The surprising history of Giclee printing

Giclee printing has surprising origins that go back to Graham Nash of The Hollies and Crosby, Stills and Nash. As well as being a musician Nash was also a prolific photography collector and photographer acquiring thousands of prints during the 70s and 80s.  

In the late 1980s Nash began to experiment with digital images of his photography on Macintosh computers with the assistance of his then tour manager R. Mac Holbert. He found that he could create very sophisticated detailed image on the screen but there was not a printer capable of reproducing what he saw. In 1990 Nash purchased an IRIS Graphic 3047 inkjet printer traditionally used for Prepress Proofing for $126,000. This was used to print and exhibition of Graham Nash’s celebrity portraits.  

In 1991 Graham Nash agreed to fund Mac Holbert to start a fine art digital based printing company using the IRIS Graphics 3047 printer Nash has bought previously. They worked to further adapt the IRIS printer to suit it more to fine art printing, experimenting with ink sets to try to overcome the fast fading short longevity of IRIS prints, and even going as far as sawing off part of the print heads so they could be moved back to clear thicker printing paper stocks. Nash and Holbert decided to call their fine art prints "digigraph" but one of their employes Jack Duganne coined the name “Giclee” for these types of prints. The word Giclee is based on the French words "le gicleur" meaning "nozzle" and  "gicler" meaning "to squirt, spurt, or spray".

The word Giclee stuck and is now associated with high quality short run prints using fade free archival inks and papers. Giclee printing now has the widest choice in paper types and finishes and is the industry recognised word for this type of printing and the works that it produces. 

Above : Graham Nash second from left with original customised IRIS 3047 “Giclee” printer