What is the difference between....

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Dec 8, 2003
...a giclee and a canvas transfer?

I’m guessing the difference is a technicality so feel free to get as technical as necessary. Do you handle them differently?
a gilcee is an ink jet print generally on paper or canvas

a canvas transfer is a standard poster mounted on canvas after most of the paper has been removed

and, Yes
Please could you be less specific on how to handle them differently, Less?
One with respect and one with Less.

Jay, for some reason there are a lot of people who have said that they have had troubles stretching giclees.....

I've never had the problem. But I have had trouble with a bad transfer where they had just glued down the print onto canvas..... the paper won't stretch like canvas.... they seperated.
I haven't had any problems stretching giclees, they seem easy to stretch, just make sure the corners are nice and neat.

Spritz a little bit of water on the "bad transfer prints on canvas" to stretch it, and when it dries it tightens up so you can bounce a quarter off of it.

I also have the giclees printed on waterproof canvas, so you can have outside art, they have a UV coating on them.

Giclee is French for "Spitting of ink" or something like that. The term generally applies to ink-jet reproductions of digital images.

Giclees may be printed on paper, and framed similar to paper photographs.

Or, paper giclees may be transferred to canvas, making them canvas-transfer giclees. These are the ones difficult to stretch, because, as Baer said, paper doesn't stretch with the canvas; it shreds or separates.

Giclees may also be printed directly to canvas, which makes them easier and more reliable to stretch. However, I've heard some photographers complain that direct-canvas printing is not as good as paper printing.

It's hard to keep up with all the new technologies, isn't it?
So the main difference isn't the method used to print but the method of attaching it to canvas?

The reason I ask is that Bruce McGaw had send out a brochure where they are selling canvas transfers but like Ellen noted it was drastically cheaper than canvas giclees.
The process of transferring a poster to canvas is similar to transferring a giclee to canvas. However, most canvas-transferred giclees are limited editions, and sold at higher prices.

I think the price difference is due to the price of the art, not a difference of technique.
While there is no governing body dictating exactly what a giclee is, I think there is a general consensus. Giclees are high quality reproductions made on 6 color + inkjet printers; these printers can have as many as 8 colors. Giclees are printed on quality 100% cotton papers and canvas. Some giclees are printed with dye inks (early Iris giclees) which have an astounding color gamut but are prone to early fading. Currently most giclees are printed with pigmented inks with a somewhat limited gamut but with much greater longevity (as much as 200 years with Epson's Archival ink set). There is a reasonable discussion of the process on our web site under Digital Services.

I don't think any paper print mounted on canvas would be generally considered a giclee. Giclees really are very high quality reproductions superior to any other reproduction process.

As an aside, a 30 x 40 reproduction printed at 1440dpi (virtually continuous tone) can take as long as 30 minutes to print so it's difficult to mass produce these reproductions. These reproductions, carefully made, are indistinguishable from the original offering a really good less expensive access to fine art.

I've seen giclees refered to here as photo reproductions and I think that term is misleading. When I look at a giclee, I see no photo quality at all. A giclee of a water color printed on textured water color paper looks exactly like a water color; only an expert with a 10 power loup could tell he wasn't looking at a water color. It certainly does not like like a photograph of a water color.

I think we'll see a lot of giclees in the future (especially in high quality reproductions) simply because they offer extrodinary images at affordable prices. I don't think they should considered as equal to offset lithographic reproductions mounted to canvas.

As to stretching a giclee, there should be no more problems involved than in stretching a painted canvas. The substrate for both is the same. Ink jet canvas is pretty much the same as primed canvas. We coat all our canvas reproductions with a pliable varnish either glossy or matt. Any reproduction canvas produced by a reputable printer should be waterproof.
Hey Jim,

Never heard of Giclee canvas transfers?

Does not make any sense, when they can be printed directly to canvas.

I wonder if there is a misunderstanding?


There is a huge difference between ink jet (giclee) printing and offset (typical poster and L/E print) printing.

The terms Giclee and canvas transfers are completely unrelated. I may be mistaken, but I don't believe Giclees' printed on paper are ever transfered to canvas.
there have been problems with stretching image-transfer canvases because some canvases may have cotton warp and cotton/poly weft, or something like that...point being that cotton and poly don't have same characteristics, regarding stretch and reaction to humidity. In the end, stretching well depends on quality of canvas and that can vary...
Originally posted by Less:
Hey Jim,

Never heard of Giclee canvas transfers?

Does not make any sense, when they can be printed directly to canvas.

I wonder if there is a misunderstanding?
Nearly any art reproduced on paper may be transferred to canvas, including all kinds of digital art. Ink-jet printing directly onto canvas is relatively new to the mass market. Early digital reproductions had to be on paper, which could then be transferred to canvas.

Why would an artist prefer to canvas-transfer digitally-reproduced art on paper, rather than printing directly onto canvas? To achieve what he/she may feel is a better quality result for a particular image.

I have heard artists complain that digital images printed directly on canvas do not match the quality of the same image reproduced on paper, then transferred to canvas.

Warren says the term "giclee" applies only to high quality digital images. His perception is not universally accepted. Artists and publishers may market lesser-quality digital images as giclees, without fear of retribution. There is no agreed "giclee" standard to be met.

Back to the original question:

A giclee is a digital ink-jet reproduction, which may be reproduced on paper or canvas. And if it is reproduced on paper, it may then be transferred to canvas.