Using Printers to Create Artwork


Friday June 9, 2017

When you’re printing emails, spreadsheets or memos, it’s hard to imagine creating art with your inkjet or laser printer. We often think of a printer’s job just to spit out what we’ve sent it to print. But, both inkjet and laser printers, along with a good dose of imagination and a desire to experiment, can be used to produce captivating art.

Inkjet for Giclees

Since giclee (pronounced zhee-clay) is a French word meaning “That which is squirted or sprayed,” it stands to reason giclee prints are produced using an inkjet printer. At first, giclees pertained only to high quality reproductions of art, including photographs. However, today the term includes art created digitally.

For giclees, you’ll have to acquire the right tools for the project. You wouldn’t paint a masterpiece using crayons. Similarly, you would not use just any printer, paper or ink to create a giclee.

Printer – Giclee prints are not typically created with the conventional desktop printer found in a home or office. Printers used to make giclees are usually larger than the conventional printer in large part because they hold eight to 12 different color cartridges. The cost of giclee printers start around $300.

Ink – Since giclee prints are considered art, which is intended to last many years, pigment-based inks are used instead of dye-based inks. Pigment-based inks can last up to 200 years before fading occurs.

Paper – When it comes to printing giclees, archival, or long-lasting, paper should be used when printing the final work. The paper should be acid-free and 100 percent cotton-based. This kind of paper is best for color reproduction but is also more expensive than copy paper.

When it comes time to print your giclee, you will want to print at high resolution – at least 300 dpi. High resolution will ensure detail on the print is sharp. A lower resolution could reveal fragmentation. The high definition of details is one of the most attractive aspects of giclee prints.

Layers of Laser

Instead of ink in inkjet cartridges, laser toner cartridges contain powder. But you can still create art with a laser printer. While inkjet printers are great for making very detailed representations, laser printers have been used to make compelling abstract art like that of Marsha Cottrell.

She uses several images to create a single image, which requires the observer to look closely. To do this, she handfeeds the paper through the printer, often several times, during a layering process.

Cottrell’s methods include:

  • Creating one layer at a time on her computer screen
  • Dragging, rotating and repeating shapes before feeding through the printer
  • Using different tones and spacing
  • Printing on handmade paper

Other artists have used laser printers along with laminators to adhere colored foil layers to their work.  

Local Experts
We are here to help with local, friendly advice. Our experienced and impartial staff will take the time to understand your printing needs and recommend the right printer and supplies for you – whether you’re creating modern art or printing off coupons. Find a Cartridge World store near you.