Digitally-Printed Wall Coverings – from Niche Markets to Mainstream Applications

Digital wall covering can be used to change a room, business, tradeshow stand, or retail environment quickly and completely. It can add detail, and give the illusion of size or visual openness to a small, closed space. It can combine photo-realistic interest with information and company branding. With the advent of new materials, printers, and inks, only imagination limits where digital wall covering can go from here.

The Advantages of Digital

Since 1997, with the introduction of Intelicoat’s latex saturated papers for use on digital printers, interest has been steadily growing in digitally-printed wall coverings for commercial and residential murals. The advantages are many, with customization and short-run availability being two of the leaders. The years since have seen the introduction of a variety of new substrates that greatly expand the possibilities in material and creative applications. While there are many applications where a smooth, paper-type covering is suitable, the added interest possible with textures and patterns has driven the introduction of vinyl embossed substrates that resemble commercially available materials already familiar to the architectural and interior decoration industry. The main difference to the digital print manufacturer is that they are available in white, ready-to-print bolts.

Substrates and Coatings

The companies bringing this material to market have done their homework. They have worked closely with digital printers as well as equipment and ink manufacturers to offer materials that meet the limited-by-imagination-only needs of today’s designers and specifi ers. In some cases, adding imagery to a wall-mountable substrate fulfi lls the need for residential murals, exhibit and tradeshow graphics and environmental graphics. This has been done on a variety of previously available materials — such as paper and pressure-sensitive adhesive vinyl — but these often lack the added visual impact of texture, are too smooth to hide wallboard defi ciencies or are too glossy. The alternatives come from companies such as Ultrafl ex, Korographics, Cooley and Dreamscapes. These companies are well-versed in the requirements of today’s digital printers and ink sets. The digital printer packages the material in dimensions suitable for handling. This includes 3-inch cores, manageable weights and consistent coatings. Further, they retain the attributes expected by wall covering installers and specifiers: 54-inch widths with nominal variation from roll to roll, compatibility with existing tools and processes (such as paste and applicators) and, of course, added visual interest.

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