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(May 2012) posted on Thu May 03, 2012

Digitally produced wallcoverings are transforming empty spaces into a venue for marketing, rebranding, and self-expression.

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By Mike Antoniak

But there is a right media for every project, and providers should take that into account in initial discussions with clients, according to Myers. Print providers “will be well served when bidding on a job to make sure they know what the requirements are in terms of print quality, longevity, removability, and if the material must meet fire codes or be fire retardant,” he observes. “If you don’t, you could be exposing yourself to some liabilities you may not recognize.”

For example, says Myers, some have mistakenly assumed the wallcoverings market merely represented a new application for graphics printed on traditional adhesive-backed vinyl. That’s no longer the case. The choices in printable wallcovering material offer both breadth and depth. As far as material or media goes, it includes traditional wallcovering papers and fabrics optimized for digital inks, a growing subset of materials with repositionable or removable adhesive, and an emerging class of non-PVC films promoted as safer and more environmentally friendly for interior installations. Within these categories, many also offer a selection of textures or finishes to give wallcoverings a distinct look and feel.

Choices in this category may be referred to with terminology new to print providers. Traditional fabric-backed wallcovering media will be described as Type I, II, or III. Those numbers refer to the weight of a section of the material measuring 36 inches at the standard wallcovering width of 54 inches. Type I is a lightweight material; Type II the medium-duty material used for most commercial applications; and Type III the most durable material recommended for extremely abrasive conditions. These materials will also carry a fire burn rating of Class A or Class B, important considerations for complying with local building codes.

Depending on the choice of media, installation of interior wall graphics can be as critical as print quality to client satisfaction with the job. “If you’ve never done a wallcovering installation with traditional materials, this may be a situation where you should consider hiring a professional installer,” suggests Spotto. “Hanging and matching five panels of material with paste is not at all like working with adhesive backed vinyl.”

An array for digital print work
As indicated earlier, wallcovering products span the gamut these days, and there are dozens of manufacturers and suppliers of wallcovering-oriented media (see “Tracking Down Media,” pg xx). Some comments from each of the suppliers sourced here on their current wallcovering rosters: