By Lisa Guerriero
Graphics put a fresh face on any wall, whether for advertising or décor. As the market expands, print providers can choose from more substrates than ever before. Wall media is available for every application, from a short-term outdoor project on an uneven surface to long-term indoor use on a smooth wall.
Wallcoverings are available in vinyl, film, fabric, and paper. Some are repositionable while others are non-removable. There are options for texture, finish, intended setting, and longevity.
Meeting the customer’s needs depends on choosing the correct media. The substrate and installation method affect durability and adhesion. These elements influence where and how a product is effectively used.
Vinyl-based material is one of the largest and most diverse categories of wall media, due to the variety of applications and environments where it is used.
“Customers print poster size images and full wall murals as well as use cut vinyl designs and rough brick designs everywhere from schools and hospitality to retail and airports,” notes Jason Yard, marketing manager, MACtac Distributor Products.
The required experience level also varies. Many vinyl products are peel and stick, making them easier to install and repositionable. “Installers do not need extensive experience because these products are very easy to install,” explains Nate Goodman, product manager, Drytac Corporation.
Repositionable wall media is popular for “indoor retail and in-store environments because of its ease of installation,” comments Matt Meyer, marketing coordinator, Plastiprint Sales Company.
Cindy Richards, regional technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, says vinyl wall graphics are ideal for everything from restaurants to airports to boardrooms. However, installers should keep several factors in mind. “Vinyl films will not stick to low-energy surface paints, low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints, or paints with any type of anti-properties—anti-graffiti, -rust, -dust, or -static,” she points out.
Kelly Kwo, technical service manager, Arlon Graphics, LLC, agrees that some paints aren’t receptive to certain adhesives. She recommends testing any wall media before final installation, and selecting a product with strong grip.
Some vinyl products target shorter term applications, like promotional campaigns. “Pressure-sensitive vinyl is popular for point of purchase (POP) wall graphics because of the ease of printing and attractive price point,” offers Stan Holt, business development manager North America, Continental Grafix US.
Accommodating surfaces can be just as important as replicating the wall’s texture on the media. “Conforming and shaping to textured surfaces such as brick, cinder block, stucco, and concrete is prevalent in vinyl wallcoverings,” says Micah Causey, VP, AlumiGraphics by FloorSignage.
Most vinyl products last up to two years outside and ten years indoors. Longevity and environment vary, and usually determine the cost. Indoor wallcoverings meant to last a few months start at about 18 cents per square foot, with higher prices for longer lasting media and outdoor products. Specialty products are on the higher end, starting at about $2 per square foot.
Film-based wallcoverings are often designed for specialized surfaces, both commercial and residential.
“Textured surfaces have become popular because they often appear to mimic paint on brick, for example. This creates a wow factor and a desire to touch the wallcovering that draws attention to spaces where people might not expect to see graphics, such as on the side of a building,” observes Alan Miller, tech services, 3M Commercial Solutions. The company cites a growing demand for this in the past few years.
Many products for outdoor walls are film-based, designed to be durable—even for long-term applications. “The goal is to always offer the ideal solution for the specific environment,” explains Karin Biel, marketing, ASLAN, Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG.
Some wallcovering films are intended for indoor use, but offer unique top coats to intentionally change the look and feel of the wall. “For example, a range of textures and specialty substrates provide a metallic look,” notes Lisa Schultz, operations manager, DreamScape.
With film, vendors typically recommend professional installation because the media is challenging to work with. In certain scenarios, a coating is required. Film wall media lasts anywhere from a few months to eight years depending on the product.
Keeping the specialty nature of this media in mind, the cost is usually a little higher than other wallcovering products. Prices start at about 85 cents per square foot and continue over a few dollars per square foot, depending on the product.
Fabric wallcoverings are typically, though not exclusively, designed for indoor use. When installed inside, they last up to five or more years, depending on the product and the conditions.
The texture of fabric lends itself to many specialized products. Finishes include diamond, gold, and silver. These products are generally used in “high-fashion retail environments, museums, and galleries,” shares Blaise Humphries, business unit manager, DHJ International.
Some jobs require non-vinyl wall media, observes Jim Tufts, business unit manager, Perception Wide Format Media. “The fabric provides a more aesthetically appealing finished product, and is easy to install and remove without distortion,” he explains.
Alan Dworman, president, Catalina Graphic Films, notes that textured fabric wallcoverings provide an upscale look.
