Print on Archival Paper is probably the best term to use as it is accurate and easy for the layman to understand. Variants might be 'Pigment ink on cotton rag' or simply 'Pigment ink on rag'. This is more specific and should only be used if the paper is actually cotton - many archival papers are not. The more generic term is probably best. It describes the inks - stable, pigment based inks, not dyes, and the paper substrate as archival, this is assuming you have used an acid free, fibre based paper that may also be buffered. This immediately promotes a sense of longevity and stability, so people buying the prints can feel confident they are buying a product made to last.

They are also commonly referred to as Giclee prints, Inkjet Prints or Photographic Prints. These terms are not recommended and we generally advise against using them, although Giclee Prints is in common use, particularly in the art reproduction world.

Giclee Print was derived in America from the French word 'Giclee' meaning 'to squirt, spray' and was first used as a term to describe the way in which the ink is placed onto the paper through an inkjet printer. In French, it's actually used as a rude word with a sexual connotation. We generally recommend avoiding this term if possible - it doesn't have the same type of archival quality associated with it as Pigment Ink Print on Archival Paper does and has definitely gone down in popularity over the years, even in the American art market.

Inkjet Print is the most basic term. While it's technically accurate, there may still be some negative association with inkjet printing in uninformed circles, and it doesn't tell the viewer what type of inkjet print is. It could be a dye based print on an acid riddled paper, and thus be prone to fading/yellowing in a few months.

Photographic Print is probably too broad a term and also has a historical implication of a chemistry based print - i.e. one made with light sensitive paper using a photographic exposure based process, such as traditional darkroom prints or more modern alternatives made with machines like the Pegasus, Lightjet and Lamda machines. These prints are also often called 'C-Type' prints (C for Chemistry).