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Con Boland Photography

What is the difference between piezo, giclée and lithography printing?

Since the advent of digital image–capture and printing well over a decade ago, there have been tremendous advances in image production. Especially in high quality archival printing, there has been nothing short of a revolution. Today, artists use many types of printers such as thermal wax, dye sublimation, laser and inkjet. There has been some “con”fusion (pardon the pun) about the words giclée, piezo and lithography. Here are some explanations.

The piezo digital printing process

Piezo printing is a mechanical process that is akin to the operation of a piston. The piezo crystal flexes when a charge is applied. It returns to a resting state when the printer releases this charge. The action pushes drops of paint or ink out of the nozzle and across an air gap onto the printing surface. Because of this air gap, we can print directly on many substrates including but not limited to fine artist canvas or heavily textured fine art and watercolor papers. Piezo printing technology can use dye-based and pigment-based colours.*

Giclée printing

Giclée prints can be of a very high quality and you will often find them in art galleries. The process is similar to piezo printing with the difference being that they are reproductions. An original piece of art or painting is scanned or photographed and from this digital file, we then make reproductions.


Lithography comes from the Greek words — lithos, "stone" and graphο, "to write." It was a method for printing using a limestone printing surface, etched with acid. This formed a surface that selectively transferred ink to the paper. These days, stones are replaced with metal plates.
The quality and dye stability of lithographs are over-rated and often inferior to other printing processes.

* Dye-based and pigment-based inks and paints

Most printing materials that you encounter in day-to-day life such as posters and magazines are dye-based. They can have excellent colour quality but are not long lasting as the images fade over too short a period.

It is interesting to note that traditional colour photographs are dye-based. The reason black and white photographs are standing the test of time for well over a century is that they are based on silver bromide.

Pigment-based paints or inks are more expensive to produce, as there are actual particles of material such as Indian yellow, lapis lazuli, titanium dioxide (a bright white chemical often found
in sand) and carmine embedded. Therefore, they have excellent colour and archival properties.

Pigment-based colours are the choice for works of lasting value and for those we wish to preserve for future generations.

You guessed it; we use pigments for all our wall portraits.

Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter.

Con Boland, MPA

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Business hours: 1 PM – 5 PM MST
and by appointment.

10107 – 89 Street
Edmonton, AB  T5H 1P6

Copyright 2009 Con Boland. All rights reserved.