In addition to the reputation for providing a prestige finish, fabric wall media offers other benefits. “Polyester will not stretch or wrinkle during installation as it is very stiff and flat. Full-bleed graphics printed to the edge will not curl back, shares Marcel Medved, director of business development Americas, Kernow Coatings Ltd.
“The tear and tensile strength contribute to a durable product,” adds Dennis Duhon, GM, Koroseal Interior Products LLC.
Rachna Patel, marketing coordinator, Presto Tape, agrees that fabric products provide a rigid, resilient print. “We believe that buyers are shying away from vinyl for wallcoverings because vinyl tends to curl or shrink after installation. With fabric wallcoverings there will be no peeling or shrinking,” argues Patel.
Top Value Fabrics also praises the benefits of working with fabric media. Jeff Nonte, print media program manager, Top Value Fabrics, describes it as “flame resistant, water resistant, quick drying, and doesn’t wrinkle or tear.”
Walter Gierlach Jr., president, Photo Tex Group, Inc., believes customers want a product that’s easy to remove without leaving residue or damaging the surface. “Customers also want to install the material on low- or no-VOC paint or a textured surface with eggshell paint,” he says.
Fabric wall media is considered a “green” option. “It’s an unbeatable choice for use in buildings where low VOC levels are especially important, such as schools, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities,” suggests Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland DGA Corporation.
Ease of use is part of the appeal of fabric wallcoverings. Fabric media with pressure-sensitive adhesive is especially popular, according to John D. Peterman, EVP – sales and marketing, Big Systems, LLC. “It is highly conformable, adheres well to irregular surfaces, and easily removable and repositionable,” he explains.
Fabric with a pressure-sensitive adhesive, specifically a silicone release liner, is suitable for novice users, notes Dennis Brunnett, product manager, advertising, product branding business team, FLEXcon.
However, not all fabric wallcoverings utilize pressure-sensitive adhesive. Some rely on a traditional wallpaper-style application, with paste applied to the back of the fabric. “It produces stunning visual appearance when installed,” suggests Kylie Schleicher, marketing manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.
The cost of fabric wall media starts at about .42 cents per square foot. Prices are significantly higher for more specialized products, up to $7.50 per square foot.
Paper wallcoverings are on the rise, according to several vendors. Dan Orefice, president, DaVinci Technologies, predicts a growing trend in both fabric- and paper-based wallcoverings, especially due to ink advancements, which allow for printing on coated and uncoated substrates.
Kristina Devine, marcom and product support specialist, Coveris Advanced Coatings, agrees, noting that two of the company’s paper products are some of its most popular offerings.
Environmental concerns drive this trend. Similar to fabric, paper-based wallcoverings also carry green certifications for use in schools, homes, and healthcare facilities. “Many people today are looking for alternatives to PVC-based products,” observes Sean McGettigan, technical marketing manager, Hewlett-Packard.
Bruce Walker, NE sales and apps tech, Sihl Inc., says paper-based media is now competing with vinyl. “Eco-friendly is really making its way into the traditional vinyl wallcovering sector; safe, earth-conscious environments are the future,” he notes.
Al Bobst, director of new business development, Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc., agrees that paper-based wallcoverings are a fast-growing segment, especially products backed with water-activated paste. In addition, he points out, “the coverings are washable and scrubbable, so they are ideal for light to moderate traffic areas.”
Paper-based wallcoverings are available with adhesive already on the back or designed to adhere with traditional wallpaper paste after printing. Depending on the type, “standard application skills like other wallcoverings or regular wallpaper,” respectively, are required, according to David Williams, NA market manager, Innova Art.
Most paper wallcoverings are durable when installed indoors, but aren’t suitable for outdoor use. Aside from that, they “can be used like normal wallcoverings such as publicity, POP, seasonal campaigns, sports, and marketing design,” explains Ralph Unger, business unit manager, digital, Poli-Tape Group.
Prices typically run between 20 cents and $1.50 per square foot. Installation varies for paper-based wall media. Most have pre-pasted backing or are applied with traditional wallpapering methods. Many of these products are removable by dry stripping, or by rewetting the media. In addition, a few paper wallcovering products are now available with pressure-sensitive backing.
