Well, let’s start with the word’s meaning: "giclée" is the French word for “to spray” and it is generally recognized in the industry as the term refers to ink applied on a substrate. In effect, a giclée is a top shelf inkjet print. All giclée prints are technically created by inkjet printer systems, but not all inkjets are capable of creating giclées.
It's like comparing a row boat to a yacht: they both float and move across the water, but one absolutely does it with more style.
So why are giclée prints so special?
A regular desktop inkjet printer may be high quality and may even provide you with good quality photo prints, but it’s likely to use no more than 6 inks. The service I use has large format fine art printers, and use over 10 different inks, allowing for finer gradients and much more vivid hue and depth of color. Giclée prints are also created with pigment light-fast inks, rather than dyes, providing more accurate color reproduction.
Resolution is the dots of ink per square inch or in technology terms, the amount of pixels per inch. The more dots you have in a print and the finer they are, the more realistic your reproduction will appear. A desktop inkjet printer may boast a high resolution output, but a giclée printer generally boasts a higher resolution, paired with a finer spray, so the smoothness of the print is substantially more sophisticated and detailed.
The giclée printers used for my prints print on a wide variety of substrates with various thicknesses and finishes. This means that we can print an image that was originally a watercolor, for example, on a very high quality, heavy, “cold-pressed” paper to achieve the most realistic reproduction possible.
A giclée print is created to last. 100+ years of life is standard without the degradation of inks resulting in fading color. A fine art giclée print is a valid investment when the cost of an original artwork is too high. Most importantly (for me) it’s a fabulous opportunity for artists like myself to offer a lower price point to customers, while maintaining the quality and originality of their work.