Can You Embellish On That?

In the world of giclée printing—most notably canvas giclée printing—embellishing is the hot trend.

Whenever we discuss hand embellishing of prints, we get a flood of questions, like:

  • Should you embellish your giclées?
  • What choices are there for embellishing?
  • What products can be used?
  • How does embellishing affect archival quality or the print?
  • What the heck IS embellishing, anyway?

Webster’s dictionary defines embellish as:

  1. To make beautiful by ornamentation: adorn.
  2. To add fanciful details to.

As applied to canvas giclées, embellishment refers to painting over areas of the print to enhance color and/or adding brush strokes to the finished print. In order to shed some light on the subject, we ran some tests in our lab and have come up with the following list of do’s and don’ts for embellishing your giclée prints.

  1. Do not try to embellish watercolor giclées with paint. Although our giclée prints on watercolor paper are water resistant, the inks can be lifted with water and a brush. Instead, if you want to punch up a color, use a colored pencil (Berol or Prismacolor work well,) or use a pastel pencil. Use a light touch at first and experiment on your proof until you get the effect you are looking for. We recommend using pastel pencils, as they tend to have a duller finish than colored pencils.
  2. Canvas giclées come to you sprayed with a protective coating, allowing you to paint on top with acrylic paints. You can also use oil paints, but we have better success with acrylics. If using acrylic paints, mix a bit of gloss gel medium to the acrylic paint to provide a sheen that will match that of the canvas finish. Do not spray or varnish over the canvas after you have painted on top of it. Your finish may not be compatible with ours. How much or how little embellishing you do is entirely up to you.
  3. You can also add texture to your canvas giclées by adding brush strokes with Liquitex gel medium (make sure you get the kind that dries transparent). You can apply it pretty thick if you want – we applied areas up to about 1/8” thick and, although they took 24 hours to dry, they did dry transparently. If you want to embellish for color and add brush strokes, add the acrylic paint first, then the gel medium after the paint has dried thoroughly.
  4. You can add brush strokes to giclée prints on watercolor paper. However, we do not coat the watercolor paper, and adding the gel medium will noticeably alter the density – in other words, your print will appear much darker/punchier after applying gel medium. For this reason, we do not recommend adding texture to giclée prints on watercolor paper.
  5. It’s always better to stretch or mount your canvas giclée before adding texture or embellishing. If you stretch your canvas, start by stapling the middle of one side, pull tight, and staple the middle of the opposite side. Then do the same for the other sides, always making sure the canvas is stretched tight. Work your way around the canvas, top to bottom, left to right, stapling from the middle out, keeping the tension even. If the thought of stretching the canvas isn’t appealing, you can mount the canvas on ¼” archival foamboard using Laminall adhesive or Miracle Muck, both of which are available online or from art supply stores. Do not get either product on the front surface of your canvas print. It will remove the ink!

As always, you can call and talk to one of our specialists to get more information. 970-484-9650.