The Appeal of Peel and Stick
Pressure-sensitive adhesive is often associated with vinyl wallcoverings, but peel-and-stick products now exist for other wall media as well. Perception’s PhotoFAB line of media is a woven polyester fabric with peel and stick. Designed to be fade and tear resistant, the product is for home, office, and retail applications.
PhotoFAB is a favorite of Kelli Ellis, a top interior designer. She’s designed home and office spaces for Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County and HGTV’s Celebrity Holiday Homes.
The CA-based designer discovered Perception’s products several years ago during a design industry event. Ellis met Laurie Laizure, founder, Customized Walls, a bespoke wall graphic printing company, and of Interior Design Community, an online professional network.
Laizure described the repositionable wall media, and Ellis was intrigued. She thought peel and stick would be ideal for her interior design clients who rent, as well as homeowners who like to update their space periodically.
Ellis tried out PhotoFAB on one of her regular customers, a woman who updates her home every couple of years, and who wanted to change her nursery depending on the gender of the baby. “She was the perfect client to try the product on,” she explains.
The job was a success and Ellis has been using PhotoFAB ever since. On average, she uses it once for every project she handles—for hallways, bedrooms, and everything in between. Offering a combination of visual appeal and practicality, the product “appeals to me on a lot of levels,” she notes.
Ellis says PhotoFAB is highly printable, ensuring a strong impact for the “big, bold” graphics she uses in her interior design work. She also finds it to be a practical wallcovering—thick, durable, and washable. “It will last through the heavy-duty kids’ rooms, the playrooms,” she observes.
As someone who specializes in design psychology, Ellis believes it’s important for people to make a space their own. She appreciates that PhotoFAB gives her clients options. In the past, clients would cringe at using wallpaper. They didn’t want to be stuck with one look long term, or with having to spend days scraping wallpaper off the wall.
Digitally printed wallcoverings are a palatable alternative, explains Ellis. Clients aren’t locked in to a custom graphic unless they want to be, with easy removal when it’s time for a fresh look. The prospect of removable wall media boosts Ellis’ business—it gets the client to say yes, with no pushback.
Her on-staff installer is also a fan of the peel-and-stick product, especially its ease of use. “He raves about it,” she says. It generally takes him four or five hours to install a 50×10-foot graphic.
Advantages of Adhesive Free
Susan Cilone, owner/operator/CEO, FASTSIGNS locations in Louisville, KY, offers wallcoverings as well as signs, banners, trade show displays, and wraps.
She uses KoroGraphics Digital Wallcoverings from Koroseal; a commercial-grade fabric product for indoor applications. The media features a polyester-cotton layer that enhances specialized finishes.
KoroGraphics’ product line, including multiple options for smooth and stippled finishes, benefits FASTSIGNS. The shop usually stocks several versions, and prints most often Mongahello for textured and Matte for smooth. “It is the variety of finishes that are offered that is appealing to the customer,” observes Cilone.
FASTSIGNS uses the products in a variety of indoor environments—healthcare facilities, corporate offices and lobbies, restaurants, schools and colleges, retail shops, malls, hotels, and permanent and temporary exhibits at museums.
The media is ideal for medium to long-term graphics on interior walls. Customers are likely to remodel or update the space before the product ever needs to be replaced.
The product’s thickness and sturdiness ensures consistent print results and image quality. “If a wall has imperfections, the thickness of this media will help in concealing those imperfections,” she adds.
The application method is another reason why FASTSIGNS chose KoroGraphics. The shop installs the products with wallpaper paste using an overlap and double cut method.
“Newer paints have features that make them easier to clean and resistant to scuff marks and graffiti,” explains Cilone. “It is not always known which paint will break down the adhesive on vinyl. It is for that reason, that we often recommend a wallcovering that can be installed with paste.”
Removal is also a factor, as some adhesive-backed products aren’t cleanly removable from drywall. FASTSIGNS doesn’t have that problem with KoroGraphics’ paste-installed wallcoverings. “With proper installation and removal, the wallcovering can be removed without tearing the drywall, and potentially reinstalled,” notes Cilone.
Surrounded By Print
As wallcoverings grow in popularity, they surround us in everyday life. The market grows in response, as vendors design wall media for every application.
These offerings include media targeted for interiors and exteriors, long term and short term, high end or casual settings. There are options for easy installation and removal, specialty finishes, and gripping tricky surfaces.
The product diversity allows print providers to select the best media possible for each job’s setting and conditions.
Jun2015, Digital Output